Jim Moses — Not Michael Harris — Should Receive the Order of Ontario

By John Bacher with contributions by Danny Beaton.

How can the Premier of Ontario award politicians who have been linked to the murder of Indigenous Activists defending sacred burial grounds?

A Toronto Star journalist wrote a book about his investigation into The Ipperwash Crisis in 1995 and the death of Ojibway native Dudley George. In 2004 a film was made called “One Dead Indian” about the final days of Dudley George, killed by OPP bullets. On September 4th, 1995, an unarmed group of aboriginals from the community of Stoney Point Ontario, occupied Ipperwash Park in an attempt to reclaim their burial ground on land that had been appropriated by the Federal Government. The OPPs’ plans to negotiate were scrapped after secret government meetings attended by Mike Harris’ closest aid. Dudley's death became a concern of The United Nations and Amnesty International.

When I saw the film “One Dead Indian“, I remember crying for Dudley’s family. But I was also crying for Mother Earth because that is where our ancestors are buried. Through journalism, great truths can be shared throughout society and great dangers can be exposed. In these times of environmental degradation and the manipulation of Ontario's Greenbelt, rivers, aquifers, wetlands, forests and farmland to benefit developers with lawyers and cash. The one way to protect life is through all forms of the media and art.

Indigenous people have survived residential schools, now we have to survive climate change, global warming and this virus. In these times in the history of Mother Earth, natives and non-natives are working together in unity to protect The Great Lakes and our children's future. Most Canadian know who deserves an award for environmental protection or human rights achievements; most Ontarians remember the destruction of social programs by Harris. Every NGO can testify in court who Harris really was, especially Dudley George’s family and friends. Premier Ford is getting carried away with his fantasy that Harris has achieved good deeds. Our elders have prophesied what would happen if we Human Beings did not protect Mother Earth and our children's future. Now we have a chance to do good and carry on the vision of Dudley George.

- Mohawk elder Danny Beaton (Turtle Clan)

Additional perspective Dr John Bacher:

Following the making of the docudrama "One Dead Indian", based off of Gordon Edward's compelling book — which had an actor play Jim Moses — Moses was erased from history by the media and inquiries. Although in good health during the Ipperwash Inquiry, Moses’ name appears nowhere in its multi-volume published report.

Premier Douglas Ford has put forward a trial balloon, suggesting that one of his predecessors, Premier Michael Harris, be awarded the Order of Ontario. Understandably, this suggestion has drawn criticism from the Chiefs of Ontario, which issued a press release on the topic. The Chiefs stated the honour was inappropriate. One reason for this was that it opened raw wounds of the September 1995 killing of the Ontario native rights activist, Dudley George — arising out of gunshots from the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP). The Chiefs also stated the Ipperwash Inquiry should be reopened to address questions about the police shooting of unarmed occupiers.

I am making this contribution to public debate because of an unusual perspective I have on the Ipperwash shootings. This emerged from my friendship, developed over several years, with the heroic native investigative reporter, Jim Moses. Originally a journalist specializing in issues such as outdoor recreation, Moses became an investigative reporter, and later a police informant, because of his concern for organized crime disrupting native communities. One of the terrible impacts was the opening of illegal speakeasies, which exacerbated problems of alcoholism. Although I did not know of Moses’ connections with law enforcement, in his work as a reporter, I accompanied him on these investigations. He worked closely with the respected Cayuga elder Huron Miller, reader of the Code of Handsome Lake, to uphold the teachings of the “Good Mind” (a philosophy of the People of the Longhouse).

What is so relevant about Moses, the events of Ipperwash and Mike Harris, is that Moses provided accurate information to the OPP, which should have prevented the shooting that led to the death of Dudley George. Using journalistic cover, Moses spent a night at the occupiers camp, and provided the OPP with clear information that they were unarmed. Their most deadly weapon was a baseball bat.

The Chiefs of Ontario are certainly correct to say that the Ipperwash Inquiry needs to be reopened. The inquiry’s report showcases a rewriting of history, where photos are brushed out to pretend that historical figures did not exist. The report, famous for its quote from Mike Harris, “to get the F---Indians out of the park,” does not acknowledge what Moses told the OPP. Nowhere does it mention his name, let alone dispute what he bravely revealed in a 1995 press conference, held a few months after George’s death.

When he gave his press conference, Moses was outraged by OPP claims, since disproved, that their gunfire was in response to shots from native occupiers. Moses felt compelled to come forth and speak the truth — that the OPP knew the natives were unarmed - because he had told them.

Moses showed considerable heroism in outing himself as an informer. He understood that doing this would result in retribution from criminal gun smugglers as his work contributed to their conviction and imprisonment. Aware that such gangsters could retaliate when their sentences expired, he took to sleeping in his clothes, for quick escape if his Thorold, Ontario home was set on fire. In late December 1995 this actually occurred and his precautions allowed him to get out in time.

If anyone should receive the Order of Ontario, it is Jim Moses. He struggled against both organized crime and public relations gimmicks, which for a time blinded the public from the ugly truth of a deadly armed assault on native occupiers in a land dispute. The Ipperwash Inquiry, although exposing Harris’ foul language, concealed Moses’ exposé that the OPP knew the people they were firing upon were unarmed. 

Chiefs of Ontario Press Release found here.

A more detailed article, written by John Bacher with the help of native activists, Mohawk elder Danny Beaton (Turtle Clan) and Doug George: Tobacco Road Revisited found here.

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