HCCC, HDI and 16 others being sued for injunction on Niagara Reinforcement Project

BRANTFORD — The Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council, Haudenosaunee Development Institute and 16 named individuals were taken to court Monday afternoon, after being served with a statement of claim Friday seeking an interlocutory and permanent injunction to complete the Niagara Reinforcement Project.

On Monday afternoon, about 40 people representing HCCC, HDI and persons named and unnamed attended Superior Court in Brantford to respond to the claims made against them — including threats from HCCC’s new Mohawk benchwarmer and faith keeper Colin Martin and demands for $250,000 dollars in compensation to be paid to HCCC in order to negotiate A6N’s return to work.

Neither the HCCC nor any of the named defendants were represented by a lawyer. Aaron Detlor, who now says he is HCCC’s Senior Advisor, spoke on behalf of those individuals but said he was not acting as their lawyer.

The named individuals — Todd Williams, Colin Martin, Rhonda Martin, Hayley Doxtator, Jill Styres, John Styres, Matt Myke, Jaqueline House, Joleen Bomberry, Ryan Burnham, Colleen Davis, Kyle Harris, Bobby Jo Johnson, Joleen Johnson and Gary Johnson — are Six Nations band members. One of the named defendants, Tom Keefer, is a non-Indigenous man from Toronto who is not a Six Nations band member.

Two of the men heavily involved in the NRP work stoppage — “Sonny” Alan Maracle Jr. and “Gunn” Gerald Loft — were not named in the claim.

According to the claim, Hydro One is seeking the named parties including Jane Doe, John Doe and persons unknown be ordered to stop a comprehensive list of actions; including any physical means to stop or deter work at the site, and threatening or intimidating anyone involved in the project — namely NRP LP, A6N, Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation, AECON or Thirau.

The request specifically asks for the court to order that the HCCC, HDI, 16 named individuals and others also cannot encourage others to obstruct the project — either with physical obstruction or through the use of threats and intimidation. Hydro One is also seeking damages, costs and any other relief the court sees fit.

Justice Elizabeth Sheard presided over the hearing and confirmed with Hydro One lawyers that Todd Williams was served electronically. Sheard addressed the 16 named individuals and said “Anyone who is named as a defendant, if you are in this court, if you would like me to take into account evidence from you of your position, the way to do that is to let me know. And if I don’t hear from you and I know that you’ve been served, then I have no alternative than to assume you don’t wish to participate in this process which is entirely within your rights to do. So Mr. Williams do you wish to participate in this process?”

“No thank you,” said Williams.

Out of the 16 individuals, just 7 responded to the court on their own behalf. Rhonda Martin, Jacqueline House, Joleen Johnson, and Colleen Davis all told the courts they were not served, did not wished to be served and did not wish to be a part of the proceedings.

Colin Martin and Gary Johnson also told told Justice Elizabeth Sheard they were not served and did not wish to participate in the proceedings. However, in his arguments Hydro One lawyer Christopher Bredt, confirmed Martin and Johnson were physically served.

Justice Sheard heard some arguments from both Hydro One and HDI’s lawyers and then asked for a pause to see if HCCC could come to an agreement about presenting their side of the story.

Sheard said that Hydro One claims and provided video evidence to the court that they have attempted to have meetings with HCCC but that meetings were either cancelled or not attended.

Sheard also told the court that said part of Hydro One’s claim is that HCCC said they would only open discussions on the condition that Hydro pay 250,000 dollars to the HCCC.

“It’s clear to me we are not talking about the usual land claim. We are not talking about who owns the land — who’s going to build a subdivision. We’re not talking about who’s going to build a tower — those are built. What we’re really talking about from where I’m sitting, is who’s going to take a cut of the money. To be honest with you, that’s what I’m seeing.”

According to the claim, “the defendants, acting both individually and in concert, have a long history of organizing blockades, causing public disruption, breaching court orders and interfering with both the development of land and with the maintenance, repair, construction and operation of utilities as a tactic to negotiate compensation and other benefits to members of the Confederacy.”

Lawyers for Hydro One told the courts that the dispute between Six Nations and the HCCC is longstanding and connected to an ongoing blockade outside the community’s Central Administration building since May 27.

Hydro One’s Niagara Reinforcement Project is currently in partnership with Six Nations through the Six Nations of the Grand River Economic Development Corporation and Mississaugas of the Credit to see the completion of a Hydro line that was halted during the 2006 land reclamation in Caledonia.

For over a decade the project was dormant — but through talks with both communities an agreement was made to complete the line with financial benefits coming to Six Nations and Mississaugas and a completion date of September 1, 2019.

Work on completing the line began in summer 2018 with A6N and Thirau. But on January 17, 2019 — HCCC issued a cease and desist letter claiming they were excluded from those agreements and demanded a meeting with Hydro One.

The claim says Todd Williams and Colin Martin attended the NRP work site and blocked access to the roads, demanding to meet with Hydro One officials.

“At that time, HCCCs representatives advised that if their demands were not met over that weekend, they would cause the outstanding work to be stopped immediately,” says the claim.

From January 17 to 21, discussions took place between Hydro One, A6N and the HCCC where they advised that the only possible avenue for the Chiefs Council to be properly compensated would be for Hydro One to cancel its arrangement with both Six Nations and Mississaugas and instead sign an exclusive agreement with HDI, its own development corporation.

According to the claim, “HCCC stated that if the NRP work were to move forward without their consent the HCCC would seek support from other Haudenosaunee allies, namely members from Oneida, Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, and Akwesasne communities. Moreover, they suggested that if allies do show up at the work site, HCCC may not be able to control their behaviour and there is a risk of towers coming down.”

Hydro One says workers were advised to leave for safety concerns. Attempts to have the cease and desist letter lifted by the HCCC were made by SNGRDC during a public meeting on February 19. On April 3, workers attempted to return to work again but were stopped by the named parties who were blocking the roadway.

According to the claim, Colin Martin “appeared to be in control of the group of protesters” and told SNGRDC CEO Matt Jamieson he and the others were not going to permit A6N workers to return to work and that Jamieson needed to ask the HCCC Chiefs to go back.

“The protesters then proceeded to vocally challenge Mr. Jamieson and other nearby Six Nations community members as to the authenticity of their lineage and authority,” says the claim.

Another more recent attempt to return to the site was made by A6N and Hydro One on July 4. OPP were advised they were returning to the site to conduct a previously scheduled safety assessment. SNGRDC CEO Matt Jamieson attended the site that day and removed safety cones and wire blocking access to the roadway entering the site.

According to the claim, Todd Williams and Colin Martin then confronted Jamieson, demanding to know why he was there, advising him that they were there to enforce the HCCC cease and desist order and said “things are going to get ugly” if A6N and Hydro One attempted to complete the site assessment.

According to the claim Hydro One was seeking to restart construction of the line on July 8 and to be operational by September 1, 2019. Hydro One is citing irreparable harm and seeking damages in the claim in addition to immediate and permanent injunctive relief.

Sheard heard arguments from both HDIs lawyers and Hydro One’s lawyers and said she was reserving her decision until Tuesday evening, but said she was leaning toward issuing the injunction.

Sheard said the case is not about one side opposing the line’s completion — but about who is getting compensated as a partner in the project. Sheard said the issue at hand over who receives compensation is not time sensitive can be decided “in the fullness of time” whereas the deadline for the line’s completion is dependent on a provincial deadline of September 1.

Sheard did not assign costs for the day’s court time and did not discuss damages with anyone. The case was adjourned to July 17.

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