HDI loses another lawsuit: appeal tossed in efforts to stop archeology work outside Osgoode Hall

Detlor made demands for $225 million dollars, a mall in Downton Toronto and land at Six Nations

TORONTO — It is the end of the road for the Haudenosaunee Development Institute’s push for financial compensation from Metrolinx, as the Ontario Court of Appeal rejected a request to hear the case Tuesday.

Late Tuesday – HDI filed another attempt to get the Court of Appeal to extend an interim injunction. That case also failed. Wednesday morning the COA dismissed the case.


HDI was asking the Court of Appeal to overturn a lower courts decision — allowing the removal of 11 trees in front of Osgoode Hall in Toronto so that Metrolinx could do archeological work ahead of building a subway station.


In January, the Law Society of Ontario applied for a temporary injunction to halt the removal of trees. That injunction expired in early February.


Then HDI stepped in, applying for an injunction and claiming the removal of the trees would negatively impact traditional hunting and gathering rights in downtown Toronto, saying the trees were “sacred” and employing a full scale legal campaign to stop their removal. All this despite HDI already being signed on to participate in that archeological work at the property — work that required the trees to be removed in order to be completed.


Metrolinx says the issue at hand was not a negative impact on anyone’s hunting or gathering rights as no one is hunting or gathering on Osgoode Hall’s front lawn — but rather that HDI was unhappy that the transit provider was not financially compensating them with what they were demanding.


HDI demanded land, millions and a mall


The financial demands Detlor was making were outlined in an email to Metrolinx giving three options: that Metrolinx expropriate and transfer ownership of an undisclosed mall located in downtown Toronto to the HDI, purchase 45 acres of land in downtown Toronto which Detlor estimated at an approximate $225 million dollar value and hand that over to HDI, or provide HDI with $2.5 million to purchase it’s own property – adjacent to the Six Nations reserve.


Detlor says that HDI has a 200 acre plot of land in mind that Metrolinx can purchase for them — and that he would send along plans for the property to be developed including woodlots, gardens and medicine plots.


Detlor also demanded Metrolinx replant 1701 trees to replace the lost trees at Osgoode Hall, which he appraised at a value of $200 per tree.


HDI says money went to daycare


Metrolinx has already paid HDI, according to Six Nations Elected Chief Mark Hill.


Hill wrote a letter to Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster on February 1 saying he was “deeply concerned that Metrolinx has been engaging with and has paid more than $1.46 million” to HDI.


Detlor says that money went toward daycares and health facilities at Six Nations.


However — all of Six Nations daycares and health facilities are under the Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Councils authority and any donation to any department must undergo a donations process that would require the donor and donation amount to be disclosed to the elected council.


Chief Hill says this donations notification was never engaged. “Not a single penny of this money has gone to the people of Six Nations or any other Haudenosaunee community, As you can imagine, this is unacceptable,” wrote Chief Hill.


“If funds ostensibly dedicated to Haudenosaunee consultation are not being given to our community in accordance with our official consultation process, or its underlying principles of accountability and transparency, then where is this money going?”


Detlor removed from Six Nations before


In the letter Chief Hill writes, “HDI and Aaron Detlor, the lawyer behind it, do not represent our people.” And Hill is not the only Six Nations person to make this assertion. In fact, within the community, the people of Six Nations have been appealing to HCCC since 2016 to stop HDI and remove Detlor, who is not a Six Nations band member, from the Six Nations community.


A rally, organized by hereditary title holders from at least 6 Six Nations clan families, took place outside Detlors office in April 2016 that saw him physically apprehended by Six Nations men and removed from Six Nations, escorted off the territory by Six Nations Police.


Cost of legal battle


On February 10 – Superior Court Justice Charles Hackland dismissed the injunction on the removal of the trees by the LSO and at the same time dismissed a new injunction application by HDI.


HDI then submitted to the Divisional Court an application for an emergency stay on the previous injunction to halt the cutting of the trees and was granted that stay on Friday evening.


That ruling put Metrolinx in a holding pattern over the weekend on removing the trees until the matter could be reviewed by the Court of Appeal Tuesday. A matter that they lost when the Court of Appeal refused to hear the case.


HDI was being represented by Gilberts Law, the same firm that is acting on their behalf in it’s application to intervene in Six Nations land claim.


There has been no declaration by HDI about the costs of how much the legal battles against Metrolinx totalled. However, on Friday the Divisional Court judge said he was surprised and confused as to why the maximum legal efforts were being activated by HDI — when they already agreed to participate in the archeological work that required the trees to be removed.


Sources told TRT that HDI has built up a war chest of over $180 million dollars to assert itself as entitled to compensation in all land development in the Nanfan Treaty area, covering most of Southern Ontario.


Those legal costs are skyrocketing. At least one First Nation has taken HDI to court to try to stop them — ironically saying that HDI is infringing on their territorial rights.


Walpole Island First Nation argued that the courts should not be asserting that HDI has exclusive treaty rights to the entire Nanfan Treaty area, and that doing so impacts other First Nations territorial rights.


That attempt was unsuccessful in stopping HDI. However that doesn’t mean HDI is on the winning side.


The legal losses HDI has seen over the years in attempting to assert itself as an exclusive treaty rights holder to the Nanfan Treaty area outweigh the wins. And they are playing a dangerous game — with non-indigenous lawyers across the province being paid by HDI to craft case law in Ontario when it comes to the Haudenosaunee.


Archeology monitors fired


TRT has learned that after HDI was provided with capacity funding from Metrolinx for the project, they employed archeological monitors to the site on behalf of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council.


Six Nations of the Grand River, Mississaugas of the Credit and Curve Lake First Nation are also a part of that archeological work.


While the surrounding First Nation communities provided 2-3 monitors each — HDI provided a team of 14 archeological monitors to the project.


Sources told TRT that those monitors were promised specific benefits for coming onto the project and that when compensation talks between HDI and Metrolinx began going south — the monitors were fired suddenly by HDI, informed they would not be getting paid by HDI and told to apply for unemployment insurance.


Violent tactics and portraying HDI as victims


Court documents, obtained by TRT, show that Detlor’s behaviour escalated throughout December 2022. Sources told TRT that Detlor attended a Metrolinx construction site, demanding work shut down, and threatened Metrolinx employees that he would ‘show up at their homes’.


On a second occasion in December, Detlor came to Osgoode Hall and personally dismantled a construction fence and then emailed the Law Society of Ontario to inform them he did so.


“About an hour ago I began dismantling a fence that was infringing and impairing my ability to exercise treaty rights,” wrote Detlor in an email to the CEO of the LSO as well as sending copies of the email to a select group of his co-workers, hereditary chiefs, HDI employees and Six Nations residents.


Police were called and Detlor was told he would be arrested if he did not cease dismantling the fence.


On January 16 a video was captured just after 7:00 a.m., showing Detlor ramming his car into a construction fence at a Metrolinx construction site at Moss Park in Toronto. That video, obtained by TRT, was submitted to the courts as evidence.


In the video, Detlor is seen driving his Volvo V90 into a 10 foot high metal construction fence, repeatedly. He then exits the vehicle, walks over to examine the fence and some trees nearby. He is dressed casually in dark jeans, winter boots, a black ball cap and a designer tan coloured Canada Goose winter coat — and gives onlookers the thumbs up, shaking hands with a man on site.


Lawyers for Metrolinx said the incident was a part of an escalating campaign of physical confrontations, threats and claims of ignoring First Nations concerns. Those were then being amplified by HDI in the press to portray the transit provider as a development aggressor not engaging with First Nations effectively. Simultaneously HDI positioned itself in the media as an indigenous victim who is only trying to protect trees HDI claimed in it’s lawsuit were “sacred” — manufacturing a public relations catastrophe to force Metrolinx into mediation and get the financial compensation they were demanding.


As a precursor to any development being approved in Ontario, all developers, municipalities and organizations across Southern Ontario are required by the Ministry of the Environment to engage directly with HDI and Detlor as representatives on behalf of the HCCC when archeological work and environmental assessments are required.

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