Province speeds up Hamiltons deadline to clean up the mess, Hamilton looks to appeal new deadline
HAMILTON — The city of Hamilton was given an accelerated deadline to clean up the sewage sediment sitting at the bottom of Chedoke Creek — and is now appealing to the province for more time, in part due to delays by the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council.
Ontario initially granted Hamilton until December 2023 to finish dredging the creek but has now rolled that date up and says Hamilton now has until the end of August 2023 to clean up the waterway.
A total of 24 billion litres of raw sewage spilled into the creek, over a period of four years. The spill was kept quiet by Hamilton City Council and was revealed by a 2019 Hamilton Spectator investigation. That spill led to Ontario ordering the city to clean up the mess.
Now, Hamilton City Council says they won’t meet the new August deadline and during the in-camera portion of a Special Council meeting March 9, followed by a short open session, voted 6-5 to submit an appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal.
In a statement, Hamilton said while they are ready to do the work they “cannot guarantee that the in-water portion of the dredging work is achievable by the revised deadline”.
In part, the city’s Water Director Nick Winters, says that deadline extension request is needed due to an inability to reach an environmental monitoring agreement between Hamilton and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council. Winters says additional factors such as weather, staffing and other things outside of the city’s control make the new August deadline unachievable.
Work was tentatively set to begin again in July 2023 to be complete by the end of October.
Last year, in October 2022, Hamilton disclosed that while the province of Ontario was requiring them to work with the surrounding First Nations communities to clean up the creek — the HCCC was not willing to enter into environmental monitoring agreements in the same capacity as the other First Nations. Instead, the HCCC’s chosen representative, Aaron Detlor, via the Haudenosaunee Development Institute, demanded over $350,000 from Hamilton and wanted the city to change development protocols that would see all construction in the city need to be approved by the hereditary chiefs of Six Nations.
That was something that Winters says the city of Hamilton was not willing to do, and did not have the capacity to offer even if it did want to.
As a result, HDI was reported to have sent protesters to the worksite to obstruct workers and equipment, making an unsafe work environment for those brought in to clean up the creek. As a result the cleanup efforts were halted.
Detlor outlined in emails to the city that HDI needed capacity funding from the city of Hamilton to cover costs of 39 individuals placed “on standby” at a cost of $15,000 a day totalling an additional $585,000.
Winters told reporters that he had contact with Detlor on March 7 to discuss the proposed environmental monitoring agreement Hamilton was proposing to the HCCC — an agreement that lays out the same terms that are involved in the monitoring agreements with three First Nations communities: Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, Six Nations of the Grand River and the Huron-Wendat Nation.
Winters says Detlor had “concerns” about the proposed agreements but says that Detlor did not outline what those concerns were and did not commit to a meeting date to discuss them.
“As a public servant working at the municipal level its a challenging situation for us to navigate. Because we do see the requirement on an ongoing project-by-project basis given to us that we engage with, in this area, the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, the Huron-Wendat Nation, the Six Nations of the Grand River as well as with the Haudenosaunee Confederacy through their representatives the HDI. And that’s anytime we issue an environmental assessment and get a notice to proceed from the province that will be identified in the direction to the city with regards to what engagement, what parties with the indigenous nations to engage with,” said Winters.
Winters says that both the province of Ontario and Hamilton City Council have directed their staff to work with HDI as one of four entities entitled to putting environmental monitors on the creek cleanup — along with several other projects happening in the city.
“The other challenge that we have here in Hamilton and specifically on this project is we have direction from our city council that was received last September to work towards environmental monitoring agreements with those same four entities. And as staff its our role and responsibility to follow that direction that is directed by city council,” said Winters.
To date Winters says that none of the financial demands from Detlor have been paid by the city of Hamilton regarding the Chedoke Creek cleanup — but says that there have been several previous agreements between Hamilton and the HDI on other projects where there has been a financial component.
The HDI, its directors, its numbered provincial corporation and financial management corporation are currently being sued by Six Nations band members pursing a class action lawsuit alleging fraudulent misrepresentation and oppression – both claims which have been acknowledged as having merit by Justice R.A. Lococo. That case was headed to court on March 10 but was rescheduled to later this month.
Detlor was recently involved in a high profile legal dispute between HDI and Metrolinx, attempting to halt tree cutting prior to archeological work being done outside Osgoode Hall. When talks broke down during those negotiations, Detlor was caught on video in the early morning hours of January 16 ramming his car into a metal fence surrounding a Metrolinx construction site at Moss Park.
Last summer, Six Nations Elected Chief Mark Hill sent a letter to mayors, administrative leaders and councillors along the Haldimand Tract alerting municipalities that Six Nations elected council is the only entity legally entitled to represent the interests of Six Nations band members.
That letter sent municipalities looking to Indigenous Affairs Minister Greg Rickford for clarification on who they should be talking to when it comes to Six Nations — the elected council or the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. The Minister did not answer questions posed to him by press about that issue at a recent green energy project announcement on Six Nations.
Haldimand County sought clarification from the Minister at the Rural Ontario Municipalities Association where they were met with no response.
In late February, Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Bobbi-Ann Brady also raised the issue in the Ontario Legislature, asking Minister Rickford for clarification.
Rickford said that he is working with the community’s elected leadership on a communications protocol that will establish clarity — and that he is aligned with Six Nations Elected Chief Mark Hill’s declaration that who speaks for the Six Nations people is not an issue that should be determined by external governments but is an internal governance issue that needs to be resolved at the community level by the people of Six Nations.