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Last Updated: Friday, 1 June 2007, 10:04 GMT 11:04 UK
Blame laid in Canada native death

Canadian officials' racism and cultural insensitivity were partly to blame for the death of an aboriginal protester in 1995, an official inquiry has found.

Dudley George was shot dead when police moved in to disperse demonstrators who had occupied land in Ontario they said was a sacred burial site.

Police made little attempt to negotiate a resolution, the report said.

The report urges Canada's provincial and federal governments to deal with land claims more fairly and swiftly.

In the summer of 1995, a group of protesters occupied the Ipperwash Provincial Park on the shores of Lake Huron.

Their action was in response to decades of frustration at an unsettled claim over the land.

Ipperwash revealed a deep schism in Canada's relationship with its aboriginal people
Commissioner Sidney Linden

The federal government had appropriated the land in 1942 and then went back on a promise to return it to the Stoney Point First Nation people.

Police were sent in to clear the protest and said at the time that they were returning fire from a bus being used by demonstrators when Mr George was shot.

Demonstrators denied the allegation and an investigation found no evidence that they had firearms.

"To many aboriginal people, the shooting of Dudley George, the first aboriginal person to be killed in a land rights dispute in Canada since the 19th Century was the inevitable result of centuries of discrimination and dispossession," Commissioner Sidney Linden, who conducted the inquiry, said.

"Ipperwash revealed a deep schism in Canada's relationship with its aboriginal people and was symbolic of a sad history of government policies that harmed their long-term interest."


Commissioner Linden's inquiry found that the federal government, the Ontario government and the Ontario police all had to "assume some responsibility for decision or failures that increased the risk of violence and made a tragic confrontation more likely".

Racism and cultural insensitivity among some members of the police worked against a timely and peaceful resolution of the occupation, the report said.

Bay of Quinte Mohawks block the train tracks just north of Deseronto, Ontario on  April 20, 2007.
Frustrations over some unsettled land claims are growing

The then premier of Ontario, Mike Harris, did not order the police actions but his impatience was partly to blame, giving officers just 24 hours to remove the protesters, the inquiry said.

The current Ontario premier, Dalton McGuinty, apologised for Mr George's death.

Provincial and federal ministers said they would act upon the report's recommendations.

Mr Linden called for the land to be returned immediately to the Stoney Point First Nation with compensation.

There have been warnings from native groups that Canada is heading towards a summer of protest as frustrations over more than 800 unresolved land claims increases, says the BBC's Lee Carter in Toronto.

There are some 1.3 million people in Canada with aboriginal ancestry out of a total population of 33 million, according to the 2001 census.

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