A6N and Hydro One employees were turned away from the NRL site Wednesday. The NRL sits on unsurrendered Six Nations lands near the 2006 Caledonia land Reclamation site. Hydro One has walked from talks with the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council over their use of Haudenosaunee lands.
By Justin Lethbridge and Lynda Powless
SIX NATIONS OF THE GRAND RIVER-A new Six Nations land reclamation may be brewing after a Brantford judge granted Hydro One an interim injunction ordering Six Nations people off unsurrendered Haudenosaunee lands the Niagara Reinforcement Line (NRL) was built on.
A Hydro One Networks Inc., (HONI) injunction being imposed on the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and Six Nations people protesting the upgrading of the NRL is being seen as an “Act of War,” says one land defender.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Liza Sheard granted HONI an interim injunction against the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council, (HCCC) its development arm, the Haudenosaunee Development Corporation and 18 community members Wednesday, July 10, 2019 preventing them from accessing unsurrendered Haudenosaunee lands.
The injunction comes on the heels of a hurried court proceeding Monday, July 8th’ that saw, Madam Justice Sheard adjourn the proceedings to allow the HDI, HCCC and others named to prepare their defence but it also allowed Hydro One to return to work on the NRL .
Hydro One’s Lawyer Christopher Bredt told the court on Monday that a fifth electrical line needs to be strung at the site located off of Argyle Street on the outskirts of the town of Caledonia. Caledonia came into the limelight 13 years ago in 2006 when Six Nations reclaimed the Douglas Creek Housing development being built on unceded Six Nations lands. That reclamation continues today. The NRL, also located on unceded Six Nations lands was shut down as a geographical offshoot of the reclamation.
When Hydro One went to the NRL site on Wednesday to continue work, a group of community members met them, advising them that despite the injunction no work would happen.
“I told them that in our eyes this is a declaration of war.” Sonny Maracle told the Turtle Island News after he and several others refused to allow Hydro One onto the land.
Hydro One employees, Aecon Six Nations employees and Ontario Provincial Police Officers came to the site. The OPP released a statement earlier Wednesday saying that they will remain in the area to keep the peace and maintain public safety.
“Detours may be utilized if required to ensure the safe flow of traffic as discussions continue between the involved parties.”
They also said that members of the OPP Provincial Liaison Team (PLT) are in the area as well. The OPP statement said they are “working with those who may organize protest events to provide a safe and peaceful opportunity to exercise their lawful rights.”
Maracle said that he spoke with both Hydro One employees and the OPP and they asked if Hydro One could return to work at the site.
“They asked if we could return to work today and I said no. They asked if they could return to work tomorrow and I said no. Then the OPP read their injunction on us and I told them I didn’t understand one part and I didn’t get the answer to that and the part where they said they can come in here and remove us forcefully by the court order, I asked the OPP if they were going to do that. The guy said ‘yeah’ and I told him that we interpret that as an Act of War, and we accept.”
He said that he asked Hydro One who sold them the land that they claim the land defenders are trespassing on and the employee said he didn’t know.
“I said this is Plank Road, half a mile this way and half a mile that way. Plank Road belongs to us, they do not own this and I told them it was all about jurisdiction and they left.”
Speaking in front of a nearby tobacco shop, Maracle pointed to a black truck parked across the road.
“They’ve been here all day and I expect that they are just waiting for us to leave. We pull out of here, and he is going to go back there and see what’s in the trailer we’ve placed back there. If we have to get people here to watch the site all day, we will. If we have to get the word out, we’ll fill this place up and they’ll have to remove us forcefully. If they want to go to war, let’s do it.”
While Maracle is not named in the injunction, it does name John Doe, Jane Doe and persons unknown which allows the OPP to enforce it against anyone on the area in question. The order prohibits the defendants and ‘any and all persons having knowledge of this Order’ from trespassing on lands that Hydro One owns or has a common law easement on, as well as from threatening or intimidation employees of the plaintiffs.
It also prevents them from “physically preventing, impeding, restricting or in any way physically interfere with, Hydro One carrying on its business, along , and in conjunction with the Niagara Reinforcement Limited Partnership (“NRP LP”), Aecon Group Inc. (“Aecon”), Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation (“Six Nations Dev. Corporation”), A6N (a joint venture between AECON Group Inc. and Six Nations Dev. corporation), Thirau Inc. (“Thirau”) and any other agents, and in particular its right to the Hydro One lands, the NRP Line, the NRP Work Sites and the NRP Site.”
The court order directs the local sheriff and the OPP to enforce the order by ‘removing from Hydro One lands, the NRP Line, the NRP Work Sites and the NRP sites any person contravening its provisions, subject to the discretion of the police action reasonably with respect to the timing and means of removing such person.’
Maracle said that he isn’t worried about the possibility of being arrested.
“They can arrest me. It won’t been the first time. This is our land, and we’ll be damned if we have a white guy or white girl tell us that we can’t protest or stop shit on our own land.”
The NRL runs through 76 kilometres of Six Nations unsettled land rights. The lands are part of a multi-billion dollar land rights lawsuit launched by the Six Nations Elected Council over two decades ago that has languished in Canada’s courts and has cost Six Nations an estimated $20 million to keep in the courts.
An attempt to resolve the outstanding land rights issues was made by the HCCC during the 2006 Land Reclamation but talks broke down after the Six Nations Elected Council (SNEC) walked from the negotiations and Canada and Ontario refused to continue with the HCCC without the band council’s presence. The elected council system was imposed in First Nation communities nation wide through the 1920s and in 1924 at Six Nations.
The Six Nations Grand River Development Corporation (SNGRDC) an entity created by the SNEC to generate business, entered an agreement with Hydro One to re-energize the line in 2018. No agreement had been signed between Hydro One and the HCCC.
The dispute between Hydro One and the HCCC has been brewing for over a year after Hydro One chose to enter an agreement only with the SNEC and its development corporation not with the HCCC.
The 2017/18 SNGRDC negotiations that allowed work to continue on the NRL were the first to tackle the shut down that began after Six Nations launched the 2006 Land Reclamation at Caledonia.
In 2017 talks between the SNGRDC, SNEC and HONI began to re-energize the line. The talks continued into 2018 when an agreement was finally reached by HONI and SNEC and SNGRDC . Under the agreement the SNGRDC, on behalf of the Six Nations community, received a 25% equity interest in the line. The investment was financed by SNEC with $12.5 million suddenly received from the Brantford Casino as part of Ontario’s gaming modernization. (SNEC also receives $4.5 million a year from the Brantford Casino) . The move came on the heels of an Ontario First Nations Hydro shares deal that Six Nations signed onto. A deal that one of the lead negotiators, Gord Peters told Six Nations Elected Council, Elected Chief Ava Hill insisted the deal offered to all First Nations in Ontario not include the HCCC or its development arm the HDI.
Throughout the NRL negotiations HONI refused to meet with the HCCC. Instead the SNGRDC sent three emails from Oct to November 2017 asking the HCCC if they would like to attend an information session on their deal with HONI. HCCC saw the emails as relegating them to an organization’s status not that of a governing body.
SNGRDC CEO Matt Jamieson told Turtle Island News during its community consultation sessions it was not seeking any land leases from HONI or negotiating land rights. Jamieson said the issue of the lands and land rights fell under the Six Nations lands and resources department where director Lonny Bomberry says the unsurrendered lands part of the Plank Road land claim continue to be part of the long outstanding Six Nations claim to a huge swath of southern Ontario.
SO WHAT IS THE SIX NATIONS HAMILTON TO PORT DOVER PLANK ROAD CLAIM?
From 1763 to 1982, Regulations, Instructions and Constitutional Rules pertaining to the alienation or dispossession of Indian lands were issued by the Crown. Subsequently, these Laws were not administered by the Government when dealing with Indian Lands.
PlankRoad On March 6, 1834, An Act to authorize the construction of a Road from Hamilton, in the Gore District, to Port Dover in the London District was passed. In accordance with this Act, the Commissioner was to empower to contract for a surrender of the land from persons who occupy, held possession of or interest in any of the Lands for the said new Road or Highway. Damages were also to be paid to the Claimant.
On January 16, 1835, Six Nations in Council, advised that they would permit leases for half a mile on each side of the Hamilton Swamp Road (Hamilton-Port Dover Plank Road).
On May 1, 1845, J.M. Higginson, Civil Secretary, reported to D. Thorburn, Special Commissioner, that the land to the extent of half a mile in depth on either side of the Hamilton-Port Dover Plank Road was purportedly surrendered to the Crown in 1835 to enable the Lieutenant Governor to grant leases of 21 years.
From approximately 1837 to 1953, the Crown sold lands and letters patent were issued for the lands approximately half a mile on each side of the Hamilton-Port Dover Plank Road.
The Hamilton-Port Dover Plank Road which later became Highway 6, is located in the Townships of Oneida and Seneca. The lands used to construct the Hamilton-Port Dover Plank Road and the tier of lots on each side of the road consists of approximately 10,406.527 acres (deed plotted); 1,946.340 acres are in Seneca Township and 8,460.187 are in Oneida Township, including the Town plot of Caledonia.
There is no lawful surrender from Six Nations to the Crown for the lands taken for use of a road being the Hamilton-Port Dover Plank Road, or for the tier of lots on each side of the road.
Six Nations were deprived of continual rental revenues for the land and royalty revenues of the mineral resources there under of the tier of lots on each side of the Hamilton-Port Dover Plank Road.
Six Nations never received compensation for the lands used to construct the Hamilton-Port Dover Plank Road, nor did they receive full and fair compensation for the tier of lots on each side of the road.
The Crown has not shown that all the purported sums paid on the tier of lots on each side of the Hamilton-Port Dover Plank Road were credited to the Six Nations Trust Fund Accounts.