Business on Six Nations in limbo as unfinished health and safety regulations leak

Elected Council struggling through technical difficulties, shifting power dynamic

OHSWEKEN — Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Councillors took turns lunging at each other during Tuesday’s General Council meeting, held via Zoom conference, discussing how an unfinished version of the pending Health and Safety Code of Conduct found its way to a local newspaper.

The internal bickering overshadowed the real pain community members and local businesses are enduring as Six Nations walks through it’s eighth week of emergency shut downs, traffic restrictions and a loss of customers that some business owners fear may lead to a permanent loss of business.

A pending Six Nations Health and Safety regulatory framework for businesses to re-open with pandemic protections in place were published in the Turtle Island News last week detailing an email conversation among council members and the lawyer hired to draft the regulations, what those new rules would look like and when they were expected to be implemented – including consultations held with local businesses.

TRT reached out to SNGREC for comment and they confirmed that TIN reporting was accurate, but say the details within the article reflected an “early draft” of the regulations.

SNGREC confirmed there is an updated version of the regulations now under review.

A source told TRT the council were ‘shocked and disappointed’ the details were released to media in that fashion and say an internal review of the council members email accounts was initiated to see who breached confidentiality – but that it came back with no answers.

Six Nations Elected Chief Mark Hill was absent from the discussions as he faced technical interruptions preventing his participation in the meeting. Councillor Michelle Bomberry took over duties as chair for the duration of the General Council in Hill’s absence.

Six Nations Elected Councillor Helen Miller scolded fellow council members saying she sent an email on April 16 alerting that a leaked copy of the regulations was being distributed to local businesses.

Councillor Wendy Johnson responded by alleging that the draft leaked was not prepared until April 22 and that the sub-committee working on the regulations hadn’t even seen the document by April 16.

Wendy Johnson said that while the regulatory draft is not a secret document – that the  business community deserved to see a completed version that had been through full discussion at council.

Johnson said she was concerned that businesses deserved to be involved in the discussions surrounding health and safety regulations and that whoever shared the information prematurely had cast a negative shadow unnecessarily onto a positive act the council was taking to protect Six Nations businesses, community members and visitors who enter the community.

Local business owners, speaking to TRT, say they are willing to be compliant to the new regulations SNGREC is rolling out but are becoming frustrated they have remained in a holding pattern for so long with no updates on where things are at.

Kathy Mair, special assistant to Elected Chief Mark Hill, expressed concern that senior administration officials had not even been permitted to see drafts of the regulations — while local media were able to obtain copies of the internal documents.

Councillor Hazel Johnson expressed frustration that the council had been blindsiding one another in front of media during open sessions of council meetings via Zoom in recent weeks — and said she was similarly upset when Councillor Nathan Wright presented news about the police commission review during an open session of council without prior approval from the rest of the council members.

Councillor Miller accosted Nathan Wright again saying he should not have brought the police commission review out in the public session of general council.

Councillor Michelle Bomberry interjected saying the council agreed during a previous closed session to bring the issues surrounding the police out into an open session to be accountable to the community.

A source told TRT that the council is facing massive internal disputes.

Less tech-savvy council members are struggling to carry on through physical distancing protocols as the council relies on technology to conduct business. As a result, councillors struggling with technological literacy or internet access issues are racing to catch up to others at the table which is creating a two-tiered power dynamic of those in the know and those being left out of the loop.

This was confirmed during Tuesday’s open session when one council member said they received calls from concerned community members worried that this council may not last the rest of 2020 if internal distress can not be resolved.

Councillor Melba Thomas said it is not in the best interest of the council to speak against one another, that they are there to do business for the community and that community members do not need to hear internal differences play out in the open session.

“We are going to be losing confidence with the community,” said Thomas.

Johnson brought the issue back to the leaked documents, saying that the issue is not with the reporting but that high-level documents were being disclosed without approval.

All council members were at a loss with how to proceed with ensuring there are no further leaks. No official copy of the health and safety regulations was available for community distribution and no update about when community businesses will be able to return to business.

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