At a press conference this morning, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Michael Bryant along with Natural Resources Minister Donna Cansfield announced Ontario will be returning Ipperwash Provincial Park lands to the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation.
“As the first step in the process to transfer Ipperwash Provincial Park from the province to the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation, both parties will work together with the local communities to develop an interim co-management plan,” said Cansfield. “Through these discussions we will determine how the park lands will be used and managed until the transfer is completed.”
This announcement comes in the wake of the Ipperwash Inquiry, which was concluded on May 31, 2007. Among other things, the final report called for a resolution of the Ipperwash Provincial Park lands.
A day after the report was released, Sam George, the brother of slain indigenous protester Dudley George, formally requested the return of Ipperwash Provincial Park to his people. “Can we agree, in the next week or so, to commit that those 109 acres [about 269 hectares] be returned to native people?” “I think such a commitment would be a strong signal to people across the country, native and non-native, and that we could increase the trust and honour between us.”
It may have taken longer longer than a week, but if 6 months is what the government needed to take a positive step in the right direction, and if this does in fact end in the full return of the land, then I think we can all agree it was worth the wait.
A NEW APPROACH TO RESOLVING ISSUES AT IPPERWASH PARK
As highlighted in the recent Throne Speech in late November, the McGuinty government is committed to acting on the recommendations of the Report of the Ipperwash Inquiry which was released on May 31, 2007. The inquiry was convened in 2003 following the death of Dudley George during a protest by First Nation people at Ipperwash Park in 1995. Justice Sidney Linden, who presided over the inquiry, made recommendations that will assist in resolving issues and improving relationships with First Nations.
One of Justice Linden’s findings called for a resolution of the Ipperwash Provincial Park lands.
The Future of Ipperwash Park
The first step in the process to transfer Ipperwash Provincial Park from the province to the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation will be the joint development of an interim co-management plan by both parties – with input from other local Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal representatives.
The Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation, local communities and the provincial government will jointly determine the interim use of the park lands , the duration of the interim period and how the park lands will be managed until the eventual transfer of the land to the First Nation.
Ipperwash Provincial Park will continue to remain designated as a provincial park until the required consultation is undertaken and the legal requirements for removing this designation are met. Whether the land continues to remain a park will need to be determined by all parties.
Ipperwash Inquiry Priorities and Action Committee
Ontario will establish the Ipperwash Inquiry Priorities and Action Committee. This committee will include First Nations and Métis leadership and will provide a way for the province to work together with Ontario’s Aboriginal peoples, both on and off-reserve, to act on Justice Linden’s recommendations.
The committee, to be established early in 2008, will assess Justice Linden’s recommendations and offer advice to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs on priorities, an action plan and the federal government’s role.
The Ipperwash Inquiry Report
The receipt of Justice Linden’s Report on May 31, 2007, marked an historic day in Ontario. The Report’s recommendations provide a basis for the government and Aboriginal peoples to move forward together towards a stronger relationship.
Ontario is committed to a thorough review of Justice Linden’s findings with our Aboriginal partners, the policing community, the federal government and other affected parties. Ontario is working on the recommendations of Justice Linden’s Report in a spirit of respect and partnership with its Aboriginal partners.
On June 21, 2007, Premier McGuinty delivered on one of the report’s recommendations by establishing a stand-alone Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs. The ministry is building a stronger relationship with Aboriginal peoples to help resolve outstanding issues.
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