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A former senior civil servant says an oath of confidentiality prevented her from coming forward earlier to say she heard a cabinet minister make a crude comment about aboriginals.

Yesterday. Elaine Todres, deputy solicitor-general from 1995 to 1997, told a judicial inquiry into the 1995 shooting of an aboriginal protester at Ipperwash Provincial Park that she did not feel an obligation to raise the matter, even internally, when questions were asked in the Ontario Legislature.

In 1996, opposition members repeatedly asked former premier Mike Harris's Progressive Conservative government whether any politician or government official had used profanity in demanding, at a government meeting, that the natives be removed from the park, and if so, who.

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Ms. Todres testified on Wednesday that she heard Chris Hodgson, who was then the natural resources minister, say, "Get the fucking Indians out of my park" at a noon-hour meeting in the premier's dining room on Sept. 6, 1996.

Former attorney-general Charles Harnick testified Monday that he heard Mr. Harris say, "I want the fucking Indians out of the park," at the same meeting. Ms. Todres said she did not hear that remark.

About 11 hours after the meeting, a police sniper fatally shot Dudley George in Ipperwash Provincial Park.

Lawyer Julian Falconer, representing Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto, asked Ms. Todres whether she had an obligation to come forward in 1996, when Mr. Harnick was telling the legislature that he had no evidence the comment was made. "You could have easily advised your minister, [solicitor-general Robert]Runciman, that these words were spoken," he suggested.

"I suppose so," she said. "Minister Runciman and I were in the same room," she added, referring to the dining-room meeting. "I was not aware if he heard the words or not. . . . I believe I discharged my duties at the time."

Ms. Todres said she never spoke to Mr. Runciman, Mr. Harnick or anyone else about the comment. "When I walked out of that meeting . . . I would have been held to confidentiality."

"Regardless of whether a racist statement was made?" Mr. Falconer asked.

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"Regardless of any statements that were made."

Ms. Todres, now a consultant on governance and a public speaker, is the first of 10 witness who were at the meeting to attribute a crude remark about Indians to Mr. Hodgson.

Lawyers for Mr. Harris and Mr. Hodgson say they will deny making the slurs when they testify in January before Commissioner Sidney Linden.

The inquiry has heard many different accounts of what happened during three intense days of government activity between the occupation of the park by protesters and the shooting.

Ms. Todres said she does not recall Ron Fox, the OPP's aboriginal liaison officer, and his assistant, Scott Patrick, being in the meeting, although she remembers they accompanied her to the door. They and others have testified that they were in the room for part of the meeting.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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