TORONTO — A lawyer representing the Six Nations Men’s Fire told a court last week that community members were not consulted on the decision for the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council (HCCC) to intervene in Six Nations’ billion-dollar litigation against the government through the Haudenosaunee Development Institute.
The HDI, led by Aaron Detlor and Brian Doolittle, told the courts they received permission from the chiefs during a meeting with several chiefs held via Zoom in April 2022 to file a motion to intervene, but Jeffrey Kaufman, the lawyer for the Six Nations Men’s Fire, said the chiefs and clan mothers’ respective families that they represent were not consulted on the decision.
He called it the “most important flaw” in the HDI’s position to intervene – not reaching consensus among the people.
“None of that happened,” said Kaufman, adding there was no attempt to have a consultative or deliberative process in accordance with Haudenosaunee traditional law.
“If you don’t come whoever’s there will decide your fate,” said Kaufman, in describing the attitude taken by the HDI and HCCC procedures.
Only 37 per cent of clan families had just one male representative present during the April 2 meeting in attendance. There was no one from the Seneca nation.
Kaufman said that in cross-examination Doolittle agreed that the HCCC Chiefs and Clanmothers are bound to decisions and actions taken by HDI once they are delegated to execute a task. And that several clans in this case were bound without free, fair and informed consent.
That is not what is meant by the circle wampum, he said, referring to expert testimony from Paul Delaronde, a Mohawk knowledge keeper.
The HDI had sent out a notice to all Haudenosaunee communities on both sides of the border in September 2022 informing them of the decision to intervene — but only after an Ontario court ordered them to do so. HDI did undertake that work on their own.
Some Haudenosaunee communities responded and asked that the matter be adjourned until they’ve had time to look over the pleadings and be part of the decision-making process.
HDI argued that chiefs and clan mothers were included in email chains discussing the decision. When asked by the courts to provide records of those email chains — HDI refused.
He further argued that Doolittle “made light” of the role of clan mothers.
Kaufman said Doolittle “basically said that there was no real distinction” between the chiefs and the clan mothers.
“That is completely contrary to Mr. Delaronde’s expert evidence. The clan mothers…supervise the chiefs.”
Kaufman further argued that the HDI is “far from transparent” and says they claim they have amassed about $38 million dollars as of 2022.
Doolittle told the courts HDI has 215 projects on the go, contained in a database, according to Doolittle, who is responsible for maintaining the database.
Kaufman said Doolittle would not produce the database when the people asked for it.
“We don’t even know who they are are working for,” said Kaufman. “Are they working for themselves or are they working for the people?”
Kaufman said in cross-examination, the HDI showed a number of properties where they paid over $9 million outside Six Nations and that none of that was disclosed publicly until they were cross-examined.
The properties are also not being used for housing for the people, said Kaufman, one of the goals of the HDI.
They HDI said the properties are being used as offices or community buildings, Kaufman told the court.
The most “egregious” example of buying property, said Kaufman, was the purchase of a residential condo on Howard Park Ave. in Toronto that lists Detlor as 50 per cent owner. It was bought for $1.3 million. Neither HDI, nor Detlor disclosed that the condo was shared ownership with Detlor personally. That detail only emerged when Detlor was cross-examined.
“This is not an office building,” he said, noting it’s a residential building. “What is going on? What’s the lawyer doing owning a half interest in a property bought with the people’s money?”
Further, Kaufman argued Detlor himself takes “substantial success fees” and “there’s no disclosure what he takes. Is this part of his success fees? That is totally inappropriate as an organization that says, ‘we represent the people.’”
Kaufman argued that the HDI can’t represent the interests of the people and “acted in conflict with those interests.”
Kaufman said the HDI receives opposition because of its lack of transparency.
He said the Men’s Fire believes that demonstrates if any monetary damages were awarded to Six Nations from the litigation, through the HDI as intervenor, the money would not flow to the community.
Kaufman argued that the elected council has shown it will distribute any monetary award if it remains the sole plaintiff in the case.
The Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation has also applied to intervene in the litigation.
Justice Jasmine Akbarali is expected to deliver a decision on the intervention motions in about four to six weeks.