As the saying goes, “if you’re not going to be part of the solution, at least get out of the way.” That is exactly what the Ontario Environment Ministry did in allowing Hamilton a one-year extension to the December 31, 2022 deadline to complete remediation work at Chedoke Creek. The City now has until December 31, 2023 and says it remains committed to performing the works and will look to restart the project in the spring. As things stand now that won’t happen unless the ongoing dispute with the Haudenosaunee Development Institute is sorted out.
Work to begin the targeted dredging of Chedoke Creek had begun in July 2022, before being paused on August 18, 2022 when representatives of the Haudenosaunee Development Institute (HDI) arrived on site and stated that they were exercising their treaty rights to attend the site. They blocked dredging efforts with watercraft. After several unsuccessful attempts to restart the project safely, the City agreed on October 6 to allow all contractors for the project to move to standby, and not continue to attempt dredging works until further notice. At this time, all communications from the City to the HDI are being conducted through representative legal counsel.
To underscore the difference between the city’s relations between elected indigenous groups and HDI, Six Nations of the Grand elected Chief Mark Hill addressed a recent meeting of the Public Works committee, offering his full support for the cleanup but acknowledging “what he termed “internal governance issues” in his community. Similar issues were on display in Caledonia, where Hill’s elected council had come to an agreement with the developer of a subdivision in that town; only to have the land occupied by indigenous activists who refused to recognize the legitimacy of the agreement. The head of Hamilton Water, Nick Winters told the committee that HDI seemed mainly interested in receiving money in exchange for allowing the work to proceed.
The Hamilton issue underscores the ongoing unresolved issue over aboriginal rights in the region. A judge has recently granted a permanent injunction to allow development of the land currently occupied by first nations activists in Caledonia, but such injunctions have been ignored in the past, and successive Ontario Governments have been reluctant to enforce court orders.
Said Mayor Andrea Horwath, “Completing this important environmental project to restore Chedoke Creek from the damage caused by the combined sewer overflow leak is a top priority. The community rightfully wants this work done as soon as possible, and I will continue to work with City staff and stakeholders until a successful restoration is accomplished.”