More than 14 years after native protester Dudley George was killed by police during a confrontation over disputed land, Ontario is poised to take the final legislative step in relinquishing control of Ipperwash Provincial Park, The Canadian Press has learned.
Natural Resources Minister Linda Jeffrey will introduce a motion Monday that, if approved, will remove the land from the list of provincial parks and convert it to Crown land.
That paves the way for the 40-hectare park along the shores of Lake Huron to be transferred to the federal government, which has the power to add it to the existing reserve or create a new one, said Jeffrey’s spokesman Bradley Hammond.
“It paves the way to transfer the land to the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation,” he said.
“The hope is that it’ll bring some important social and economic benefits to the First Nation there and to the local non-aboriginal communities around Ipperwash.”
Dudley’s brother, Sam George, who died last year after successfully pushing for a public inquiry into his brother death, would have welcomed the move, said Murray Klippenstein, a longtime lawyer for the George family.
“I think Sam would say, ‘Thank you’ to the people of Ontario for this step,” Klippenstein said.
“It’s progress to restoring a sacred written land promise between our peoples from a long time ago. I think he would say, ‘This is what honourable relationships between First Nations and other Ontarians are made of.’”
The provincial government formalzed its longstanding promise to transfer the land to aboriginal hands last May by signing an accord that provided a roadmap for the handover.
The actual transfer of the park along the shores of Lake Huron is still years away, but provincial officials say that once the land becomes part of the reserve, the First Nation will have complete control over its use.
It’s still unclear what will happen to a nearby former military base, which sits on reserve land expropriated by the federal government during the Second World War.
The handover was a key recommendation of a public inquiry.