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Chiefs of Ontario head Alvin Fiddler in Thuder Bay, Ontario.

David Jackson/The Globe and Mail

Ontario’s First Nation chiefs are calling on the provincial government to reflect on its relationship with Indigenous people on 25th anniversary of the Ipperwash crisis.

Acting Ontario Regional Chief of the Chiefs of Ontario, Alvin Fiddler, said in a statement over the weekend that distrust between First Nations and authorities continues to exist as a result of unaddressed inequality that the crisis highlighted.

Dudley George is shown in an undated photo. Mr. George was shot and killed by an Ontario Provincial Police sniper on Sept. 6, 1995 during a confrontation at Ipperwash National Park that was a flashpoint in the Indigenous rights movement.

HO/The Canadian Press

In particular, Fiddler says the government has not taken seriously the results of the Ipperwash Inquiry – an investigation that was started after protester Dudley George was shot and killed by an Ontario Provincial Police sniper on Sept. 6, 1995.

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He also called upon non-Indigenous Canadians to learn about Indigenous history and to become educated on demonstrations such as the Ipperwash crisis.

“We must know our own histories, our rights, and so must non-Indigenous people and government,” the statement reads.

“It is difficult to respect what you cannot understand, and it is only through strong relationships, a willingness to learn, and education that we all may truly understand one another.”

B.C. planning up to 15 First Nations justice centres across the province

The crisis began on Labour Day Sept. 4, 1995 after members of the Chippewas Kettle and Stoney Point First Nation occupied Ipperwash Provincial Park in protest of nearby reserve land that was seized by the Canadian government during the Second World War to create a military base.

For two days, protesters and police faced off as authorities attempted to remove the occupiers from the park.

An unidentified member from a faction of the Kettle and Stony Point First Nation relaxes on the trunk of his vehicle Tuesday in the occupied area of the Ipperwash Provincial Park. A small group of Stony Point Indigenous people seized the area in September 1995 after campers had left the grounds. The car has OPPWHO? spray painted on the side.

The Canadian Press

During a confrontation on the final day, members of the OPP’s tactical response unit opened fire on a group of protesters as they attempted to leave the park, killing George in the process.

Sgt. Ken Deane, one of the officers in charge of the sniper team, would later be found guilty of criminal negligence involving death.

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Deane did not serve any time in prison, and died in a car accident just weeks before he was set to testify at the Ipperwash Inquiry in 2006.

The inquiry revealed a number of major concerns in how the police response was handled. It found that former premier Mike Harris “could have urged patience rather than speed,” and that such decisions “effectively foreclosed the possibility” of finding ways to end the standoff peacefully, while also finding “no evidence to suggest that either the premier or any official in his government was responsible for Mr. George’s death.”

Members of the Kettle and Stoney Point Indian Reserve block the road in front of the native occupied Camp Ipperwash on September 11, 1995. Hundreds of Indigenous people attended a funeral at the camp for Dudley George who was shot and killed on September 6, 1995 in a confrontation with the Ontario Provincial Police. Natives from the reserve occupy Camp Ipperwash and are claiming that a nearby provincial park is a sacred burial ground and should be returned to them.

Peter Jones/Reuters

In response to Fiddler’s call for action, Greg Rickford, Ontario’s current Minister of Indigenous affairs, said that the provincial government continues to build upon the recommendations laid out by the Ipperwash Inquiry.

“The Ipperwash Inquiry resulted in a number of recommendations that helped redefine Ontario’s relationship with Indigenous communities,” Rickford said in a statement Saturday.

“Our government is committed to listening to the perspectives of Indigenous peoples and to expanding social and economic opportunities and improving the quality of life for all First Nation, Inuit and Metis people living in Ontario.”

Editor’s note: On Sept. 6, The Canadian Press reported that a public inquiry into the death of Indigenous protester Dudley George at Ipperwash Provincial Park in 1995 concluded that then Ontario premier Mike Harris and the federal government were responsible. To clarify: while the inquiry found "no evidence to suggest that either the premier or any official in his government was responsible for Mr. George's death," it also found the "premier could have urged patience rather than speed," and that such decisions "effectively foreclosed the possibility" of finding ways to end the standoff peacefully. The report also found: "The federal government, the provincial government and the OPP must all assume some responsibility for decisions or failures that increased the risk of violence and made a tragic confrontation more likely." The Canadian Press apologizes for any misunderstanding.

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