Construction on Niagara Reinforcement Line set to continue after Hydro rejects HCCC proposal

SIX NATIONS — Six Nations of the Development Corporation’s CEO Matt Jamieson says workers put on pause by an HCCC cease and desist letter in January are headed back to complete the disputed transmission line.

The decision to send A6N workers back to the site follows a “counter-proposal” made to Hydro One by the HCCC – seeking Hydro One tear up its original agreement with the Development Corporation and instead sign a new agreement with the Haudenosaunee Development Institute.

“The decision to go back to work was really motivated by not really on one particular point in time but through discussions with our board of directors, our governance group, advisory committee and our shareholder the Elected Council. Our partner A6N and the contract, Hydro One being the ones that made the contract ultimately wanted the work to get done,” said Jamieson. “We stood down and we did largely out of respect for the HCCC — who showed up, sending representatives on their behalf to shut the project down — to engage in a discussion. We were respectful of that.”

Jamieson says when HCCC was able to meet with Hydro One the proposed resolution was not what he expected.

“We thought they might be grounded in maybe some treaty rights or some land based arguments, or something around environmental concerns. None of that was presented, as far as we know, to Hydro One.”

Jamieson says Hydro One officials informed him the HCCC wanted the power company to abandon it’s agreement with the Development Corporation and the Elected Council and instead sign an agreement with HDI.

“Hydro One evaluated that and assessed that it was not something they wanted to do,” said Jamieson. “They entered into an agreement with us in good faith. Through that whole process we went through our community engagement. We engaged the people. We told them what it was all about. We made attempts to communicate with the HCCC and others. And now is the time where we find out the counter proposal was something that would see us pushed aside with no other value added in terms of land rights or environmental concerns.”

Hydro One rejected the HCCC’s offer and then picked up on conversations with the Development Corporation on how they could move forward to complete the project.

Derek Chum, Vice President of Indigenous Relations for Hydro One said in an emailed statement to TRT, “Hydro One is committed to its partnership with the Six Nations of the Grand River on this important project which will have lasting economic benefits for the community and its people.”

“We weighed the circumstances and determined that it was in the best interests of the community to proceed with the project pursuant to what we told them,” said Jamieson. “We have a contract, a signed contract with Hydro One/A6N to do the work. We want to do that work out of the reputation of A6N to be contractors in the future for other jobs. We want to be able to demonstrate that we can get the job done.”

Workers are expected to return to the site on Monday, April 29th. SNGRDC put out a public call on Friday inviting Six Nations community members to attend the work site in a show of support for the project’s completion.

“We gave notice to the HCCC on April 18. We sent them a letter, we hand delivered the letter notifying them that are going to back to work on the 29th — Monday. We told them we have to do that out of the interests of the value that we promised the community we were going to create through this three phase bundled solution,” said Jamieson. “Through this process we’ve gotten the support of our governance group, we got the support of our council, we have the support of Hydro One and the partnership we created with them to get this done — A6N and the workforce is there. Our contractors are ready to go. We want to get this finished.”

“There’s no action happening and we’ve got a significant development at risk that’s got greater than $100 million dollars in value for our community, so we made a determination that’s in the interest of the community and the things that we do to execute the contract has been executed. So that’s what we’re doing,” said Jamieson.

Jamieson previously told TRT about safety concerns for workers on-site who felt threatened during the delivery of the cease and desist letter in January. Now he says those returning to the job will have the support of local law enforcement and private security to gain access to the worksite.

“We’re working with the OPP, private security and we are contracting other individuals to help us manage any risks on the site should they happen,” said Jamieson. “We are hopeful that we have a positive turnout. We expect that there will be some people that are negative. We have plans in place to sort of redirect that frustration or anger that they might have.”

We realize that nobody’s perfect and that not everyone will agree with us 100% We’re going ask people who come with an opinion, ‘how could we have done this better’? With the benefit of hindsight – tell us how we could have made this better. We’re always open to those kinds of suggestions,” said Jamieson. “But if it comes to physical threats – that nature – we’re going to have to deal with that through the police.”

Jamieson says he is hopeful no need for further legal options will arise when workers return to the line on Monday, but says the Development Corporation is prepared to pursue legal means if necessary.

“We’re hopeful that we don’t have to go down that road. Part of the plan here is we don’t want to pursue an injunction that’s why we’re going back to work under the terms that we’re going back to work on now. We were hired to do the job we want to do the work,” said Jamieson. “If some folks show up and obstruct us from doing that job — and take the benefit of our community away from our citizens. We have an obligation to pursue all remedies to get access to the site and finish the work.”

Jamieson says there is approximately 2-4 weeks work of work to complete the line. To date the shutdown has cost the Six Nations community $93,000.

*** Editor’s Note: TRT has made several attempts to contact both the HDI and the HCCC for feedback on this story and other stories related to their governance claims at Six Nations. To date they have not replied. This story, and others, will be updated to include their feedback and response when it is received.***

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