BRANTFORD — Brantford Justice of the Peace Peter Bourque upheld assault charges brought against William Monture and Lester Green, by Haudenosaunee Development Institute (HDI) lawyer Aaron Detlor on Friday, Oct. 20. However, the two men were given absolute discharges.
The case revolves around an incident that happened in April of 2016 when Detlor was physically removed from his office at the Six Nations Grand River Employment and Training (GREAT) building by Monture, Green, and other men, and ordered to leave the reserve.
Detlor has been the center of controversy since organizing the Haudenosaunee Development Institute as an entity carrying out the legal issues, and forming partnerships that presumably is intended to be for the benefit of the people of Six Nations. Monture and Green along with the rest of the local group known as the Men’s Fire, have tried on numerous occasions to gather information about the dealings of the HDI, but are not pleased with what they consider a serious lack of transparency on the part of Detlor and the HDI in general.
Their mistrust of Detlor and the HDI was exacerbated after a third party independent report into Detlor’s practices, retainer and legal fees, was leaked to the Two Row Times newspaper. That report was scathing in relation to Detlor’s business practices and fees.
To date, no one outside of Detlor and a few Chiefs have seen Detlor’s retainer contract with the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council (HCCC), [and therefor, the people of Six Nations] despite many requests by Monture and others to do so.
“Today was the day of decision,” said Monture and Green’s lawyer, Andrew Furgiuele, of the law firm, Doucette, Santoro, Furgiuele after the court ruling. Both gentlemen were found guilty of assault, but both men were granted absolute discharges.
Furgiuele went on to explain his interpretation of how and why the judge ruled as he did.
“For the finding of guilt, for assault, the trial judge made it perfectly clear that in this specific set of circumstances, my clients did not have the right to do what they did. But I think a closer read of the judgment makes clear that his honour brought into account concepts of First Nations governance, in the fact that these people have the right to take actions within their community that are necessary when they have the consensus to do so.
“In this case, his honour found that had not been met, but that is not to say that the Haudenosaunee people don’t have the ability to find that consensus and take action within their communities to protect their land.”
But as far as the absolute discharge is concerned, during the proceedings Furgiuele framed the case in Haudenosaunee Law and by bringing Paul ‘Tekarontake’ Delaronde into the case as a court recognized expert witness on Haudenosaunee governance.
His testimony laid out the traditional and historical ways of dealing with conflict within the Haudenosaunee, which was accepted by the Court.
Although much of Delaronde’s testimony was a historical background of Haudenosaunee law in general, the judge picked up on one thing that he considered relevant to this case in particular.
The judge agreed with the expert witness [Delaronde] when he said that it was his opinion that these Criminal proceedings were not the appropriate way to deal with what happened and that he believed that the Haudenosaunee community should deal with it.
“I may have some sympathy with that view,” he said, ”but as this as this matter is properly placed before me, I must deal with it.”
He saw no evidence that the members of the Men’s Fire had the consensus of the people to act in this case and therefore ruled in favour of Detlor that there was an assault against him.
Defendant Monture testified that he believed that the members of the board should be selected by the community and not by the people [including Detlor] who were running the HDI. He was also unhappy with some of the specific development issues, and HDI’s handling of them.
Monture testified that in November of 2015, he also became unhappy with Detlor as he had purported to represent him in a land claims issue but took steps, which were not in accordance with the witness’ instructions.
Monture testified: “in March, 2016, at a meeting of the Men’s Fire, two Clan Mothers brought to the attention of the Men’s Fire their dissatisfaction with the lack of transparency in the operations of the HDI and specifically, their belief that Detlor was largely responsible. They requested that something be done.”
“The witness [Monture] spoke of Detlor being in breach of his contract to take steps on behalf of the community with regard to specific land transactions,” stated the Court.
Co-defendant, Lester Green pointed out that, on a couple of occasions, HDI supported various actions taken by the Men’s Fire in furtherance of the objectives of the residents of the Six Nations. But over the past two years or so, there have been serious concerns about the actions of Detlor that affect all of Six Nations of the Grand River and beyond. Monture admitted that the action against Detlor was to eventually take action against the HDI.
Among their concerns was the inability to get public documents from the HDI and about being treated dismissively by the HCCC. Even after the incident, attempts were made to gather more information about the workings of the HDI, which were not forthcoming.
After Justice Bourque heard and considered all the evidence he also had questions about the organization and administration of the HDI.
“The evidence is unclear as to who ‘controls’ it [HDI] beyond the wishes of the Confederacy Chiefs,” states Bourque.
Detlor was also leasing space within the space to HDI, which he used when he was acting as legal counsel to the HDI, but without any form of lease arrangement with anyone.
He went on to explain why, in spite of ruling the incident as an assault, in broad terms, the defendants were granted an absolute discharge.
“With respect to the sentences on them,” Men’s Fire lawyer Furgiuele said. “It was made clear that my clients are people that care about their community. They care about bettering their people; They care about strengthening the connections between themselves and their land and they are going to be the opportunity to continue to put that stance forward. These are community oriented people and there is no sense or need at all for them to be punished any further, and that’s why he gave them an absolute discharge.”
Detlor would not speak with Two Row Times after the ruling, instead, moving a scrum of reporters into a private council room to offer his opinion on the ruling, outside of the TRT’s coverage. The photograph of Detlor being removed was on the front page of the TRT after the incident.
Monture and Green were very pleased both with their lawyer and the judge in this case, but find that they have more questions now about how Detlor and the HDI works, as revealed in testimony.
“I still wonder why the HCCC would approve of the HDI dragging us into the Provincial court system with this,” says Monture. “If they are really traditional they would never take their own people into a Provincial court, and then claim Sovereignty?
He believes that there was a lot of hidden information revealed in this case which need to be exposed to the community at large.
The Judge found some discrepancy in Detlor’s account of the events.
“I note that in his evidence, [Detlor] the witness said he was punched. In his statement to the police, he did not indicate that he was punched. I find as a fact that he was pulled and shoved and manhandled, but I do not find that he was punched.”
Hazel Hill testified that she never saw Detlor punched or kicked, as he accused. Another witness, Brian Doolittle [a director of the HDI] testified that he too did not see Detlor punched or kicked, as Detlor had testified. Doolittle’s testimony is that Detlor was not assaulted in any way other than being physically removed. Other witnesses also discount Detlor’s claim of being kicked and punched.
Under oath, HDI secretary Janice Bomberry stated that Monture called out for more men to come, but in cross-examination, She admitted that she did not tell police that Monture said anything more than, “Come on Aaron.”
“I note that she has spoken to many other people about this matter in the meantime, [including Detlor and Hill]. “I will accept what she said to police two days after these events as her best evidence of what transpired that day,” said Justice Bourque.
Among other things, the Men’s Fire had accusation against Detlor of a breach of a “Non-Complete agreement with Hodiseagahda Men’s Fire.”
Hazel Hill, Director of the HDI, testified that when the incident was taking place, she “ran down the hall and directed the receptionist of the HDI to call the police and she called their at-the-time communications consultant, Lynda Powless and the Turtle Island News.”
The exact amount she was being paid has never been revealed by HDI.
Justice Bourque clearly stated, “There are two newspapers, one of which is critical of the HDI and the other which is funded by and supportive of the HDI,” said Bourque. “That the HDI felt it necessary to fund a newspaper to get its ‘views’ across to the Haudenosaunee people.”
The Men’s Fire has vowed to continue to seek transparency from the HDI regarding its operations and finances. Although the HDI does have financial information posted on its Facebook and website, it is incomplete and does not answer important questions like who is getting paid, how much and for what.