Hamilton asks Ontario to prevent “interruptions” of creek cleanup by the HDI

By Bree Duwyn

Writer

The Haudenosaunee Development Institute (HDI) continues to urge City of Hamilton officials to seek “consent” for the dredging project in Chedoke Creek, to which they have responded by asking the province to step in and stop these “interruptions” in accordance with the law.

Even if Ontario intervenes, the creek cleanup will no longer meet its deadline by the end of this year on Dec. 31. Now, Hamilton is asking for an extra year to complete the job.

The HDI is also saying that the efforts to “criminalize lawful treaty activity” at the creek should be abandoned.

The $6 million dredging of the creek was initiated following a spill of 24 billion litres of sewage and stormwater over the course of four years into the creek and Cootes Paradise sanctuary.

The dredging, ordered in 2019, is aimed at cleaning the 22,000 tonnes of sewage polluting the Chedoke Creek.

The dredging was put on pause to allow for consultation with the HDI on Haudenosaunee treaty rights and the environment on Aug. 18, but resumed on Aug. 22. The HDI had planned to have “personnel on site daily to assess the environmental impacts of the dredging.”

At the time, a statement was released by Aaron Detlor Law firm, saying that they would be acting on behalf of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council (HCCC).

The law firm said the City of Hamilton has not engaged in negotiations with the HDI after the dredging was halted on Aug. 18. Detlor appeared at the work site to inform city contractors that there had been no proper engagement with the Haudenosaunee.

Despite numerous requests made by the Haudenosaunee Development Institute (HDI) to sit at the table with the City of Hamilton, the dredging of Chedoke Creek resumed on Sept. 22.

Water director Nick Winters said the city is open to Indigenous “environmental monitoring” but will not seek the consent the HDI is asking for.

Milestone, the project contractor company, warned that the dredging will not commence without a guarantee from Hamilton of a safe and “uninterrupted” worksite.

According to Winters, the contractor has reported approx.. 40 incidents of disruptions that included canoes on the worksite, unsafe visits to construction zones, and “dangerous” behaviour.

The dredging machine was also broke into, where equipment was stolen, according to Winters. It is not clear who was responsible.

As a result, Hamilton has appealed to the province to issue an order under the Environmental Protection Act to the HDI to allow the dredging to continue “with the work unencumbered”.

The Minsitry of Environment and Conservation and Parks said they will discuss the city’s request.

Last week, Detlor argued Haudenosaunee visits to the dredging site were not unsafe or illegal but an exercise of Indigenous treaty rights.

Detlor provided emails to Turtle Island News following the resumption of the dredging in Sept. on the HDI’s attempts to meet with city officials.

Hamilton’s General Manager of Public Works Carlyle Khan reached out to Detlor to organize a meeting along with the city manager in early September, on Aug. 30, according to a chain of emails between Detlor and the City of Hamilton officials.

Detlor responded to this email, saying that he wished to meet with Mayor Fred Eisenberger as well to “confirm that Hamilton is committed to recognizing the HCCC and advancing the goals of reconciliation as required by Hamilton’s Urban Indigenous strategy adopted on or about July 8, 2019.”

He said that the meeting request was not limited to the Chedoke Creek dredging.

Detlor said that the City of Hamilton has given him the feeling that they have been given the “run-around” when it comes to adopting an HDI process within the Urban Indigenous Strategy.

The email correspondence then switched hands, in which Detlor reached out to City Manager Janette Smith. He brought to attention the Metrolinx and the engagement he also wishes to see there.

In response, Smith said, on Sept. 1, that she would follow up with the Mayor’s Office about Detlor’s request for a meeting.

She said that the city has not taken a position that they do not need to engage with the HCCC or the HDI. Smith said she is aware of the amount of work that must be done to implement the Urban Indigenous Strategy and its 40 calls to action.

She then offered to meet Detlor along with Khan.

Correspondence afterwards is unconfirmed, however, the HDI requested during a Sept. 8 city council meeting that the city should submit an application with a fee to obtain consent to continue the project on First Nations land.

Detlor responded to Smith, saying that there has been “no communication from the City of Hamilton with respect to decisions reached at the (Sept. 8) meeting,” on Sept. 13.

He said that there were meetings with contractors about the dredging resuming, which the HDI had been “excluded” from.

Smith responded, saying that the council had not made a decision about the meeting discussions and would discuss the reports in relation to the Chedoke Creek Remediation Project at the Sept. 14 council meeting.

She said that Khan is accountable for the project and that he would reach out to Detlor for “next steps”.

Detlor said that he was “unsure if Mr. Khan has a role moving forward”. He said that the HDI has a commitment with Smith and the Mayor’s Office about a meeting.

Detlor then said that he was aware the dredging would be continuing, despite no engagement or consultation on the city’s updated safety plan. He said that he was under the impression that the updated plan is “not to be shared and is now marked confidential.”

Following up, Detlor sent an additional email on Sept. 14. He asked for the extent to which the Ministry of Labour would have to undertake the necessary engagement to ensure treaty compliance.

In response, Smith said that Khan will follow up with Detlor regarding his questions and the Chedoke Creek project. She said she would be happy to meet with the HDI along with General Manager of Healthy and Safe Communities Angie Burden.

Detlor and Khan had a phone call, prior to Detlor’s response to Smith.

He continued to address the commitment to meet with Smith and the Mayor be honoured, and if Smith was breaking her word to “please advise and we (HDI) can take next steps to address your inability to honour your commitments.”

No further email correspondence was received from Smith.

Detlor then contacted Wayne Harris, project manager at Milestone Environmental Contracting, thanking him for the notice of the resumption of the dredging.

He said that Smith advised she would be prepared to meet to address engagement to proceed, but that she had not followed up about the city’s obligations.

Detlor then said that Hamilton is “taking the position that the Haudenosaunee have no rights and interests over the subject lands and are instead relying upon assertions made by the Mississaugas of the Credit (First Nation) that the Haudenosaunee have no interests over the subject lands.”

This concludes all email correspondence made known to Turtle Island News.

Detlor has not responded to requests for comment on the HDI’s next steps.

 

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