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Ipperwash: A Canadian Tragedy

Ipperwash: A Canadian Tragedy

The late Robert Isaac, a very articulate and observant spokesperson for his people...

Witness Buck Doxtator:
"Three men were holding small flashlights. When I seen them three guys here, I noticed flashlights being shone around like they were looking for individuals."

At 10 pm on Monday, Sept. 20, 2004, our one-and-a-half hour television documentary:

"Ipperwash: A Canadian Tragedy"

aired as the Season Opener for CBC Newsworld's "Passionate Eye" Series.

Below, we share some feedback comments from viewers who saw what many have called a "most powerful and emotional" Canadian documentary.

You can't please everybody... Those who want to say their piece, and those who refuse...


TV Viewer Bemoans Lack of OPP Voice

One viewer, from Windsor, Ontario, took great exception to the fact that the OPP voice was not heard in the documentary (LEFT). Here is what he said in full:

Go to Your recent... one-sided view...

In fact, we had written to OPP Commissioner Gwen Boniface requesting the OPP voice for our documentary. Here is our letter to her:

Go to Our request for OPP participation to
Commissioner Gwen Boniface

Here is the OPP reply to our request, and the reasons for declining to participate:

Go to The OPP declines to participate
in our Ipperwash documentary.
Ipperwash Primer
  Ipperwash is on a sandy beach along a long stretch of Ontario summer holiday shoreline, just south of Grand Bend, Ontario. The Stoney Point Reserve, including the site of Ipperwash Provincial Park, was confirmed by the Crown to belong to the First Nations people of Kettle and Stoney Point in the early 19th century.
By 1936 highly questionable dealings, involving land speculators and government officials, had severed Ipperwash Provincial Park from the Stoney Point Reserve. In 1942 - during WWII, the remaining huge block of territory was seized by the Canadian Government for an Army Camp to train soldiers for combat. The Stoney Pointers were evicted. Promises to return it to its rightful owners at war's end were never kept.

In July 1995, a group of women and children in a bus drove into Camp Ipperwash to occupy it. The Federal Government knowing they were on morally, and legally weak ground, withdrew after 50 years, leaving the Stoney Pointers in possession of all 2,200 acres.

On Sept. 4, 1995. a group of men, women, teenagers, and children walked into Ipperwash Provincial Park, after the Park had closed for the summer and the tourists were all gone...

Everyone wondered, what would "hard-liner" Mike Harris, just elected Conservative Premier of Ontario, do?

Witness Gina George:
"My three girls are in the car; they're screaming hurry up mom, they're going to kill us. Get us out of here, hurry up!"

“A very powerful piece. I was quite moved by it, and very timely too."

"No one who saw this show will ever look at the OPP in the same way again!”

“What absolutely wonderful interviews – all so totally believable, not a single false note among any of them!”

“I was mesmerized! I sat on the edge of my seat and watched every frame from end to end. Who would have believed this story could have happened in Ontario? But I believe these people, entirely. All of them.”

“Your show gave Canadians a real dose of reality. Let's not point fingers at the United States and say what a disgrace about the beating of Rodney King! We've got the same kind of thugs that pretend they're policemen right here in Ontario - and with the approval of the men on top! Disgraceful! Absolutely disgraceful!”

“What a fantastic show! As an Ontarian, I'm deeply ashamed.”

“Wonderful interviews. Everyone so low key. And after all they went through not a trace of animosity. No bluster. No aggression. I wouldn't be so calm if my family or I had gone through what they did. The conclusion is unavoidable. These people are telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

“More than once I felt my eyes moisten up. And anger, deep anger, welling up inside me. Ontario policemen running amok! It's really unbelievable! Shameful behaviour!”

“Truly astonishing revelations!  Another question. Why was this story hidden for so long? Why were Ontarians not told about this before? Why was this program buried for nine years? Is there a bigger story that has yet to be told?”

“Extraordinary testimonies. What quiet dignity these people possess as they tell stories that shocked the living daylights out of me.”

Witness Dave George:
"They knew we were unarmed. But they came there to do one thing, and that was to kill one of us. Maybe all of us."

“The program said one thing to me. If this can happen to these small town people it can happen to me or you or anyone else. None of us is safe when a police force is so out of control like the OPP was on those few days. Has anything changed since then.” 

"Very powerful video pictures."

"After seeing this powerful program I have only one question. Why in God's name did it take 8 long years before a Public Enquiry was ordered? Are our public institutions: the police, the hospitals, the ambulance services, and the government, so riven through with racism they were ashamed of the truth? And where was the media? I don't recall reading anywhere or seeing on TV at the time, any of this kind of information which was so powerfully presented in this stunning program. Who was hiding all this? And why? I can only shudder at how lonely it must feel to be an Indian in Ontario....."

"An extremely interesting program. It's nice at last to hear the story from the people to whom it really happened, instead of having to listen to the same line over and over again from various Government apologists."

Witness Cully George:
"Dudley had come along and said that they were going to get him first. And he laughed about it, we all laughed. We didn't really
believe that."

“I have seldom seen people so believable and compelling in what they said. The intensity was gripping. They really experienced what they were talking about.”

“An absolutely wonderful show about the plight of Natives in Canada. They're always willing to share but the white man will do literally anything to keep everything for himself. We should all be ashamed.”

“It's pretty clear to me that Dudley was singled out. They went after him. He never had a chance. Just like the Americans in Iraq who fought the war at night because with “night vision” they can see everything while the enemy can see nothing. The OPP had “night vision” too. They saw Dudley clearly in the dark. Shot in the chest, execution style, just like they teach them at the police academy. No mistake at all. Cold blooded murder is more like it.”

“I'm totally convinced Dudley would have lived had the police not stopped that ambulance from going to meet his brother and sister at the farm. That ambulance should have been at the farm in seven or eight minutes tops I figure. That the OPP stopped it from going to help “an Indian” is a disgrace not only to the OPP but the 911 call letters that they carry on all their cruisers. Who will call them now? If you're an Indian we know they won't come to help. Police racism is rampant in Ontario. Let's not point smugly at LA anymore - or New York. We got our own racist cops right here. Lots of them; too many of them. The OPP needs a hose cleaning just as much as the Toronto police.”

Witness Leland George - 14:
"When they were shooting I was trying to plug that bottom window with a basket, so they wouldn't get in."

“It was truly amazing to see children talking like that and to hear what they went through.”

“The children were so dignified. Their stories were heart rending. Just a heart beat away from being shot while lying on top of his dog to protect him from police gunfire. It brought tears to my eyes. What has our police force come to? Where is the leadership?”

“Brilliant! An absolutely brilliant show! Bravo!”

“If you had brought me this footage nine years ago I would have given you a prime time show on network television. No question about it.”

“I have never seen such compelling interviews. One after the other. They sure must have trusted the interviewer. The trust is in their eyes!”

“The final sequence of the police running away in panic just did it for me. Fire them all; fire the leaders too. Absolutely disgraceful behaviour! And to leave vehicles behind! Just like thugs running from a crime scene. I guess they were at that!”

Witness Buck Doxtator: "Men, women, and children were holding on to tables, but they just revved up their engines and kept coming. The tables were soon on top of their hoods."

“What a terrible indictment of a police force. They run in fear at night; they run in fear in the day. The whole lot should be fired. They have no leadership that's worthy of the name. So they run in panic from their duties. I guess I would run too if I had done what they had done. They shame all Ontarians.”

“I don't believe the OPP will ever recover their reputation as long as the people who saw this show live on.”

“Incredible story. It's unbelievably sad and racist what happened to these people.”

“The program was brilliant! The way you pieced all the interviews together created a very powerful documentary.”

“This is such a sad story. How can this happen in Ontario?”

“OK so the Indians mooned the cops or even taunted the police. So what? The police are supposed to be trained to take that. To retaliate the way they did is disgraceful. They had no right to bait people let alone attack them like they did. What has happened to their training? Where are their leaders?”

Witness JT Cousens - 14:
"Dudley said, "Run." That's when he fell!"

“I don't know how a single one of those cops can look themselves in the mirror in the morning. And seven shot their guns at Indian women and children, at night. Sickening. I'm sickened by it all.”

“I feel so bad for all those people. Everything they went through. It's so awful. Just awful.”

“Why are we seeing these people for the first time now? Why not when they were first shot, what some ten years ago? These people tell a powerful and believable story. It could have made a big difference in bringing about a public inquiry long before now. Why the delay? What's the story?"

“Just a powerful show. A tour de force of television communication!”

“How could the cops move in on kids? Everyone was so believable, the way they talked. Just amazing interviews!”

“Just a fabulous show. Totally fascinating!”

“A brilliant show. Thank you for making a difference in our world!”

“The program was fantastic. It was extremely well presented. The rawness of the interviews was wonderful. All still seared fresh into their memories.” 

“A brilliantly engaging documentary. I was astonished to find I had been sitting there for an hour and a half, totally captivated by these people and how you presented them. An amazingly powerful program. You should feel proud indeed with your wonderful accomplishment.”

““Frankly this is the finest presentation of Canadian First Nations people that I have seen on Canadian television. Finally someone is presenting one of our Founding Peoples as real people with concerns that go beyond the usual TV fare of Natives as historical curiosities and involved only in pow pows, drumming, sweat lodges, and basket weaving. Thank you for letting me see these people as Canadians like the rest of us.”

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