SIX NATIONS — A group of about 25 people stood at the edge of the Highway 6 bypass in Caledonia Monday morning, blocking access to the Niagara Reinforcement Line (NRL) worksite with pick up trucks — preventing A6N workers from completing the transmission line.
Work on the NRL has been halted since January 2019 after the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council (HCCC) delivered a cease and desist letter to workers on the job.
Six Nations Development Corporation CEO Matt Jamieson said Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation and A6N decided to honour that request while HCCC pursued a meeting with Hydro One.
On Monday, people blocked the driveway into the worksite along side the group’s speaker, Colin Martin, who is Director of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy’s federally registered financial management corporation Ogwawhista Dedwasnye Inc.
Video footage of the discussion shows Martin was approached by Jamieson along with the Development Corporation’s Communications Director Tabitha Curley.
SNGRDC put out a call late last week to ask members of the Six Nations community to come out in support of A6N’s return to work. Jamieson said they were planning on hosting a barbeque and information table, hoping to have discussions with community members to hear their concerns about the project.
A number of community members, elected councillors and A6N employees along with private security and plain clothed OPP officers waited across the street, hoping to gain access to the site.
“There’s still not going to be no working until the Confederacy authorizes work,” Martin told Jamieson and Curley. “We’re not here to negotiate, we’re here enforcing the Confederacy’s decision to cease and desist.”
Another woman, Rhonda Martin, said, “It’s going to be like this from here on in. No matter what kind of projects try to encroach on our property and on our lands. If you don’t consult with the chiefs then we’ll just keep stepping up and stepping up and stopping everything.”
A6N and the Development Corporation agreed to leave the site and move on the day’s information booth and barbeque to Veteran’s Park in Ohsweken.
The decision to send A6N workers back to the site follows an unsuccessful “counter-proposal” the Haudenosaunee Development Institute made to Hydro One on behalf of the HCCC.
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 in an interview with TRT on Friday. “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.”
Jamieson said he was surprised that the HCCC’s proposal didn’t raise environmental concerns or land rights.
“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.”
He says the counter proposal was political, and that the HCCC was seeking a financial agreement – and to see A6N and SNGRDC “pushed aside with no other value added in terms of land rights or environmental concerns.”
Hydro One rejected HCCC’s proposal and then picked up on conversations with the Development Corporation on how they could move forward to complete the project.
Several earlier conversations with the HCCC and Hydro One to see the transmission line completed also failed. HCCC attempted to resolve the issue in 2012 and 2015 but were unsuccessful. According to HDI, the chiefs did not reach an agreement with Hydro One because they refused to share an agreement with the Six Nations Elected Council.
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.”
Last week SNGRDC announced they would be returning to work and said they delivered a letter to the HCCC informing them of that decision.
On Friday Jamieson said, “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.”
“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,” said Jamieson.
Jamieson told TRT on Friday 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.