This week, the Haudenosaunee Development Institute hopped on another bandwagon — taking a Toronto transit company to court, losing, and then filing a second kick at the can.
Now, HDI has filed a motion with the Ontario Court of Appeals to stop the cutting down of 11 trees outside Osgoode Hall — the law school connected to York University.
The issue is between the Law Society of Ontario and Metrolinx — an agency of the Ontario government that runs Go Transit along with other train transportation between Hamilton, Toronto and the surrounding areas. The Law Society doesn’t want to loose its lawn trees. Metrolinx wants to build a new stop along the transit line. And now the HDI, who recently has just declared that is operates on behalf of the entire Haudenosaunee world, is getting involved.
Why is the entire Haudenosaunee world getting into the ring between the Law Society of Ontario and Metrolinx and picking a side here? And who agreed that Six Nations would pay the bill to get into that fight? How much is it costing Six Nations to get into this fight?
HDI has targeted Metrolinx in the media before. Back in 2022 they openly criticized Metrolinx for not doing indigenous consultation good enough — and announced that Go Train riders “may experience some delays” as HDI conducted its own independent environmental reviews.
Nothing was ever disclosed to the public about how, when or where those environmental reviews took place, if they did, or what was any result from those reviews.
Reading between the lines anyone could see that HDI was threatening delays to an essential service that millions of people rely on everyday.
For those outside of Six Nations who may not be familiar with the HDI playbook — there isn’t one.
HDI says it is guided by the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council but the goalposts keep changing. Even people on Six Nations — whose membership is something HDI uses as collateral to collect money from big developers — don’t know what the rules are when it comes to HDI.
Sometimes, HDI is the “development arm” of the HCCC. Sometimes, it is labelled the “administrative arm”. Most times it is described as an entity that is “delegated by the HCCC to _________” with zero consultation among the people of Six Nations for the things it says it is doing on behalf of the people of Six Nations. Now, on behalf of the entire Haudenosaunee world.
HDI is a shapeshifter.
Financial disclosure is not made public for any of their staff or consultants. Community contributions are not made regularly to projects for infrastructure such as schools or roads, and if they are made, they are not disclosed. There are no public mechanisms in place to ensure that there are no conflicts of interest when it comes to any financial transactions HDI makes. In fact, quite the opposite. Some chiefs of the HCCC, who direct the HDI, are some of their employees. In any other organization, that would be prohibited by things like public policies — something the HCCC and HDI do not have. And not for a lack of time, manpower or financial ability to create them.
There is a shifting goalpost that is maintained when it comes to all of HCCC and HDIs engagements. Recently the City of Guelph disclosed that it has been attempting to communicate with HDI regarding a pedestrian bridge that crosses a waterway connected to the Grand River. HDI’s last contact with them was that they would not discuss the issue until the city made a payment to HDI.
They have refused to engage with the city of Hamilton on a desperately needed waterway cleanup where raw sewage is threatening the water oxygen levels at Cootes Paradise — a site that is an archaeologically confirmed traditional Iroquoian territory — unless Hamilton pays HDI and installs a new protocol to give the HCCC final veto rights over all development in the city of Hamilton. Meanwhile, the raw sewage remains.
The common factor here being: Ontario developers, municipalities and organizations are being told by the province that they must consult with HDI. It is a part of the provincial protocol.
So the province of Ontario is complicit with the process of what is happening with HDIs demands for financial compensation in exchange for giving the thumbs up for developments, which HDI seems to green-light at random, regardless of cited “environmental concerns”.
Ontario is also complicit with enabling HDI to create a situation on Six Nations that is impossible for the community to rectify internally. We are double victims — our band membership statistics being used by HDI to demand ransom from developers — at the province’s direction. This is an unethical practice by Ontario that is keeping Six Nations powerless to internally hold HDI and the HCCC accountable.
HDI has a shifting moral compass on everything and has built a dystopian leadership structure. It has had the same people leading the organization since it’s inception: Lawyer Aaron Detlor and Six Nations man Brian Doolittle. There has never been a job opportunity for anyone else on Six Nations to lead the HDI.
To secure the oligarchical structures that are in place — HDI has taken measures on the territory to try to eliminate, infiltrate and pacify oversight structures within the Great Law — such as the Men’s Fire and Warriors.
Hereditary leadership at the HCCC is discriminatory. Chiefs are lifetime appointments. Today, the only people considered are heterosexual males assigned at birth who come from certain family lineages — and must be married to a heterosexual female assigned at birth who they have biological children with.
To make things more restrictive, only one person may install a chief once they meet those requirements — the clan mother — who must be a female assigned at birth. That same person is also the sole individual who can remove, or dehorn, a chief.
There is no handbook or rules written out that the public can view to find out when or how a chief must be removed. And clan mothers are not required to remove chiefs if they do something wrong. All of the discretion lies in the hands of one, female assigned at birth, who bears a lifetime role handed down to her through her family lineage.
Historically these roles made sense. But in 2023, it is a recipe for disaster. Indigenous women in Canada today, especially those on-reserve, are at an increased risk of poverty and violence. Clanmothers are not exempt from those risks. Putting the sole onus of installing and removing political leaders in the hands of one female, often an elder — is putting those women at an even higher risk to be unduly influenced financially or harmed if political pressure is applied to keep or remove a chief at any time.
There is no where else in the province where this is permitted when it comes to political leadership. Why is this okay when it comes to Six Nations?
How can the province of Ontario ethically continue to enable an entity with this kind of a discriminatory power structure? Under the HCCCs hereditary leadership structure — if you are the wrong last name, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or you are childless you are excluded from political participation.
How can the province of Ontario claim democracy with this kind of double standard for people from Six Nations?
The financial stakes are extremely high. The economic disparities and poverty facing Six Nations band members, land defenders, water protectors, those who study the culture and language have become insufferable.
Meanwhile, HDI has the built up the financial capability to compensate individuals for staging protests, opposing development projects that don’t play ball.
Adding to this very toxic opportunity is the unseverable reality that the chiefs and clan mothers are the religious leaders of the Haudenosaunee. They are the gatekeepers to the traditional names, ceremonies and religious/cultural symbols that remain of Haudenosaunee heritage — something that was forcibly removed from us all during the Residential School era.
It is a tragic truth that under the HCCC and its Gaiwiyo religion there is inequitable access for Six Nations people to have names, ceremonies and culture restored to them. Things that were once considered a birth right are now only bestowed to those who politically support the HCCC and its shapeshifter. Critics of HDI, people who are mixed race Haudenosaunee and those from other religions have reported being bullied and othered until their either give up and stop asking questions, or embrace being a local pariah at the cost of no longer being welcome to ceremony and not having access to receiving a traditional Indigenous name and clan. This is a subversive power move and massive bargaining chip for those who are grieving their lost culture. Being without a clan prohibits Haudenosaunee people from participation in the politics of the HCCC, and excludes their children from being considered Haudenosaunee. Traditionally, being without a name is said to leave a person floating in the nether after their death, and unable to access the afterlife.
The dark fellowship that has formed inside Six Nations between HCCC and the HDI is being empowered and enabled by the province of Ontario, its municipalities, developers, and provincial taxpayers.
Not really what the Peacemaker intended. And not what several of the Men’s Fire members and Warriors are falling for. There is a running class-action lawsuit against HDI that is set to return to court in March, asking for full disclosure of all the organizations transactions made on behalf of the people.
Sadly, the Haudenosaunee people are being backed into a corner and forced to turn to an outside government to get information, full disclosure and justice from it’s “traditional governing body”.