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Ipperwash mugs, shirts were stupid: Runciman

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    ... From: RUSSELL DIABO To: Undisclosed-Recipient:; Sent: Tuesday, January 10, 2006 11:55 AM Subject: Ipperwash mugs, shirts were stupid: Runciman January 10,
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 10, 2006
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      ----- Original Message -----
      From: RUSSELL DIABO
      To: Undisclosed-Recipient:;
      Sent: Tuesday, January 10, 2006 11:55 AM
      Subject: Ipperwash mugs, shirts were stupid: Runciman



      January 10, 2006

      Ipperwash mugs, shirts were stupid: Runciman

      By GREG BONNELL

      FOREST, Ont. (CP) - Commemorative coffee mugs and T-shirts produced by police officers following the death of native protester Dudley George represented an exercise in "macho stupidity," the politician responsible for law enforcement during the provincial park standoff said Tuesday.

      "I do want to say how personally offended I was by that, and I guess shocked as well," former solicitor general Bob Runciman told the Ipperwash inquiry. "It was not only insensitive to the cultural significance of the symbols but also to the George family. . . . It was an exercise in macho stupidity."

      George, 38, was killed by a police sniper on Sept. 6, 1995 during a clash with Ontario Provincial Police over a native land claim at Ipperwash Provincial Park.

      The following year, an OPP internal investigation found that a dozen Team Ipperwash '95 mugs emblazoned with an arrow over the force's insignia were made by officers. Several dozens T-shirts were also produced bearing the letters ERT and TRU - representing the emergency response team and tactical response units that responded to the occupation - and a horizontal white feather.

      Aboriginal groups reacted with disgust, noting the arrow and feather symbolized dead warriors.

      "With respect to the (OPP) insignias and the misuse and abuse (of native symbols). . .that was a very upsetting period for me," Runciman told the inquiry.

      Despite his personal feelings, any disciplinary action following the memorabilia incident was taken independent of the solicitor general's office, Runciman testified.

      "I can't recall an incident where I would have commented on discipline. . . . That wouldn't have been appropriate," he said.

      The extent to which then-premier Mike Harris directed the police response to the occupation has been a key issue at the judicial inquiry into the death of George - the first aboriginal to be killed in Canada over a land dispute in 100 years.

      Runciman, now justice critic in the provincial parliament, was adamant that longstanding allegations of political interference are unfounded.

      "A lot of people have drawn conclusions about political direction and the OPP. In my view, that never did occur," he said.

      In his statement to the commission, Runciman suggested an elite unit of First Nations police officers be formed to respond to any such land claim conflicts in the future.

      The former solicitor general also raised the idea of re-establishing a provincial police commission, comparable to police services boards that act as "buffers" between cities, their councils and police services.

      Harris is expected to testify late next week.



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