Peter Worthington uses Ipperwash Papers report to put the lie to McGuinty’s Ipperwash Inquiry ‘defence’ re Caledonia

Peter Worthington, Toronto SunOn Nov 13/10 the legendary Peter Worthington, co-founder of the Toronto Sun, became the first Ontario journalist outside Caledonia to write about our work on the Ipperwash Papers project in Caledonia crisis of facts.

Worthington’s latest article – inspired both by Christie Blatchford’s Helpless and Joe Warmington’s “curious justification” of the OPP’s actions (even though he hadn’t read Helpless) – follows on his first column about the Caledonia crisis – Helpless in Caledonia – written on Oct 27/10 after the release of Blatchford’s book.  It is based on a two-part series published by Caledonia’s Regional News (link below) authored by Mark Vandermaas, Gary McHale and Ipperwash activist/community leader Mary-Lou LaPratte, a copy of which was sent to Worthington after his first column was published.

Here is an excerpt that deals with our work on the Ipperwash Papers project:

CALEDONIA CRISIS OF FACTS
by Peter Worthington
Toronto Sun, Nov 13/10

EXCERPT […] The inquiry by Justice Sidney Linden in 2007 supposedly is the definitive word on the 1992 violence at Ipperwash, where a police bullet killed Dudley George and unleashed anger that still persists. At the time, people from the nearby Ojibway reserve occupied land that had been expropriated from Indians in 1942 for an army base.

The Linden report is more concerned about pacifying Indians than recognizing abuses to non-aboriginals. It’s as if aboriginal status gives immunity from laws that apply to everyone else. Justice Linden’s report, is viewed as sacrosanct by Ontario’s McGuinty government, and made the premier fearful of getting involved in Caledonia lest he be pilloried as Mike Harris was pilloried for Ipperwash and Dudley George’s death.

Mark Vandermaas, Mary-Lou LaPratte and Gary McHale challenge the Ipperwash Report and its recommendations. The three held a press conference at Queen’s Park that was largely ignored. They had a two-part article published by the Caledonia-based Regional News — virtually the only media to give them a hearing.

Vandermaas is a former soldier-cum-real estate operator who was arrested at Caledonia in 2006 for trying to raise a Canadian flag(!) LaPratte is an activist from Ipperwash who documented stories of residents that the Inquiry ignored. McHale opposed race-based policing and injustices at Caledonia.

Their 400-page report on lawlessness and racial policing has largely been ignored — but deserves scrutiny.

LaPratte noted that at Ippersash “a Native anywhere on the properties, for any reason, would not be charged.” She added that Natives who “harass, threaten, intimidate, steal from, or assault innocent homeowners and tourists, were exempt from criminal charges upon reaching the safe haven of the disputed land.” It sounds similar to Blatchford’s litany of abuses at Caledonia.

Worse is that of 100 recommendations in the Ipperwash report, “not one addresses the issue of preventing violence against residents.” In fact, no residents were permitted to testify about Native crime and violence they had endured. Of 139 witnesses, not one was a non-Native resident. LaPratte’s detailed history of Ipperwash from a resident’s viewpoint, is not listed on the Inquiry website. During the three-year inquiry, a total of some 90 minutes was allotted to testimony of non-Native victims.

In fact, the Ipperwash Inquiry avoids the issue of preventing lawlessness, and is cited in Caledonia to justify racial policing, which others view as “illogical, disingenuous and illegal.”

Commissioner Lewis’ arguments notwithstanding, certainly non-Natives at Caledonia saw themselves as living in a de facto war zone, with no rights to be protected by the OPP, who were ostensibly the “peacekeepers”.

There is irony in the Ipperwash report coming out in the midst of the Caledonia occupation, with few in the Ontario legislature objecting. No voice was raised about the suppression of evidence … nothing about the report’s flawed and selective recommendations. Instead the inquiry has “become a legalized myth justifying racist policing practices,” according to Vandermaas and others. It is conveniently accepted by whatever government rules at the provincial and federal levels.

Agree or disagree, reality is that whenever Indians choose to protest, law and order takes a holiday. As Blatchford has noted, “lawlessness takes over.” This was evident when Mary-Lou LaPratte’s husband phoned the OPP at 2 a.m. and reported a home invasion. When he said the intruder was an Indian, he was told not to touch the man or face arrest. The anecdote surprises no one who endured Caledonia.

Commissioner Lewis can justify all he wants, but anyone looking at Caledonia and Ipperwash can see that something was dreadfully wrong. It hinged on political cowardice and orders that police assume the role of observers rather than instruments of law and order. This policy was unfair to the residents, unfair to Natives who get away with lawlessness, unfair to OPP officers who were ordered to comply. And there’s little doubt the McGuinty government was fearful of consequences that hit the Mike Harris government.

There will be another Indian uprising at some point, at which elected and police authority will again have a choice to make — abdicate or enforce the law. Me, I’m betting on the Indians. 

Other journalists who helped tell the Ipperwash Papers story

Publisher Chris Pickup – ‘Regional News’ (Caledonia)

Nov 03/10: Reporter Bill Jackson of Haldimand County's Regional News comments on Caledonia journalism and his paper's coverage.As noted in Worthington’s article,  the Regional News in Caledonia was the ‘virtually the only media” to give us a hearing. In fact, not one journalist at Queen’s Park interviewed us after our March 14/07 news conference in the Media Studio or wrote a story even though we were advised in advance to bring extra copies of our material because there was “unprecedented interest” by media in the event. 

The Regional News was the first and only publication to allow us to publish the Ipperwash Papers project story in our own words in a two-part series in February 2009 entitled, McGuinty’s Ipperwash Cover-up: The Caledonia Legacy. It is this series upon which Peter Worthington based his article:

  • Regional News/CANACE report, Feb 18-25/09: McGuinty’s Ipperwash Cover-up: The Caledonia Legacy HTML  PDF

Sadly, an earlier 1600-word version of this article which was originally written for the National Post in 2008 was never published because the Post reneged on repeated promises to publish after it was submitted.

Regional News reporter Bill Jackson recently commented at length on his paper’s coverage of the Caledonia crisis, and on the paper’s reaction to being recognized for its work by Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality (CANACE) at the launch party for Blatchford’s Helpless. It should be required reading for every Canadian journalist and student:

Doug Aldridge – ‘The Right Side’

doug_aldridge.jpgThe first journalist to ever report on the Ipperwash Papers project was an internet journalist – former broadcast journalist Doug Aldridge of ‘The Right Side’ (killed in a car crash April 15/08) – who interviewed project leader Mark Vandermaas at length on June 04/07 for his online radio show. The last show listed on his website was a Feb 28/08 interview with Gary McHale marking the two year anniversary of Caledonia’s misery. Ezra Levant also paid tribute to him; Doug had covered his trials and tribulations with the Canadian Human Rights Commission: 

Kevin Steel – ‘Western Standard’

Western Standard, July 02/07The first print journalist in Canada to write a story inspired by the project and to mention it by name was Kevin Steel of the Western Standard (when Ezra Levant was editor) in Protection Racket: An Ontario judge glosses over illegal aboriginal acts at Ipperwash which was published July 02/07. It relied heavily on an interview with Mary-Lou LaPratte, and it quoted Mark Vandermaas, although it did not comment at any length on the Ipperwash Papers project or its findings. After many years of fighting to tell Ipperwash’s story from the residents’ perspective Mary-Lou was very pleased with the article saying, “for once it was entirely the truth.”

Failure of Opposition parties at Queen’s Park to confront Liberals

Peter Worthington also becomes the first journalist to take a swipe at the failure of the Opposition to confront McGuinty over their use of the Inquiry’s recommendations:

There is irony in the Ipperwash report coming out in the midst of the Caledonia occupation, with few in the Ontario legislature objecting. No voice was raised about the suppression of evidence … nothing about the report’s flawed and selective recommendations. Instead the inquiry has “become a legalized myth justifying racist policing practices,” according to Vandermaas and others. It is conveniently accepted by whatever government rules at the provincial and federal levels.

After concluding our March 14/07 press conference we left copies of our extensive press kit for the Premier and leaders of the Opposition parties. Since then I have made a number of efforts to encourage Opposition members to speak out but, unfortunately, despite the McGuinty government’s consistent use of the Ipperwash Inquiry’s recommendations to defend its shameful treatment of the people in Caledonia, not a single MPP has yet stood in the Legislature to confront the government with the truth – that innocent people are being victimized because the Ipperwash Inquiry suppressed evidence.  In fairness, I should point out that MPP Toby Barrett did arrange for us to use the Media Studio at the Legislature for our Ipperwash Papers new conference and two others, for which I am very grateful.     

In October 2008 when the new Aboriginal Affairs Minister Brad Duguid used the Ipperwash Inquiry to justify the government’s refusal to hold hearings into the Caledonia crisis, not one MPP confronted the Liberals with the truth:       

Even after the publication of Blatchford’s Helpless, the Conservatives again remained silent while the ruling Liberals again deflected their demand for justice in Caledonia using the Ipperwash Inquiry as their excuse:

VoiceofCanada Comment

As I said in a recent article, one must wonder how we can ever find meaningful solutions while the Opposition continually refuses to expose the terrible truth about the Ipperwash Inquiry. Sooner or later, someone in the Opposition ranks is going to claim the honour of being the first to rise in the Legislature and finally call McGuinty out for using recommendations from an inquiry that never studied native violence against innocent residents to deny justice to Caledonia.

Who will be the first MPP in Ontario to set our province on the road to true healing and reconciliation?

Thanks to Peter Worthington, Christie Blatchford and the Regional News we are moving closer to that historic day when the government of Ontario, the OPP and Six Nations all apologize to the people of Caledonia and promise ‘Never again!’

References

Mark Vandermaas
Editor, VoiceofCanada
Project Leader, The Ipperwash Papers
info@voiceofcanada.ca

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2 responses to “Peter Worthington uses Ipperwash Papers report to put the lie to McGuinty’s Ipperwash Inquiry ‘defence’ re Caledonia

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