Environmental Justice Case Study: Ipperwash Provincial Park and Stoney Point First Nation

Table of Contents

Above map taken from The Perry-Castaneda Library Map Collection at the University of Texas at Austin, 1997.

The Problem

Native lands claims are coming to the forefront of aboriginal rights issues. The Canadian government is overwhelmed by the increase in number of claims, and both the number and expense of native claims is causing resentment among many non-Native Canadians. Aboriginal rights organizations have begun to exert their power, and issues land claims will not subside, as they have in the past. The slow response in addressing aboriginal rights economic disparity between Natives and non-Natives. A poll conducted for the federal government by Insight Ltd. showed that four out of ten respondents believe aboriginals have only themselves to blame for their troubles, while a majority believe that the Natives are being unreasonable with their land claims (Wilson-Smith, 1996). With a lack of communication and unwillingness to negotiate between both parties, the people of Stoney Point Reserve will find difficulty in getting the answers they need to explain the events of the last century, given these negative poll opinions.

Back to Table of Contents


The Military Camp

In 1942, the residents of the Stoney Point Reserve #43, near the Canadian Shores of Lake Huron, were relocated by the government to the Kettle Point Reserve #44 to the west, just down the shoreline. Their relocation enabled the Canadian Department of National Defence, under the War Measures Act, to take the 2,240 acres for use as a military cadet training center. It was agreed that the land would be returned to the people of Stoney Point Reserve after the war. According to Privy Council order 2652, the Canadian government stated that "if no further use of the area is required by the Department of National Defence, negotiations will be entered into with the Department of Indian Affairs to transfer the lands back to the Indians at a reasonable price determined by mutual agreement" (Koehler, internet). To date, this has not occurred. In fact, the government has justified its continued possession of the land in a paternialistic and regulatory manner, citing the burial of the herbicidal defoliant, Agent Orange, on the grounds of Camp Ipperwash as a threat to human health and to the existence of the endangered Karner Blue butterfly that historically used the areas as a breeding ground (Keefer, 1995). Due to protests, monetary compensation for the land has been granted to the Stoney Point community over the years, most recently $2.4 million in 1980. However, the government refused to recognize the Stoney Point Band as a separate community and Kettle Point shortly changed its name to Stoney Point. This issue is still unresolved.

In May, 1993 a group of about 22 original Stoney Point residents and their families reoccupied the Stoney Point Reserve #43. Since this reoccupation, the federal government has refused to recognize people or the historical existence of Stoney Point First Nation. Two years later, in July of 1995, another 100 or so Stoney Pointers moved into the military barracks, causing the eviction of 15 to 20 military personnel. Supporters of this action contend that it was in response to a lack of progress in goverment negotiations and the unceasing military presence and harrassment.

Ipperwash Provincial Park

The Stoney Point community maintains that beneath the land which is now Ipperwash Provincial Park is a ceremonial burial ground. According to a land survey done in 1900 a small patch of heavily wooded parcels of land above the dunes had been cleared of trees. Four documents signed in 1937 by various government agencies approved the request of the band council to fence off a native burial ground discovered by a provincial engineer; action was never taken on this request. In 1972, a series of test digs were done on the area that turned up no archaeological remains, possibly due to the bulldozing activities involved in the creation of the park. The provincial government says that there is no basis to the claim.

On Sept 4, 1995, a group of about 20 Stoney Point residents occupied the park to protest the government's land claim. The protest continued until Sept 6, as tensions between the native and the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) increased. On June 26, 1996 the New York Times reported that the confrontation at the park was "between 20 Indians occupying the Ipperwash Provincial Park and more than 200 policemen from a tactical response unit of the Ontario Provincial Police." A United Press International April 4, 1996 article reported that witnesses said the "paramilitary officers and snipers used physical intimidation, including threats, racial slurs and anti-Indian epithets against the protesters." A similar number of park area residents were evacuated to an emergency shelter in the nearby town of Forest. Conflicting reports describe the climax of the protest. On Sept 8, 1995, the Los Angeles Times stated:

"Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Doug Babbit said officers responded when a park visitor's car was attacked by Indians wielding baseball bats. He said police were fired on from from two vehicles that crashed through a fence and bore down on them. The officers then shot back.

On June 26, 1996, the New York Times reported that the police have not succeeded in finding evidence that the protesters carried any weapons other than sticks. Since this time relations between Natives and non-Natives in the surrounding communities have become increasingly strained. In July of 1996 a Milford, Michigan man beached his 29 foot cabin cruiser in a storm near the military camp. It was confiscated by Stoney Pointers who returned it after the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Ontario Provincial Police, and First Nation leaders negotiated with the residents. By that time it had been looted and vandalized. The Stoney Point members residing on the military base and the Federal Government have , for the most part, reached an impasse and negotiations for the land are negligible. The government will only negotiate the return of the land with the Kettle and Stoney Point, and will not recognize the Stoney Point Reserve alone. Stoney Point sympathizers say that the media have externally created the conflict between the two reserves while claiming it is an internal struggle in an effort to further divide the native community.

Back to Table of Contents

Key Actors

The Family of Anthony "Dudley" George

Anthony "Dudley" George was the Stoney Point protester who was shot and killed. In a public statement, his family has stated:

"We will not rest easy until we know how and why Dudley was shot... Ipperwash Provincial Park must remain closed until our sacred burial grounds have been protected. We ask your support in bringing about a judicial inquiry. Help us all discover the truth. "

Stoney Point residents

The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP)

The OPP has played a large role in quelling the protests of the Stoney Point community. They have arrived in large numbers at Ipperwash Provincial Park to prevent Natives from occupying Ipperwash lands.

ON-FIRE (Ontario Foundation of Individual Rights and Equality)

ON-FIRE is a local organization of townspeople who have little or no empathy for the Native position. Rich Schultz, president of the 1,300 member ON-FIRE organization says: "It's kind of a Catch-22. We don't want to see anybody get hurt. The people of the area are looking to the provincial and federal governments to settle the problem. The takeover of the park was against the law and people feel if the government doesn't get involved and rectify it, they are condoning an illegal act" (Warmington, 1996).

Ovide Mercredi, National Chief, Assembly of First Nations

Ovide Mercredi has stated that his people and the Canadian government have talked about sovereignty time and again, and that now it is time to implement it.

Back to Table of Contents


The towns surrounding Camp Ipperwash and Ipperwash Provincial Park are home to predominantly white, middle-class residents. Some have lived in the area for generations. Grand Bend, to the north, has a population of 1,000 residents. Forest, to the east, has about 6,700 residents. The land use is strongly agricultural, with many onion and corn fields. Tourism to area supplements the local economy.

Back to Table of Contents


The Stony Point community plans to remain on the Camp Ipperwash and provincial park lands until their questions about the land claims and the circumstances under which Dudley George was killed are answered. Carl George, Chief of the Stoney Point First Nation says, "We intend to stay here, and we're not going to leave" (Garsten, 1993). The George Family has launched a $7 million wrongful death suit and is demanding a full-scale public inquiry. They have stated that they will drop the suit if an inquiry is conducted. The anniversary of Dudley George's death was marked by a pot-luck feast to which First Nations people were invited, thus encouraging community involvment. They are enlisting support form aboriginal rights organizations and posting their message on the internet through various web pages to reinforce their position and gain the attention of the federal government.

Ovide Mercredi, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, is calling for aboriginal sovereignty with the intent to impact the Canadian economy in order to garner the government's attention. "So we're going to do what seems to work, what seems to get the attention in this country and that is to push for sovereignty for our people in the same way that Bouchard is doing for his people in the province of Quebec" (Poshtova-Zang, 1996). OPP officials are keeping a very low profile in regard to Native issues to the point where non-Natives are resentful for their inaction. Several organizations outside the conflict, such as the Peace Brigades International North America Project, and four native territorial organizations in Northern Ontario are trying to keep the mediation process active. But the Canadian government is slow to respond.

Back to Table of Contents


The Canadian government is spending more on aboriginal issues today than in the history of the country. Vast sums of money are allocated to relocations of entire communities due to environmental degradation or unsuitable living conditions. With this relocation comes construction of roads and the community infrastructure. Resentment from non-Natives regarding the perception of "government hand-outs" adds to the division between communities. It was announced on CBC Stereo News November 21 that the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People has concluded its report and the results will be controversial. The report took six years and $58 million dollars to complete, even though Native issues are low on the political agenda. Their recommendations are expected to include federal recognition of Native self-government, and a greater number of more clearly defined aboriginal nations. The greatest hope of the commissioners is that the report will foster a greater understanding of aboriginal issues by entire society.

Back to Table of Contents


The increase in aboriginal assertiveness in recent years should be a signal to society at large that Native issues are not being addressed. Currently there are 556 Native land claims in Canada. Only 96 have been settled, while 48 have been rejected (Pearsall, 1995). Patience and stoicism are not effective strategies for First Nations' communities, and leaders in these communities are advocating more visible actions.

Back to Table of Contents

Key Contacts

Pierre George
(519) 786-4603

Judas and Gina George
(519) 786-5732

Marcia George Simon
Treasurer: Dudley George Memorial Foundation
RR 2 Forest, Ontario N0N 1J0

Stoney Point Peoples Support
Harold P. Koehler
43 Napoleon Drive
London, Ontario N5V 4A8
(519) 453-5452
fax: (519) 453-3676
email: hkoehler@execulink.com

Canadian Alliance in Solidarity with Native Peoples
39 Spadina Rd.
Toronto, Ontario M5R 2S9
(416) 972-1573
fax: (416) 972-6232

Works Cited

Boxer, Aviva. 1996. "Ontario Police in Accused in Indian Death." United Press International. April 4.

Briefing Document. 1996. "In memory of Anthony "Dudley" George." Anishabek News. Nov. 11.

Dixon, Alan. 1995. "Ipperwash Situation." Peace Brigades International Project. Sept 20.

Evans, Nellie. 1996. "Native Group Claims Park of Pinery Provincial Park." The Toronto Sun. April 19.

Farnsworth, Clyde H. 1996. "Ipperwash Beach Journal; Ontario Indian's Death Is an Issue that Won't Die." The New York Times. June 26.

Fulton, E. Kaye. 1995. "Glimmer of Hope." Maclean's 25 Sept: 13.

Garsten, Ed. 1993. "Canadian Army in Dispute with Indian Tribe in Ontario." CNN News. Sept. 2.

Keefer, Tom. 1996. "The Ipperwash Provincial Park Occupation." Nov. 30.

Koehler, Harold. "Stoney Point Peoples Support."

Pearsall, Kathryn. 1995. "Ipperwash Could Happen Here." Northern Ontario Business. Vol 15;No. 12; Sec 1; pg 1; October.

Poshtova-Zang, Malina. 1996. "Canadian Natives Demand Sovereignty for First Time." Reuters Financial Service. June 21.

Stoney Point Peoples Support.

Sullivan, Mike. 1995. Letter. Toronto Sun. Oct. 8; C2.

Turner, Craig. 1995. "Canadian Police Kill Indian, Wound 2 During Park Protest..." Los Angeles Times. Sept 8: 32.

Warmington, Joe. 1996. "Ipperwash Suffering; Park Closing Killing Tourism Trade." The Toronto Sun. May 20: 14.

Wilson-Smith, Anthony. 1996. "Disunity Finds Fresh Roots; Natives are no more united than the rest of the country's populations." Maclean's. July 22: 44.

Back to Table of Contents