The Kettle and Stony Point First Nation sent in trucks and workers late last year to remove barriers on Ipperwash Beach that had been there for 40 years.
There followed an uprising of non-aboriginal residents, and some of them even took to erecting their own makeshift barrier in response.
In the 1940s the federal government took the former Stoney Point Reserve from the residents of Kettle and Stony Point to create Camp Ipperwash for Canada’s war effort. It promised to give the land back, but after 70 years is still having a really hard time getting around to it.
One of the non-native beach owners in question, it was noted, said he “has lived here all his life and will fight for his deeded property. His family has owned the home since the 1950s and the deed has gone back to 1898.”
Both sides have paperwork.
Canada has a landmass of 998,470,000 hectares. Its 2,267 Aboriginal reserves comprise about 2.6 million hectares, or 0.2% of the nation’s total land. It doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to see that non-native attempts to negotiate peaceable co-habitation with other people over the past few centuries has landed in their favour.
One Ipperwash commenter said: “I informed one (band member) if he wants to claim all Canada as his land he can go for it, but this is my property and he will have to go start somewhere else.”
It was disheartening to read.
If you feel like your rights are being trampled on for a situation like a barricade coming down – can you stop for one second and try to imagine what it must feel like to have your land taken from you completely, being displaced, and being unable to do anything about it?
Can you imagine what it would feel like for your family and community to be robbed completely of their livelihood, and forced to move because the government didn’t want to disrupt nearby farmland for an army base?
If we are so upset about a barrier coming down, we have to be able to imagine how upset the original residents must be. Right?
If we created a “how unjust and unfair is this” scale – the beach barriers coming down would roughly sit at 0.2 out of 100, while the Camp Ipperwash situation would sit at 99.8 out of 100.
Maybe we can see where they are coming from a little bit and have conversations and learn about someone else, and how they’ve been treated, and what it has done to them, and what it has done to us.
Hopefully we can let it change us into more compassionate people rather than more entitled ones.
Nathan Colquhoun is a director and owner of Storyboard Solutions and the Refined Fool Brewing Company and a pastor at theStory.