Under the new agreement with the October deadline, the City of Hamilton will be required to submit weekly progress reports to the province. Clean-up efforts have been delayed due to various interruptions from the Haudenosaunee Development Institute. Photo credit: CBC/Patrick Morreel
The City of Hamilton now has until October 31, 2023, to dredge sewage out of Chedoke Creek.
The city was ordered by the Ontario Government to dredge the creek, a process which involves vacuuming up 22,000 tonnes of polluted sediment from the waterway.
The order came after revelations of a sizeable four-year sewage leak, dubbed “Sewergate,” that spilled 24 billion litres of untreated water into the creek.
The $6-million project was scheduled to start on August 18, 2022. The city was supposed to complete decontamination by December 31, 2022, but had to put the process on hold due to a dispute with a local Indigenous group.
The City of Hamilton then asked the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Parks (MECP) for a one-year extension to the deadline. An extension was granted and the new deadline was set for December 31, 2023.
But then, wanting to prevent further ecological impacts, the province issued permits allowing the city to begin as soon as possible and moved up the dredging deadline to August 31, 2023.
That move caught the city off guard and Hamilton City Councillors voted 6-5 during a March 9 meeting to submit an appeal asking for the December 2023 deadline to be reinstated.
Before the appeal could even be filed, city officials announced that they had reached a compromise with MECP to complete dredging by October 31, 2023.
Under the new agreement with the October deadline, the City of Hamilton will be required to submit weekly progress reports to the Ministry.
However, it still remains unclear how the city will resolve the ongoing situation with the Haudenosaunee Development Institute (HDI), an Indigenous group made up of hereditary Six Nations leaders.
When the city began clean-up of the creek, HDI staged various interruptions, saying that the municipality needs to seek consent prior to any clean-up activities and that HDI must have an active role in monitoring the project.
The contractor in charge of the clean-up, Milestone Environmental, reported nearly 40 “incidents of disruption,” including “dangerous” intrusions into construction areas.
Equipment has also been stolen from the site. As a result, decontamination had to stop and the group said that they will only restart work when a safe workplace can be guaranteed.
The province says that the municipal government must deal with the situation.
HSI also wants the city to pay them almost one million dollars, claiming that they need $350,000 in compensation plus $585,000 to place multiple individuals on standby to monitor the project at a cost of $15,000 a day.
It should be noted that Hamilton City Council already has agreements with and has compensated the Mississaugas of the Credit, Six Nations of the Grand River elected band council, and Huron-Wendat Nation. Each group received $40,000 from the city.
The amount HDI is asking for is about 23 times the amount that other groups received.
The city is reportedly open to Indigenous monitoring, but there are worries that “seeking consent” for the project will be a precedent-setting action that will mean the city will be required to seek consent to any number of future municipal projects.
Municipal staff are also reportedly only open to covering some of the monitoring costs, nowhere near the almost one million dollars that is being demanded.
The key difference between the Six Nations of the Grand River council (with which the City already has an agreement) is that the entity is an elected body, while HDI is a group of hereditary leaders.
Indigenous elected councils and hereditary councils have been at odds on a number of issues over the years, and the internal governance conflicts make for difficult Indigenous-municipal relationships.
Based in Hamilton, he reaches hundreds of thousands of people monthly on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter. He has been published in The Hamilton Spectator, Stoney Creek News, and Bay Observer. He has also been a segment host with Cable 14 Hamilton. In 2017, he received the Chancellor Full Tuition Scholarship from the University of Ottawa (BA, 2022). He has also received the Governor General’s Academic Medal. He formerly worked in a non-partisan role on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.