Haudenosaunee group to monitor city clean up of Chedoke Creek, citing lack of consultation

The Haudenosaunee Development Institute is asking Hamilton to pause dredging in Chedoke Creek until the city consults with them about how the work may impact treaty rights and the environment.

HDI lawyer Aaron Detlor says city of Hamilton 'needs to help us understand what's going on'

Two people stand on a bridge above a creek
Aaron Detlor and Raechelle Williams say the City of Hamilton needs to consult Haudenosaunee leaders about how to care for Chedoke Creek. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

The Haudenosaunee Development Institute (HDI) is asking Hamilton to pause dredging work in Chedoke Creek until the city has meaningful consultation with them about how the work may impact treaty rights and the environment — but the city is continuing to proceed with dredging anyway.

As a result, HDI says it is sending people to the creek to monitor the environmental impacts of the dredging work. HDI representatives said their personnel would be on the site daily, as of Wednesday. 

HDI lawyer Aaron Detlor says that the group is representing the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council, the traditional leaders of the Haudenosaunee people.

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

"This creek has rights and interests that aren't being acknowledged and respected," Detlor told CBC Hamilton on Aug. 18.

He and Raechelle Williams, HDI's environmental supervisor, were at Kay Drage Park off Macklin Street North last week, one day after the city began its dredging work, which led the city to pause the work for one day.

City says it must follow provincial order

The Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Parks ordered the city to dredge the creek after 24 billion litres of sewage and stormwater entered the waters between 2014 and 2018. 

The spill was the result of a valve on the city's combined sewer overflow system left open, causing a layer of biohazardous sediment to settle at the bottom of the creek. 

The city hired Milestone Environmental Contracting Inc. to complete the work for just under $6 million. 

City spokesperson Matthew Grant told CBC Hamilton the city has "no authority to disobey" the provincial clean-up order, adding that it has a deadline and there's no Canadian law compelling the city to get HDI's approval.

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)

Grant said HDI has asked the city to consult with them on numerous things and says HDI doesn't "recognize the authority of the province" to issue the directive to dredge. 

Detlor said he has contacted the city over the past 10 years about various issues but said he hasn't had much support from the city.

Grant showed CBC Hamilton a letter from the city to the Ministry of Environment asking for advice on how to proceed.

The letter, dated July 5, claims there has been communication between the city and HDI since February 2021, adding that in March that year, the city provided HDI with documents about the project.

Ministry says city must 'manage community concerns'

It also said the city has been working with a team of Indigenous relations specialists employed by a third party to engage communities about the project.

Grant was unable to specify what Indigenous communities have been consulted, nor could he say what that consultation looked like.

A group of officers speak to Deltor.
Hamilton police officers were called to Kay Drage Park on Aug. 18. They spoke to Detlor and asked him to move his vehicle. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Ministry of Environment spokesperson Lindsay Davidson told CBC Hamilton on Monday the province "has no role in providing guidance in this matter" and said the city is responsible for "managing community concerns."

On Monday, city spokesperson Jen Recine said contractors were preparing for the next stage of dredging at Chedoke Creek.

"City staff are still consulting with various key stakeholders and there is no set timeline yet for dredging to begin," she said.

Grant said it's his "sincere hope" HDI and others don't protest or try to stop the dredging.

It's unclear how many HDI environmental monitors may be on site Wednesday, but HDI spokesperson Bryan Hendry told CBC Hamilton the group may also hire environmental and archeological experts to help.

Detlor previously told CBC he has no plans to block the dredging but said the city ought to do what's right.

"All we're asking for is ... the city of Hamilton needs to help us understand what's going on here so we can explain it to people who have questions," he said.


Bobby Hristova is a journalist with CBC Hamilton. He reports on all issues, but has a knack for stories that hold people accountable, stories that focus on social issues and investigative journalism. He previously worked for the National Post and CityNews in Toronto. You can contact him at bobby.hristova@cbc.ca.