Odd the timing of that dust-up over the Canadian army's draft counterinsurgency manual and its reference to Mohawk Warriors two weeks ago.
This reminder of prejudging in law enforcement came as the family of slain native protestor Dudley George awaits the final report due any week now on the 1995 OPP shooting at Ipperwash, another example of panicked policing.
But is it possible the tilted media coverage of Ipperwash, like Oka before it, directly fed authorities' hyper-aggressive response? That's the essence of a recent report by T.O.'s Aboriginal Legal Services, authored by Ryerson University journalism professor John Miller.
Miller, who reviewed 435 news and opinion articles on Ipperwash, argues that press "bias" contributed to a "moral panic" that may actually have created a climate emboldening the Harris government to forcibly remove protestors from the park.
"Very little ongoing news coverage gave the perspective of those occupying the park," Miller's report says. Not one reporter "succeeded in covering Ipperwash from inside the barricades."
Instead, the journo prof says, "the story was framed most frequently as one about violent, lawless First Nation people causing a fuss, instead of one about people who believe they have a legitimate right to their land."
Miller argues that the media's constant linking of the unarmed Ipperwash protests with the armed native confrontations at Gustafson Lake going on at the same time in BC and with Oka in 1990 created a sense "that First Nation people were on the brink of a coordinated and potentially bloody nationwide revolution. That certainly never happened."
In stories, the Stoney Point Chippewa's insistence that they had no guns at Ipperwash was almost always mentioned after the OPP's version of events that the occupiers attacked and fired first. "That [sequence] served over time," says Miller, "to discredit them."
Miller reports, astonishingly, that only three of a total of 92 opinion articles published after the shooting were written by journalists who actually went to Ipperwash to do their own reporting.
The Toronto Sun, he says, had Singapore-based correspondent Matthew Fisher weighing in from the other side of the globe about "a bunch of unkempt, menacing thugs out for their own fame."
"Stories that fit common stereotypes First Nation people as troublemakers, as unruly and violent, or benefiting from double standards of justice tended to get picked up or reprinted in other newspapers. Those that challenged common stereotypes First Nation people without guns, or with a legitimate land grievance generally did not."
Of approximately 700 total sources in the stories he looked at for his study, only 92 were the Chippewa activists themselves.
Sam George, Dudley's brother, recalls how, after a sleepless night of visiting his brother's body and informing the family of the death, he fielded reporters' questions for the first time.
"At the beginning, [the coverage] was always about guns. Then, when you would see the reports on TV, they would talk about Oka, they would talk about Gustafson Lake. Before they started a report they'd always show a fella standing with a bandana on, holding a gun."
In fact, the day-to-day visual reality of the Ipperwash Park occupation, or land reclamation, as it's better described, given the history, was a dozen neighbours chewing the fat around a picnic table. Not exciting enough for confrontation-addicted reporters, media expert Dan David points out.
Contrasting the press's performance at Ipperwash with the thorough coverage of Maher Arar and the sponsorship scandal, Miller notes that in the latter two cases it was thorough reporting very early on that caused the government to investigate itself.
"The anti-First Nation rhetoric being rolled out in editorials and opinion columns struck a chord," he says, "in the darkest souls of Canadians."