It’s been almost 25 years since Anishinaabe activist Dudley George was killed by a police sniper during a land protest, but most days it feels like a would that has never really healed. For some, the raw emotions surrounding the events that led to Dudley’s death are still simmering under the surface. Talking out loud about the “Ipperwash Crisis” feels like ripping off a Band-Aid, exposing a darkness underneath.
In 1996, seven of Dudley’s siblings filed a $7-million wrongful death lawsuit against the Ontario Provincial Police and some powerful politicians, accusing them of causing and then concealing the events that led a sniper team and the riot police to conduct a night-time raid on a group of unarmed Indigenous protesters. Nearly 25-years later, the results of the family’s lawsuit and a $30-million public inquiry have never been clearly communicated to the public, let alone to Dudley’s small community. The truth remains hidden within thick volumes of Inquiry transcripts, reports, and recommendations. Today, some of Dudley’s family members hope to confront those hard truths so those most deeply affected can begin to “let go” and heal.
Equal parts cinéma vérité footage, stock footage and legal exhibits, and edited in the vein of Netflix’s true-crime series The Keepers and the newly-released The Devil Next Door, this film features interviews with witnesses, police officers and the legal team who spearheaded the Ipperwash Inquiry. It includes as-yet unheard police audio tapes that reveal the disturbing reasons why the three-day police operation fell apart – and why some would want to cover it up. It also takes a deep dive into the history of Ipperwash Beach, bouncing between colourful animated sequences celebrating the Anishnaabeg nation’s attachment to the land, and stock footage, photos, and maps showing how the law allowed for the land to be colonized and wrongfully taken — setting the scene for an eventual confrontation. At times lighthearted and funny, and at other times deeply unsettling, this is a story about the inspiring way one family has undergone a traumatic experience and turned it into a means to make change across the country.
First greenlit as a student project in Sheridan College’s Advanced Television & Film program in 2002, this film continued after the Ipperwash Inquiry was called in 2004. It grew to include original archival research, stock footage, and photos, and between 60 and 100 hours of new footage (now old enough to be considered archival footage). Further filming is required to update the story for the present day. However, forward movement on this project will be grassroots, focused on those who were directly involved in the George vs. Harris civil lawsuit and on the people who appear on the witness list for the Ipperwash Inquiry. This means the film will become participatory, with those who have a significant stake in the story participating in consultations and collaborating on its content.
Status: Unfinished; In production; Funding: Self-Funded, Ontario Arts Council, Indiegogo Crowdfunding; Future Funding Ideas: Content licenses and film grants