The former Mike Harris government bears indirect responsibility for the police shooting death of aboriginal protester Dudley George in 1995, the Ipperwash inquiry heard during closing arguments on Monday morning.
A lawyer representing George’s family, Murray Klippenstein, said during the first day of closing arguments at the inquiry that there are two parallel tracks to understanding what happened the day George was killed.
George was shot by an Ontario Provincial Police officer on Sept. 6, 1995, during a standoff at Ipperwash Provincial Park in southwestern Ontario.
Klippenstein wondered why the OPP called in the crowd-management unit wearing riot gear the day George was shot.
This was not part of a plan and was not approved by commanders, he argued, but showed a commitment and a mindset predisposed to the use of force.
Harris made his opinion clear
The second question, he said, was where that mindset came from.
The family’s lawyer argued it stemmed from Queen’s Park, where Ontario’s premier at the time, Mike Harris, made his opinion clear that he wanted the aboriginal protesters out of the park.
No direct orders came from Harris, but his opinion was transmitted to police on a number of occasions, Klippenstein argued.
He said OPP officers reacted to what they were told the premier wanted.
Klippenstein cited a number of conversations, including one that has become infamous during the two-year judicial inquiry.
Former attorney general Charles Harnick testified in November 2005 that Harris had said “I want the fucking Indians out of the park” during a meeting just hours before the fatal shooting.
No evidence of political interference
Harris’s lawyer, Peter Downard, will give his final submission Tuesday, but told CBC News before final submissions began Monday that he plans to argue critics are wrong about what could be the most important issue at the Ipperwash inquiry.
Critics accused Harris of directing police to remove the occupiers of the provincial park. Downard says it is clear the former premier did not do that.
While Downard acknowledges Harris wanted a quick end to the occupation, he says the inquiry found no evidence of political interference.
“There was a clear attack on premier Harris, an attack on his character, a suggestion that he had directed police to attack First Nations people, and he didn’t do that. He didn’t do that,” said Downard.
Closing arguments expected to finish Thursday
Final submissions in the judicial inquiry are being heard by Justice Sidney Linden, who is presiding over the inquiry in the town of Forest, Ont.
The inquiry is examining what role, if any, the provincial government played in the events leading to George’s death, and how to prevent similar incidents in the future.
In late June, the inquiry concluded two years of often controversial testimony from some 140 witnesses.
The closing remarks, expected to wrap up Thursday, will mark the official end of the inquiry.
Linden is expected to submit a final report to the provincial government before the end of the year.
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