Haudenosaunee agency says Hamilton ‘negotiating through the press’ on Chedoke Creek, which will drive up costs


Published October 11, 2022 at 5:55 pm

The Haundenosaunee Development Institute said it did not get a heads-up on the City of Hamilton’s newest tack with the Chedoke Creek remediation dispute.

Tuesday, the city held a media conference where senior managers elaborated on Hamilton’s request for the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) to intervene in the Chedoke Creek remediation dispute with HDI. It also wants a one-year extension to complete targeted dredging work that the province has ordered to be done by Dec. 31. That work was ordered after some 24 billion litres of raw sewage was discharged into the creek and Cootes Paradise from 2014 till ’18.

The agency, which represents the Haundenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council, also says that the city is offering far, far less than what it will take for HDI to conduct Indigenous-led environmental monitoring.

“It is disappointing that the City of Hamilton continues to operate in isolation and not notify or otherwise discuss steps that it is proposing, or actually will be taking,” Aaron Detlor, general legal counsel of HDI, told inthehammer following the media conference which was livestreamed by CHCH News. “The indication that they were going to be asking for a year extension — the first we heard of it was by way of the media presser today (Tuesday, Oct. 11).

“We don’t think that any type of relationship is advanced by communicating or negotiating through the press. But they seem intent on negotiating that way.”

HDI: ‘Real issue’ is lack of consultation and funding

Public Works manager Carlyle Khan and Hamilton Water manager Nick Winters appeared at the media conference. Winters acknowledged that even if the MECP exercised what he termed as “legislative authority,” the work could still be put off until ’23, since it might be too late in the fall to pick it up.

“In terms of relief, we’ve asked the province to issue orders to the HDI to basically allow the city’s contractors to proceed with the work unencumbered,” Khan said of the request, which was made ahead of Thanksgiving weekend. “In addition, we’ve asked for the extension.”

The HDI represents the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council. Detlor said that HDI and the city have not actually met since February, and may further run up the bill for taxpayers by underestimating the going rate of a proper Indigenous-led environmental monitoring of the project.

“The real issue is, they are insisting that they’ve consulted,” Detlor said. “Providing us with one email and $7,000 to review $400,000 worth of consultants’ report is not reasonable.”

Hamilton’s cost of making a targeted dredging plan, by comparison, soared past $2 million by March of last year. Paying consultants comprised about one-fifth (nearly $400,000) of that.  Milestone Environmental Contracting Inc. also has is a estimated $5.94-million contract for the work that is on hold.

Conducting a proper Indigenous-led environmental monitoring and engagement likely runs in in the mid-six figures, Detlor said. Costs for HDI involve the following:

  • Bringing on technical advisors who can break down detailed environmental science documents. “We can’t get a quote for under $75,000,” Detlor said.
  • Booking rooms to meet with Haudenosaunee chiefs and clan members, as well as public meetings.
  • Informing a community of 100,000 people about the project’s progress.
  • Having lawyers and experts on retainer for a months-long engagement with a municipality.

“This is simply the manner in which engagement occurs nowadays,” Detlor explained. “We are doing this with mining companies, hydroelectric companies, with pipeline companies. They are nothing new or unusual that we are putting to the city. What we are trying to say is, ‘Listen, you guys are wasting a lot of money by failing to come to the table in good faith.’ ”

Winters characterized HDI’s request for funding as “far above and beyond” what other Indigenous nations have requested, comparing a figure $13,000 to $25,000 with one in the mid-six figures. He cited a $40,000 cap on a similar environmental monitoring agreement with the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.

“We’ve seen some changing demands,” Winters said.

Oher moving parts for the city include possible permit renewals and additional work that may be ordered. There is also a standing stop-work order at Chedoke Creek and Cootes’ Paradise from March 15-July 15 that is intended to protect fish spawning areas and sensitive animal habitats. That makes the end date a moving target, Winters said.

“We’re not sure if we are best served by getting as much as work as possible done this fall, or leaving it and starting fresh in 2023,” he added.

Kay Drage Park will likely have to remain closed for until the matter is resolved.

The clean-up stems from the #Sewergate scandal, which was a major Hamilton city council scandal.

Hamilton is situated upon traditional territories of the Erie, Neutral, Huron-Wendat, Haudenosaunee and Mississaugas.

#SewerGate timeline

January 2014-July 2018: A bypass gate in the combined sewer overflow tank is left about 5 per cent open, and some 24 billion litres of stormwater runoff and raw sewage get pumped into Chedoke Creek and Cootes Paradise.

November 2019: After a whistleblower comes forward to provide details for a Hamilton Spectator report, the city acknowledges what is now known as #SewerGate. City council’s vote to issue a public apology was decided at 3:30 a.m. after a marathon meeting.

December 2020: The city is fined over #SewerGate by the provincial environment ministry

February 2021: Consultation with Indigenous groups, including HDI, begins.

April-June 2021: Prep work for Chedoke Creek remediation begins. The province approves a dredging plan. The province sets a Dec. 31, 2022 deadline for completion.

September 2021: Two city managers who had oversight of Chedoke Creek when the discharge occurred for years on end leave their jobs.

February 2022: The city and HDI have their last meeting, per Detlor.

January-August 2022: While this was not directly due to #SewerGate, seven of 16 elected leaders in Hamilton, including three-terms Mayor Fred Eisenberger, retire from city council.

July: Milestone Environmental Contracting Inc. is awarded an estimated $5.94-million contract for the work that is now paused.

Aug. 18-23: Community members representing Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council showed up on August 18 and 23 at Kay Drage Park, citing “treaty rights to attend the site.” They succeed in bringing a pause to Milestone’s contracted work.

Sept. 20: The city says work is set to resume.

Oct. 11: The city says it has asked the province to intervene.

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