Saturday, 2 November 2013

Who Are the "HDI", and Who Should be Most Worried about Them?

All of a sudden, or so it seemed, after the initial "Caledonia crisis" had endured the brunt of the early convulsions, the term HDI began to appear with some regularity in the local Indian newspapers.  For some time they were a shady "group", apparently composed of two individuals, and who were involved in "permitting" development within the Haldimand Tract.  The initials HDI stand for Haudenosaunee Development Institute.  The name belies a potential role that might be yet another disruptive force in the Six Nations Community.  All I knew for some time is that developers were being given an ultimatum, pay a fee or there will be consequences.  That of course sounds like something that one might expect in Naples, but Haldimand and Brant Counties Ontario? 

Recently I have explored the CANACE (Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality) website, and found it to be a treasure trove of resources backed up with facts.  Much earlier than myself, they came to the conclusion, based on their actions, that the HDI were running an extortion / protection racket - see here.  This was in 2008, yet the group continues to make precisely the same demands of developers - with impunity.

The two major players are controversial figures.  Hazel Hill is a prominent radical not in the least shy about "delving into" conflict - the perpetual "interim" director.  The other partner, the legal adviser Aaron Detlor, was and is a shadowy figure.  He was a Toronto lawyer, who apparently now devotes himself entirely to First Nations legal matters.  His kinship association (if any) with the Six Nations is a complete unknown to myself.  His Linkedin profile is found here.  The Law Society website now gives Detlor's address as Ohsweken, so I guess he intends to roost in this neck of the woods.

Other activists have come and gone (e.g., Ruby and Floyd Montour), but the two prime figures continue to make the same demands of developers.  At times developers have resisted (and at times paid the price in work stopages), and at times they have caved in and just paid the monies demanded (this is the way things are done in for example Italy, so why not here?). 

In typing HDI and Six Nations in Google, the following document came to light.  It is a detailed Wikipedia page, but entirely without references.  The link is here.  An article published in 2008 in the now defunct newspaper, Tekawenake, can be found here.  Apparently at the time a lot of people on and off the Reserve were scratching their heads, trying to figure out who HDI were, and who they represent.

Since this group seems to see its role as monitoring the entire Grand River Tract, they will inevitably come into face to face conflict with developers who have a clear title to their land, but who are flagged or targeted as "needing" their services and as such there is a procedure that must be followed to "apply" (and that is definitely not the right word):

An HDI development permit is required by the HDI and one is obtained by providing an application to the HDI with the prescribed application fee.

With the realisation that memory can be faulty, and my apologies in advance if I make an incorrect statement (which will be rectified once I receive documented correct information), I recall that a developer in Hagersville paid an application fee amounting to more than $7000.  And for what?  Apparently a group can establish itself, set its own rules, and shake down anyone it decides needs "to apply" to develop land anywhere within the bounds of the Haldimand Proclamation of 1784 and the Nanfan Treaty of 1701 (in other words the Haldimand Tract including the lands surrendered in 1844 etc., and all of Southern Ontario)  That is quite some constituency.  According to the above 2008 newspaper article, the developer also has to sign a clause, recognizing, "the land title in question as belonging to Six Nations".

The question is, does this group truly believe that they have the right or even duty to perform this role, or is it simply a clever Machiavellian ploy to shake only the ripest trees hard enough so that they give of their bounty?

In addition the HDI has "included itself" among the groups who various other agencies who work in the Grand River Tract, or even anywhere in Southern Ontario, must consult.  For example they have now assumed a role in archaeological work, in addition to the Six Nations monitors, trained by the Ontario Archaeological Association who are called in by professional consultant archaeologists.  The Association of Professional Archaeologists of Ontario mandate aboriginal consultation in any project where their input would be appropriate.  See here This group has taken great pains to train Six Nations monitors, and let their members know who to contact when their services fall under Ontario law, see here.

See here for the HDI mandate (claimed via the HCCC.  Everything is justified by referal to the Haldimand Proclamation and the 1701 Nanfan Treaty (see my earlier blogs showing that, for example, the latter is and always was, invalid).  Evidence of their involvement is even far flung work is seen for example in, the following:
Archaeological assessment – Dufferin County,  Five First Nations monitors – two from Six Nations, one from the Haudenosaunee Development Institute and two from the Saugeen First Nation – also participated in the Stage 2 archaeological assessment; their roles are summarized in Supplement C (p. 2.2).  See here for more complete information.  
When I asked the archaeological consultants and a Hamilton planner why a project I was involved with in that city had slowed to a crawl, they said it was because nothing could proceed until the matter of monies to be paid to the monitor or monitors from Six Nations had been ironed out.  It is unclear which person or group they were speaking about because I did not ask.  It does become problematic when multiple parties from the same entity (Six Nations) claim the right to, in this case, "monitor".

The Wikipedia article states that the HDI claim authority under the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council (HCCC).  Reading between the lines, it seems that this a vehicle whereby the HCCC can exercise authority over the competing Six Nations Elected Chiefs (Band Council).  Their disdain for one another has been in evidence since the change of guard in 1924 (the subject of a later blog posting).  This factionalism has been one of the major sources of frustration in Government authorities charged with negotiating land claims.  Who speaks for the Six Nations people?  The answer is, "it depends on who you ask".

I don't think that delving into the workings of this group at this time would be productive.  It will soon be more clear as to what their true mandate is, and to what lengths they are willing to go to obtain their ends.  Of course, in the end it boils down to money - under the euphemism of the "application fee".  Land developers and archaeological consultant service groups beware!

Update:  The HDI (Haudenosaunee Development Institute), a wing of the HCCC, are in the news again - and they are in serious trouble according to Two Row Times, November 20th, 2013, p. 3. It appears that they just can't get a break in the Court system. This all stemmed from the City of Brantford's injunction against protests at construction sites there, where the HDI tried to enforce its own development regulations on the city's disputed lands. The original ruling by Judge Harrison Arrell levied fines of $350,000 plus $68,000 in Court costs (these later reduced to $25,000). The Appellate Court upheld the ruling, and so a second appeal was launched which also upheld Justice Arrell's original decision. Those against whom the fine was levied include Aaron Detlor and Hazel Hill of HDI, as well as Ruby and Floyd Montour, Charlie and Mary Green, Clive Garlow, and "persons unknown". So who will pay? Apparently due to the financial situations of the various parties, it is likely that only Detlor (who is a lawyer) and Hill will likely be, "holding the bag" and "slapped with the heavy fine". The reporter could not obtain information as to whether, since the HDI was acting on behalf of the HCCC, they will have some responsibility in the payment of the fine. The reporter states, What this will mean to the HDI is yet to be seen as the judgement legally clips the HDI's wings in such matters, at least as far as Canadian law is concerned. The Brantford Mayor believes that this decision will have Canada - wide effects on other groups who chose to engage in disruptive land disputes, and on the Canadian communities who are impacted.

Turtle Island News, p. 5, reported that the Men's Fire assembled to put a stop to construction on the Erie Ave. development project (Guswhenta), which although headed by a non-Native Steve Charest, the latter's two partners are both Six Nations members who had made a deal with the Mohawk Workers, including Brian Porter. Men's Fire want the HDI involved (which means the application fee paid in full). One wonders if the project will seek a Court injunction, the problem with that is that it would further pit Six Nations group 1 against Six Nations group 2 supporters. More factionalism at its worst.

The HDI has been busy on other fronts. According to Turtle Island News, November 20, 2013, p. 7, Money is flowing into Confederacy Council coffers as the first annual payments for a green environment deal with energy giant NextEra come in. Legal Advsor for the HDI, Aaron Detlor, stated that the monies received are going into an account that the HDI "has no access to". Hazel Hill, Director of HDI, said that the chiefs don't know what they will do with the money, adding that, HDI will follow through on post construction monitoring of all the sites. Recall, that this group has no legal authority, only what the non - elected chiefs (HCCC) gives them. Hill stated that, "the Confederacy process flows through the clan system, 'The people have the opportunity to participate through their chief and clanmother'".

I can see one problem right away, which I bold printed above. The majority of people at Six Nations have no idea as to what their true clan is. "Clanology" has developed recently to help people to get in touch with their Clan (inherited through the mother's mother's side). So HDI is saying that the majority who cannot "fit" with the Longhouse system for whatever reason can expect no sympathy or hearing from HDI. Hill full well knows the situation at Six Nations, and the barrier that poses. She does admit that, Six Nations people don't necessarily understand the traditional process. Nor are Six Nations people, necessarily understanding of, or willing to adhere to, the Confederacy process. I don't ever recall hearing that the traditional process involves extracting money from naive or gullible Whites who think that by ponying up, their problems will go away.


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