Ontario turned over Ipperwash Provincial Park to a First Nation on Thursday, settling a long-standing aboriginal grievance in the province.
"We are returning Ipperwash Provincial Park lands to the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation," said Aboriginal Affairs Minister Michael Bryant during a news conference Thursday in Toronto.
"In doing so, we are sending a clear signal that the McGuinty government is acting on the premier's ambitious agenda on aboriginal affairs."
Ipperwash Provincial Park has been closed since 1995 when Ontario Provincial Police officers shot and killed aboriginal activist Dudley George during an aboriginal occupation of the park.
Members of the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation argued that land for the park and a nearby military base were illegally taken away from them in violation of their aboriginal rights. They claim the park contains an aboriginal burial ground.
Dudley George's brother, Sam, and the inquiry that looked into George's shooting had recommended the park be returned to the band.
The origins of the dispute date back to the Second World War. Ottawa expropriated land belonging to the Stony Point band in 1942 under the War Measures Act in order to build a military training facility called Camp Ipperwash.
The military camp is next to Ipperwash Provincial Park, which had been created by the province six years earlier.
The Department of National Defence offered to return most of the land after the war if it could lease the land necessary for the military base, but later withdrew the offer. In 1972, Jean Chrétien — who was then the minister of Indian Affairs — suggested that if the land wasn't returned, the band should be offered another piece of land as compensation.
The dispute continued unresolved until 1995, when a group of about 30 protesters set up barricades at the park to draw attention to their land claim on a military base.
Dudley George was shot and killed by an Ontario Provincial Police sniper in September 1995 as police moved in to clear out the park.
Justice Sidney Linden ruled in May 2007 that the OPP, the government of former Ontario premier Mike Harris and the federal government all bore responsibility for events that led to George's death
The original land claim — the reason protesters occupied Ipperwash Park in the first place — was settled in 1998. Under the $26-million agreement, the land occupied by the former military installation was to be cleaned up and returned to the Kettle and Stony Point First Nation. As well, every member of the band was to receive between $150,000 and $400,000 in compensation.
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