Haudenosaunee Development Institute looking to “hijack” land claim, denigrate elected leaders in Ontario courts

Lawyers for Elected Council say HDI intervention peddles divisive rhetoric, blaming elected leaders for fortifying colonization

By Nahnda Garlow

TORONTO — Lawyers for the Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Council says the Haudenosaunee Development Institute is pushing divisive rhetoric about Six Nations governance and leadership and is using the Ontario courts to do so.

SNGR lawyers Iris Antonios and Robert Janes argued Wednesday during the Six Nations land claim intervenor hearings and spoke plainly to Justice Jasmine Akbarali about the community’s internal struggles with governance and history — and the ‘us vs them’ dynamic involved in the current motion by HDI.

“The motion is an attempt by HDI to hijack the land claim and unjustly characterize elected leaders,” said Janes.

She said that for years, HDI and HCCC have been peddling divisive rhetoric about the removal of the hereditary chiefs and installation of elected chief and councillors at Six Nations in 1924.

Janes said the big lie is that elected council is a “colonial contruct”, and says that lie is used to denigrate elected leaders and shame their supporters for being responsible for continued colonization of the community.

Janes says that the Six Nations people did want an elected system and that the historical records show decades of appeals for elected leadership at Six Nations prior to 1924.

Antonios said the HDI is looking to change the land claim into a governance case — and says they want to litigate, argue and seek relief about the ownership issues, governance and proper claimants in the land claim.

Antonios also pointed out that HDI and HCCC were not ruling out suing the band in their application to intervene in the Six Nations land claim case.

Janes brought attention to a letter sent by the Oneida chiefs to the HCCC saying that bringing an intervenor motion to the court would allow them to be heard “without atoning to the jurisdiction of the court”.

However, now that HDI is in the courts, they are asking for their motion to intervene to be spared the dismissal being sought by SNGR, and are now claiming the HDI will appoint Brian Doolittle and Aaron Detlor personally to represent the HCCC in the claim.

At the same time, HDI lawyers told the courts that Chiefs and Clanmothers would not consider themselves bound by any court order — but would accept the views of the court and take any necessary actions to oppose any ruling they did not accept, including appealing to international advocacy groups.

SNGR lawyers said Detlor and Doolittle were not suitable personal candidates to intervene in the land claim as they are not chiefs or clan mothers and do not meet the Ontario legal definitions of a “class member”, and say only a Chief or Clan Mother of the HCCC could fulfill that role.

The elected council’s lawyers also said that Canadian courts do not have jurisdiction over internal Indigenous issues and that this is cited in Canadian case law. In addition, Antonios cited Colin Martin, a faith keeper from the Gaiwiyo longhouse faith, who said “Canadian courts have no jurisdiction interpreting Haudenosaunee law”.

Martin said that the Two Row Wampum means that neither the Haudenosaunee, nor Canada, should interfere with one another’s political and legal systems. Antonios argued that if the HCCC and HDI are going to rely on the Two Row Wampum they have to take the good with the bad. Non-interference applies on both directions, but Antonios says that HCCC has a long history of using self-help measures if they don’t like what comes from Canada’s side.

During intervenor hearings earlier in the week, Antonios said, “HDI is a divisive, obstructive, opaque association and it would be inappropriate for it to be chosen or appointed by this court as a representative.

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