Investigative Filmmakers Joan & John Goldi csc, at Ipperwash
In October, 1995, only weeks after the killing of Dudley George at Ipperwash, at a time all the media were barred from access to the people at Stoney Point, longtime Canadian documentary filmmakers, Joan Goldi and John Goldi csc, started their investigation into what really happened.
We were the only media allowed behind the barricades at Camp Ipperwash with access to the terrorized people there, who had barred all outsiders - especially the media - from getting in.
Our research, inside, convinced us that "the universally publicized media story, of police returning fire in self defence against terrorist Indians shooting guns at OPP officers," was a total fabrication by OPP publicists.
And it was being swallowed holus bolus by an unquestioning media, which aided and abetted the police cover up by demonizing the people of Stoney Point, letting the public believe they were merely "rowdy, gun-toting Indians who got the comeuppance they deserved."
What evidence did they have for any of it? Was this racism? Do you have a better explanation?
Thanks to mainstream media journalists this was the overwhelming public view of the Stoney Pointer First Nation in September, October, November, December 1995, and January, February, and March 1996.
Nothing illustrates white media racism more clearly than the fact that Peter Edwards, the Star's chief investigative reporter on Ipperwash, did not publish a single solitary article during these six long months that were the darkest hours of the people at Ipperwash.
His last article was published on September 19, 1995.
He let the file die, and wrote nothing further till March 31, and early April 1996.
Astonishingly, he would later write a book and get a medal for human rights.
The fact that the white mainstream media dropped the ball on this file will forever stain the history of the profession when posterity looks back on this period of Canadian journalism.
A full six months without a peep, as the First Nations people of Ipperwash hid behind their barricades in fear of what would happen to them if they, their women, their children, ventured out into a world dominated by trigger happy white policemen, a racist Premier*** and a hostile and uncaring white media.
The journalists would only start writing again after reports leaked out about what the new SIU investigation - which we were responsible for jump-starting on Dec. 8, 1995 - was uncovering, in March and April, 1996. Then the white mainstream media journalists became brave again. Peter Edwards wrote his first Ipperwash article on March 31, after an unforgivable absence from writing publicly about the Ippwerwash file for almost seven months.
***We became aware in October 1995, that Premier Harris - the ex-golf pro - at a Queens Park meeting shouted to "Get those fucking Indians out of the Park," a racist diatribe that did not become public knowledge until many years later, when even a cabinet minister, under oath, said Harris did indeed say it. Our source was the local Chief, Tom Bressette, who had his secret mole in the Premier's entourage, and who phoned him a warning, of worse to come, only hours after the Premier spoke out. The police attack and killing occured immediately after...
On December 8, 1995, - at a time the mainstream media had totally abandoned the Ipperwash file; no one had written a thing for months - at SIU headquarters, we insisted that the SIU (the Special Investigations Unit is mandated to investigate all police shootings in Ontario) re-open the Ipperwash file, which it was just on the point of closing without charging any police officer with wrongdoing in the killing of Dudley George. We were informed that they had a press conference already planned to make that announcement on December 11.
We were strong in saying they couldn't do that - our exact words, "You can't do that!" - and offered to act as liaison with the traumatized people of Ipperwash and give their investigators access to all the people who had been at the site of the shooting, none of whom the SIU had talked to. The SIU agreed, and cancelled its mandatory press conference - due 90 days after an incident investigation. We got its investigators their first access to the people behind the barricades at Stoney Point, and filmed their activities when they were first allowed in, in February 1996. (It was this investigation which led to charges the following June.)
With that accomplished, sometime in March, we ended our lengthy investigation at Ipperwash. After working for months without income of any kind, we had to go find work that paid bills we were incurring for gas, room and board, and production expenses. But we knew, that once the SIU knew what we had already established as the facts, the Stoney Pointers would be exonerated, charges would be laid against the police, and mainstream media interest would revive. And the demonized people of Stoney Point would get their day in court, and some sort of justice in the court of public opinion.
Which is exactly what happened. The renewed SIU investigation, which we were responsible for re launching, once again perked the interest of the members of the mainstream media, who slowly started picking up the ball, they should never have dropped in the first place. They had originally chosen, instead, to blindly xerox OPP handouts as investigative journalism for their front pages.
As a journalist, who later got a medal for his stories on Ipperwash, told us, more than a little defensively, "You can't really blame us for the blinders and the lapse. You know, we journalists depend heavily on the police for access and for scoops. We didn't want to jeopardize that."
Two years, and millions of dollars later, a judge ruled that the Stoney Pointers were totally absolved of any and all terrorist behaviour, that numerous OPP officers were lying in court, about their activities that night, and found one of its most elite officers guilty of killing Dudley George. The story that ultimately came to light, was, in every particular, exactly what we had told the SIU had happened, three months after the shooting, two years before...
We believe that without our intervention, in insisting that the SIU reopen the Dudley George file, none of this - court charges, a guilty verdict, the Ipperwash Inquiry, etc. - would ever have come to pass.
From October 1995, to February 1996, we had spent 73 days behind the barricades at Stoney Point, had talked repeatedly to virtually all of the 60 people there, driven 11,000 kms, and lived in motels, and had shot over 100 tapes. Ninety-nine percent of the expenses came out of our own personal funds. We did it to right a wrong and preserve the historical video record for posterity.
Most of the footage we shot in 1995-96, of life behind the barricades, has never been seen by anyone, in private or public.
It is a treasure trove of glimpses into the lives of modern Canadian First Nations people trying to live normal lives, when they are traumatized by the fear that outside the barricades is a world of people trying to kill them if they gave them half a chance...
The Final Shame - Whatever else Ipperwash is, it is a sad indictment of a profession that claims to be some kind of watchdog for democracy, human rights, and a protector and spokesperson for victims of bureaucratic oppression. The mainstream media failed, big time, on the Ipperwash file, delaying justice for years, blinded from seeing or looking for evidence, and information, that was available at the time, but just too lazy, and set in their ways, to do more than show up for work, collect their pay, and josh around with, you know, the usual sources...
Is it any wonder the media, in its entirety, was barred from Camp Ipperwash in the fall of 1995? The Stoney Pointers were the only ones who got the story right...
Should any member of the media have gotten a medal?