Advance voting on $95-million offer to Kettle & Stony Point held Tuesday
The federal government may be offering the return of Camp Ipperwash, but not to its rightful heirs, says one off-reserve band member with Kettle & Stony Point.
“These are the lands that our ancestors grew up on and fostered our culture and nurtured our families,” Lyndon George, a Hamilton resident and registered member with Chippewas of Kettle & Stony Point First Nation, said Tuesday.
“This agreement will not return that land to them,” he said.
The nearly 900-hectare former army camp lands are historical Stony Point territory, he said. But under that $95-million settlement offer on the table from Canada’s government, the Kettle & Stony Point band council would gain control over them.
The council “have been asked outright at community meetings if that’s going to also mean that the land is returned to the original (Stony Point) landowners, or the heirs or descendants,” George said.
“The answer is ‘no.’”
That’s not acceptable, he said.
George, 50, traces his ancestry to Stony Point and said he’s a cousin of Dudley George, killed by police during the Ipperwash Crisis of 1995.
“I was there serving the eviction notice to the Department of National Defence, telling them to ‘Get off our land; your lease is up; go on, get out of here,’” Lyndon George said.
Those actions and the occupation of Ipperwash Provincial Park — during which Dudley George was killed — were always about having the land returned, not the money, he said.
“And that is not going to happen,” Lyndon George said. “That is the biggest and foremost problem with this settlement agreement.”
It’s why he plans to vote against the proposed agreement, he said.
And it appears he’s not the only one.
Other first nation members have also been critical of the offer, saying they’re not sure that accepting it will settle divisiveness within the Kettle & Stony Point community, The Observer recently reported.
Earlier this month, a group of people, identified as from the Stony Point First Nation, erected a large sign reading “River Aux Sable Territorial Lands” on a provincially-owned parking lot near Ipperwash beach.
George, meanwhile, also criticized the first nation band for failing to get several members their roughly 100-page voting primers prior to advance ballot-casting Tuesday, and for holding community consultation meetings — in London, Sarnia and on the reserve, he said — without any online option for members across the United States and Canada to participate.
That means people like himself can’t easily get clarity on the offer on which they’re voting, he said, noting many live in poverty and can’t easily travel.
“That’s a big problem,” he said.
Voting day is Sept. 18 and advance polls were held Tuesday, band communications officer Suzanne Bressette said. She declined further comment on behalf of the band chief and council.
Under the proposed agreement, the bulk of the money would be earmarked for community development projects like a potential three-storey hotel and conference centre on Lakeshore Road, Kettle and Stony Point Coun. Marshall George — another cousin of Lyndon’s and Dudley’s — said last week.
Marshall George also said most in the community are supportive of the proposed deal.
About $20 million is expected to be split amongst original residents of Stony Point land, their ancestors, and eligible band members.
There are 2,418 eligible voters with the Chippewas of Kettle & Stony Point, Lyndon George said, including 1,094 living off reserve.