By Lisa Iesse
HAMILTON – The Haudenosaunee Development Institute (HDI) has asked the city of Hamilton to enter an agreement guiding collaborative work over major projects.
The proposed agreement aims to ensure meaningful engagement between the Confederacy leadership and the city.
The HDI is the development arm of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council (HCCC).
The proposal uses the Red Hill Valley joint stewardship agreement as a blueprint (which was a pact between HDI and the city over the construction of the Red Hill Valley Parkway).
HDI lawyer Aaron Detlor f sent the proposition to the city about a year ago, and resubmitted it last month.
Last summer HDI and the city were at a standstill over the sewage cleanup of Chedoke Creek.
Detlor says a formal agreement between HDI/ HCCC and the city over local projects would have prevented the delays to clean up the sewage spill in Chedoke Creek.
The proposal outlines the roles and responsibilities of each body to ensure meaningful consultation over local projects such as environmental restorations and archaeological excavations.
The city of Hamilton is located on the unceded traditional territories of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. HDI acts to ensure meaningful consultation takes place on proposed development on treaty lands.
The Mississaugas of the Credit (MCFN), and the Wendat also have territorial claims and interests in the lands.
The city is part of the Dish with One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant treaty with the Anishinaabe, Mississaugas and Haudenosaunee.
The city is also bound by the Between the Lakes Purchase treaty with the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation of 1792.
The Red Hill stewardship agreements were initiated in the early 2000s, after protests by members of the Haudenosaunee community, leadership and allies sought to protect the Red Hill Valley. The city proposed the construction of a parkway through there.
The city is required by law to consult with HDI/HCCC about their proposed study to widen the Red Hill Valley Parkway.
In the spring of 2021, Detlor said the city broke a stewardship agreement with HCCC/HDI by approving Roxborough Park development plant in the eastern end of the city without their consent. This plan proposed to redirect stormwater into the Red Hill Creek, located in the Red Hill Valley. The valley is protected by a stewardship pact between HDI and the city. HDI’s concerns over the Roxborough Park development plan also included concerns about the sale of waterfront lands the city planned to develop. Another project the city had not consulted with HDI/HCCC about.
A moratorium on development was announced on April 20, 2021 by the HCCC/HDI. The moratorium demands any development along the Haldimand Tract requires the consent of the HCCC/HDI.
Detlor said the proposed agreement would help ensure meaningful engagement with the city over decisions such as the sale of lands, the planning and implementation of transportation, water and sewage systems.
The potential agreement also outlines the creation of a joint liaison committee which would include HDI and city representatives The new committee would oversee local projects to assess possible implications and impacts on treaty rights. The committee would also make decisions about what would qualify for paid reviews by HDI.
The proposed agreement, drawn from the Red Hill Valley joint stewardship agreement, is based on a democratic model where decisions are made based on consensus. Rick Monture, who is a professor of Indigenous studies at McMaster University, has said historically municipal, provincial and federal governments imposed their decisions on Indigenous communities.
That colonial model of government would decide for them instead of engaging in a meaningful dialogue with Indigenous leadership and communities. Monture pointed out the latter approach is not going to be quick or easy to achieve.
The proposed agreement also includes assigning a director to oversee Haudenosaunee engagement on proposed projects along with six team members including archeology experts, environmental monitors and technicians. The agreement also proposes paying the staffers between $180 – $300 per hour. Leadership work would be funded at $1,250 per day.
City officials told the Turtle Island News they could not accept or develop any relationship agreements until a director of the Indigenous Relations division is hired.
“The new director is the person who will be charged with working with First Nation partners on behalf of the City and for ensuring any agreements brought forward for Council approval are informed, thorough and fair to all concerned,” said the city’s director of community services Jessica Chase,
“The City is committed to developing relationship agreements with all First Nations in the Hamilton area and appreciates that those agreements will be a collaborative effort that will take time to ensure we get it right,” she affirmed.
HCCC members met with Mayor Andrea Horwath earlier this year. Regarding the proposal, Mayor Horwath said she supports the move towards stronger collaboration between the city and First Nations.
“From my perspective, everything we can do to work collaboratively with our First Nations, we should be doing,” she said. Horwath also said she wants to engage in more talks before giving an affirmative approval, “I’m not going to presuppose an answer before having a dialogue,” she added.
Public works general manager Carlyle Khan affirmed the city intends to honour its obligations with First Nations to consult meaningfully, but also said he finds the proposed agreement “tricky for us to navigate” due to the “upper limit” costs.
Detlor has said a proposed budget of $300,000 for the HDI to review local projects is reasonable considering the city is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on development projects each year.
The city is also required to consult with the Six Nations band council, MCFN, and the Wendat.
Khan is concerned about the financial implications of consulting with HDI.
“If we sign this with one (group) do we sign this with all? These are the kind of questions we would have to look at,” he said.
Six Nations Elected Council (SNEC) chief Mark Hill previously urged municipal and provincial leadership to avoid engaging with HDI over the Chedoke Creek cleanup. In a public letter to Minister of the Environment David Piccini back in March, Elected Chief Hill accused HDI of not acting in good conscience, “obstructions have been created by individuals that may not have the Six Nations community’s interest in mind.”
In response to the negative backlash directed towards HDI, Detlor said HCCC/HDI had to protect their rights to be included in consultation. In March, Detlor said the city was not honouring their duty to consult. “The City of Hamilton is justifying the purported clean up with a number of third-party contractor reports however the contractors never contacted HCCC and/or HDI for input or information. We were not allowed to participate in the creation of these reports, and we were not given any opportunity to review and comment on the reports that the City of Hamilton and the Province of Ontario is relying on for a non-clean up.”
While leadership tensions may exist at Six Nations the city of Hamilton is still required under municipal, provincial and federal laws to consult with both HCCC/HDI, the SNEC MCFN and the Wendat.