Racism still tied to Ipperwash Crisis 25 years later
LONDON, ONT. -- Twenty-five years after the Ipperwash Crisis, anti-Indigenous racism that contributed to the tragedy still lurks within people.
"This is about education. This is about relearning and unlearning," explains Brian Hill, President of N’Amerind Friendship Centre.
Hill laments a quarter century after the killing of Dudley George, public opinion about the event remains marred by racism.
Chief Jason Henry was regularly stopped by Ontario Provincial Police officers while growing up on the Kettle and Stony Point Fist Nation, "Being stopped for routine checks. You know, you got a tail light out."
Chief Henry says for a time racism felt normalized. "That was just part of life. That’s how it seemed. But that’s not normal."
Racism and distrust fueled the tragedy that would become known as The Ipperwash Crisis in September 1995.
A day after Dudley George’s death, his sister Carolyn showed reporters deep bruises on her forearms after being arrested at the hospital. She was never charged.
"All we were doing was taking our brother to the hospital, and that’s the way we were treated," she said in 1995.
Twelve years later The Ipperwash Inquiry would conclude that racism contributed to the tragedy.
Secret recordings of police making racist comments, and the discovery of commemorative T-shirts and coffee mugs printed after the crisis emphasized the need for change.
The OPP have since implemented recommendations about training, and formal discipline for racist behaviour.
Hill says when it comes to racism, change can initially seem more difficult than it actually is.
"The only thing you have to change is a little bit of your idea," he says.
Some emphasize stereotypes, others use false narratives to place blame on indigenous communities.
It’s disturbing— but Hill has come to expect it.
"No, that’s not surprising. The good majority of the people making those comments don’t know the backstory," he says.
Both Hill and Chief Henry volunteer their time to educating people about indigenous communities and their histories.
Hill believes the ability to end racism lies inside everyone.
"To unlearn (racism) is to learn from here, your heart. Then process it and put it all together."