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OPP Commissioner Gwen Boniface Replies to the Producer - 4

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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?

GOLDI PRODUCTIONS LTD.

Phone 905-855-1510                 Fax 905-823-0397

jgoldi@goldiproductions.com

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"KEEPING CANADIANS IN TOUCH WITH CANADA" 

Commissioner Gwen Boniface,
Ontario Provincial Police
General Headquarters
777 Memorial Ave.
Orillia, ON
L3V 7V3 

Dear Commissioner Boniface,

We respectfully request the participation of the Ontario Provincial Police in a television documentary we are producing called “Ipperwash: A Canadian Tragedy.” The program will air on CBC Newsworld in September in prime time. It will be the feature introduction program to the fall lineup on CBC television.

We proposed a documentary on land claims at Ipperwash to CBC in early 1995, long before the explosive events of September. John Goldi had a personal interest in this topic; he grew up in the farm country of southwestern Ontario, his family spent summer weekends at Ipperwash Provincial Park, he attended Cadet Camp Ipperwash in the summer of 1958, and over many years in high school spent many weekends shooting rifles and bren guns at the ranges there. His interest in First Nations issues arose because he and his wife also spent many years as teachers (and John as school principal) in Aboriginal communities in Africa with CUSO, in Inuit country of the high arctic, and in Dene (Indian) country of the North West Territories.

Because of our long background and experience in working in Aboriginal communities, we were granted access to Camp Ipperwash and Ipperwash Provincial Park within only weeks after the tragic events surrounding the death of Dudley George. For several months thereafter we were the only media of any kind allowed access to all the people and sites related to the incident at Ipperwash. We were also virtually the only outsiders – Native or Non-native - who were allowed into Camp Ipperwash in October, November, and December of 1995. Our cameras documented what we found, including “life behind the barricades” and very moving historic interviews from the Aboriginal people who were involved in the events from Sept 4 to 6, 1995.

But there were other human beings involved in, and affected by, those tragic events at Ipperwash.

We would therefore very much like to include interviews with OPP officers about events at Ipperwash during the occupation of Ipperwash Provincial Park. We would of course welcome official statements on events etc. from someone in the hierarchy. We would most definitely welcome personal responses from officers who were on the ground at the time to recount events as they saw them.

Stoney Pointers have told us openly they threw rocks and they broke cruiser windows with sticks. We would like the viewpoints of officers who were there and saw it.

We know that officers had emotions and feelings about things that were happening, just as the First Nations people did. We would like to record them as a counter to the other interviews we have.

We strongly believe that OPP participation in our documentary can only benefit the OPP by putting a human face on an organization which, to too many people, seems to prefer to project a public persona of stone-walling. What can possibly be the benefit in perpetuating this myth if it is not true? The effect unfortunately, is to make the OPP as individuals, and as an organization, look cold and uncaring. Surely this is not the public image you wish to project. 

Our program will be Canada’s definitive documentary on Ipperwash, telling the story of events surrounding the death of Dudley George in September of 1995. It features testimony from some people who have already passed on. It will be built around powerful emotional interviews with the First Nations people involved in the occupation of Ipperwash Provincial Park, and with members of Dudley George’s family, that we filmed shortly after the events in 1995.

There is nothing any of us can do to change history and the emotional pain that the George family has gone through in the past nine years. 

But we would welcome an equally human response from officers who were present that night and had their own emotional roller coaster. We are certain that there have been many regrets, and much soul-searching among OPP officers, at both the personal and the organizational level, since events at Ipperwash in 1995.

We wish to make it clear that this is not the same documentary that CBC’s Fifth Estate is doing. We do not know what they are doing or what they will say other than the public statements they have made with regard to police tapes etc. They are totally a separate unit. We do not share information or materials with them, and they do not share information or materials with us. They have absolutely no access to any of our production materials or research.

Goldi Productions Ltd. is a totally independent production company run by Joan and John Goldi, a husband and wife production team with 25 years experience in making Canadian documentaries and educational programs, and over a hundred top international television awards, including many gold and silver medals. They all reflect our company motto, “KEEPING CANADIANS IN TOUCH WITH CANADA”

We would like to think that motto includes police officers. (See www.goldiproductions.com for more information.)

This year CBC agreed to go ahead with our independently produced documentary on Ipperwash.

Although Superintendent Bill Crate, your Commander of Corporate Communications, told us that the OPP plans to give statements only during testimony at the Ipperwash Inquiry, we wish to persuade you to reconsider this position. 

We think participation (i.e. granting of one or more interviews) in our documentary, which is scheduled to air before the main hearings for the Ipperwash Inquiry, offers the OPP an ideal opportunity to voluntarily make a public statement about events at Ipperwash, before the organization testifies at the Inquiry.

Let’s face it, no matter how much the Ontario Provincial Police are co-operating with the Inquiry, everyone knows that when you are ordered to testify before a judicial inquiry, you must comply. The Ontario Provincial Police lose the public relations benefit of talking freely and openly – from the heart – instead of under orders (real or implied) from a judge.

However, if your people go in front of our camera, everyone will know that it is being done voluntarily. That will have far greater positive impact on Ontarians, than any of your testimony that will be wrung out of your respondents at the Inquiry.

Your voluntary granting of interviews or, at the very least, making a public statement about changes the OPP have made to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again, would go a long way to soften the emotional impact of this tragic story told by the people who were there.

The Ipperwash Inquiry investigators have already ordered us to show them the tapes of interviews that we recorded of First Nations people in 1995.

We cannot make your respondents appear before our cameras; likewise we cannot force them to make statements they do not choose to give should they agree to cooperate. We would even be willing to accept a “conditional” type of appearance. Our belief is that any OPP voice is better than none for our program; but no OPP voice at all can only look bad for the OPP. We promise not to show any of the interviews publicly before our documentary is aired.

As long time professionals in the corporate and government communications field, we can assure you that vocal and heartfelt preemption with a freely given strong belief is preferable to reaction with a rear guard action under duress; heartfelt testimony from an officer or two saying, “Look this is what we felt, this is what we were trying to do, etc. but this unfortunately happened etc. Look, we’re the first to say we regret what happened. Who could not but feel eternal regret that events played out like this, etc., and that Dudley lost his life.” 

Such testimonials would counterbalance a lot of the feeling that is out there in the general public now, that the OPP is a cold unfeeling organization especially with regard to relationships to Ontario’s First Nations people.

Is there not a better time than the present to show that there is nothing wrong with showing a bit of the softer side of an organization, which perhaps is wrongly or rightly seen as the bastion of hardhearted, unfeeling male values?

Our program will be called “Ipperwash: A Canadian Tragedy” because we truly believe it was a tragedy for all concerned, including the OPP officers involved. This is an excellent chance for the OPP to express regrets to families, to describe efforts made to improve communications between First Nations and the OPP, and to comment on what went wrong that tragic night at Ipperwash.

We wish to film the interviews before the end of July.

We hope that you will participate. We would be more than willing to discuss this matter on the phone with you or your representative, including any conditions that you wish to lay down

We look forward to receiving your response. Thank you very much.

Yours sincerely,

Joan Goldi,

Producer & Vice President

Goldi Productions Ltd.

 

 

John Goldi, Director & President

Goldi Productions Ltd.

 
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