City of Hamilton close to resuming dredging work in Chedoke Creek


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City of Hamilton close to resuming dredging work in Chedoke Creek's Profile

The Haudenosaunee Development Institute (HDI) is asking the city of Hamilton to submit an application and pay a $3,000 to $5,000 fee for the group to review the city’s plan to clean up Chedoke Creek — and HDI also wants the city to submit an application with a fee for every other public works project moving forward.

HDI is representing the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council (HCCC), the traditional leaders of the Haudenosaunee people.

As their treaty lands cover a large portion of Ontario, including Hamilton, Aaron Detlor from HDI says the city ought to consult the group.

HDI wants to have environmental monitors watch the city’s efforts to clean up the massive 24 billion litre sewage spill.

“[City staff] are undermining reconciliation and they’re standing in the way of good faith engagement,” Detlor said during Wednesday’s general issues committee meeting.

A boat and a tube sit in a water way
Chedoke Creek is being dredged after 24 billion litres of sewage and stormwater entered the waters between 2014 and 2018. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

City spokesperson Matthew Grant said the city can’t agree to submit applications and fees for all future public works projects, but said there’s potential it could happen for the work at Chedoke Creek.

On Wednesday, the committee passed a motion to have staff continue to consult Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, the Huron-Wendat Nation, the Six Nations of the Grand River, and the HCCC. The motion will also see the general manager of the public works department have the authority to make agreements for Indigenous environmental monitors.

Grant said if city councillors approve it next week, the city would pay for environmental monitors under the existing approved project budget.

City can still meet provincial deadline

The province ordered the clean up after the sewage and stormwater spilled into the creek. 

A valve on the city’s combined sewer overflow system (CSO) was left open between 2014 and 2018, causing a layer of biohazardous sediment to settle at the bottom of the creek.

Chedoke Creek flows into Cootes Paradise and into Hamilton Harbour.

The Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Parks ordered the clean up and the city hired Milestone Environmental Contracting Inc. to complete the work for just under $6 million.

The city paused the work to prepare targeted dredging just as it was starting in late August after HDI demanded meaningful consultation and had environmental monitors on site watching the work.

Before pausing the work, the city initially said it had to obey the province’s order and meet its Dec. 31, 2022 deadline. It also said it wasn’t bound by law to consult with HCCC.

But there’s still time to meet the deadline, according to a staff report.

Wood Group, the city’s consultant, said in-water dredging work must start by Sept. 22.

HDI wants city to apologize for falsehoods

Detlor showed up to the Wednesday meeting, frustrated with city staff.

He said the city has been spreading false and misleading information about HDI, related to a recent visit to Kay Drage Park in late August.

The city’s report said:

  • HDI was blocking access to the preliminary dredging work at Kay Drage Park off Macklin Street North.

  • HDI threatened there may be a protest if the dredging wasn’t paused to engage in meaningful consultation.

Detlor previously told CBC he wasn’t blocking any work and wouldn’t do anything to stop it — but he did want the city to pause the work so there could be meaningful consultation.

“Those are dogwhistle words designed to incite fear and allow punitive damages and use of force against indigenous people,” he said on Wednesday in reaction to the city’s messaging.

“They sought to demonize us in this report.”

Law firm Gilbert’s LLP sent a document to the city asking them to retract the statements and publicly apologize, saying the “inaccuracies” are “inflammatory and appear to be calculated to support the imposition of injunctive relief.”

A man stands on a bridge above water
Aaron Detlor said the City of Hamilton needs to consult Haudenosaunee leaders about how to care for Chedoke Creek. (Bobby Hristova)

Carlyle Khan, general manager of the public works department, told reporters after the meeting he stands behind the city’s communication about what happened.

Khan said the city wouldn’t seek an injunction if no one shows up to protest.

Detlor pointed to the city’s Urban Indigenous Strategy and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as precedent for the city requiring meaningful consultation with HDI, rather than “document dumps” without resources to review everything comprehensively.

Detlor said while he is supportive of the dredging, the city must still offer meaningful consultation.

Dredging may resume as early as next week

Grant said the city can’t agree to submit applications and fees for every public works project moving forward because the city “does not have a policy that would allow for broader agreements beyond this project.”

The council is also in “lame duck status” and is restricted on how it can act since fewer than 75 per cent of council members are running for re-election.

The rules state council can’t:

  • Appoint or remove an officer of the municipality.

  • Hire or fire any city employee.

  • Dispose of any city property worth over $50,000.

  • Make any spending decisions over $50,000.

Khan also said going through the process for each public works project doesn’t seem to be practical.

He didn’t say if the city would in fact move forward with environmental monitors at Chedoke Creek, because “I don’t know what the other side is bringing back. I would love to say yes.”

Nick Winters, director of Hamilton Water, said he hopes the dredging will resume “as soon as we can.”

Part of the delay has been because the city has been coming up with a safety plan to ensure the work can proceed while people exercise their treaty rights or rights to demonstrate.

“We’d be hopeful to have a safety plan done by the end of this week, but that’s an aggressive time frame.”

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