Posted on August 22, 2022
The city put its cleanup of sewage-soaked Chedoke Creek on hold Thursday after representatives of Six Nations hereditary leaders showed up to request consultation they argued is required under treaty rights.
Hamilton was scheduled to put a dredging machine into the creek Thursday to begin vacuuming up 22,000 tonnes of sewage-laced sludge. The $6-million project was ordered by the province after The Spectator revealed in 2019 the city had kept secret the magnitude of a four-year, 24-billion-litre sewage spill.
But work was delayed after three members of the Haudenosaunee Development Institute (HDI) parked a car on the bridge leading into the dredging prep site at Kay Drage Park on Thursday morning and asked for a “pause” in the project.
Spokesperson Aaron Detlor said the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council is responsible for asserting treaty rights in Hamilton and deserves to be involved in “meaningful consultation” on the project. So far that hasn’t happened, despite requests dating back to 2021, Detlor argued.
“We have serious concerns about the health and viability of this creek that’s in the very middle of treaty territory (and) where the city has shown themselves to be less than a good steward,” he said.
Spokesperson Matthew Grant said the city has engaged with various Indigenous stakeholders on the project and also delivered all project documents to the HDI.
But he said Hamilton found itself in a jurisdictional bind in 2021 when the institute reportedly said the provincially ordered cleanup could not go ahead without the “consent” of hereditary Haudenosaunee leaders. “We have zero authority to not comply with a provincial order,” Grant said.
Workers pilot a small boat down Chedoke Creek. The city was scheduled to put a dredging machine in the creek Thursday, but three Haudenosaunee representatives have since parked a car on the bridge leading into the dredging prep site at Kay Drage Park.
The city “asked for guidance” in a letter to the provincial Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks last month. Grant said so far the province has not responded, but the city asked for help again Thursday.
The Spectator has reached out to the ministry for comment.
Grant could not say with certainty when dredging will begin, but expressed hope it will be soon.
Hamilton police were called to the project site Thursday but simply spoke to the Haudenosaunee representatives. The group moved their car out of the way when asked.
Detlor said he had no plans to “physically block” the site and did not expect to be removed. “The police are aware of our treaty rights. They know we have a right to be here.”
He said the group expected to be back Thursday and next week if the city did not agree to the requested consultation.
The group’s action Thursday coincided with a separate release from the institute calling for Metrolinx to “meaningfully engage” with Indigenous leaders on planned rail lines throughout historical Haudenosaunee territory, which would include Hamilton’s $3.4-billion LRT.
Recently, the arm of the Haudenosaunee confederacy has increasingly criticized the city for not consulting on a broad range of issues ranging from harbourfront land sales to a proposed widening of the Red Hill Valley Parkway.
Indigenous treaty rights are a complicated topic across Ontario and Canada.
Locally, for example, Hamilton is covered by the Dish with One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant treaty with the Anishinaabe, Mississaugas and Haudenosaunee.
The Between the Lakes Purchase treaty with the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation of 1792 also applies to the city. These treaties are recognized in a land acknowledgement read out by the chairs of municipal meetings.