Men's Fire "an ace in the hole" says mayor

by Bill Jackson - The Regional

March 25, 2009

Haldimand Mayor Marie Trainer would rather Six Nations protesters didn't halt construction at local development sites, but she says that a group calling itself the Haudenosaunee Men's Fire of the Grand River has helped draw attention to environmental concerns surrounding the Edwards Landfill site in Cayuga.

Trainer was one of about 25 people to turn out for a community meeting in Cayuga last Saturday afternoon that was hosted by members of the group Haldimand Against Landfill Transfers (HALT).

Since 2004, the group has been fighting the reactivation of the Edwards Landfill off Brooks Road outside Cayuga and has more recently joined forces with the Men's Fire in opposition.

Last fall, HALT sought a court injunction to stop the receipt of waste because of outstanding conditions under a provincial certificate of approval that permits the dumping of industrial, commercial and institutional garbage from various sources across Ontario.

Wells to detect toxic leachate have not been drilled and there are several monitoring and technical issues that haven't been addressed, the group contends.

"Site analysis has indicated contamination of the site with polynuclear aromatic hydro carbons (PAHs), including benzo(a) pyrene, naphthalene and pyrene plus others," a press release says.

The dump was historically used to dispose of waste from a resin factory and there has been no real effort made to determine whether and where there might be a toxic plume, according to HALT.

"It is difficult to believe that there has been no leaching from the contaminated waste on this site since it is situated in wetlands and is in an area with karst topography (think swiss cheese) which has hosted gypsum mining in the past."

A court appointed receiver has said that a plan for cleaning up contamination on the site will take effect when the site is operational and begins to make money.

However, last December, HALT received notice that the receiver currently overseeing operations at the Edwards site would be bringing in waste. HALT supporters and Six Nations protesters as well as concerned individuals from elsewhere in Ontario blocked trucks from gaining access to the dump, and several arrests were made.

Since that time, according to HALT, there has been no significant activity on the site.

HALT Chairperson Anne Vallentin has filed 10 charges against the receiver under the Provincial Offences Act for non-compliance with the certificate of approval.

Along with HALT, people of Six Nations are "walking on a similar path to address something that is wrong and going to have an impact on future generations," she said.

HALT is calling on the Ministry of the Environment to determine if there's a toxic plume and determine definitively if the integrity of the dump's liner has been breached.

Wes Elliott, a representative of the Men's Fire, said that his people are here to help and called on the Cayuga community to stand together.

"Our concerns are for the health and safety of people in this community."

The Haudenosaunee will no longer endure the subjugation of freedoms and rights and it is the responsibility of Six Nations' men to protect mother earth, he said.

During a question and answer period following a presentation pertaining to Six Nations history and so-called sovereignty, Merlyn Kinrade wondered if the men who are responsible for mother earthy condoned the tire fires that were set ablaze in Caledonia back in 2006 following a botched OPP raid on Douglas Creek Estates.

The Men's Fire has taken responsibility for protests at local development sites, as well as a road blockade last spring on the Caledonia bypass.

Kelly Curley, also a Men's Fire representative who attended last weekend's meeting, said that the tire fires were condoned by his group because they were needed to create awareness in an emergency. The tire fires were regarded as a smoke signal, he reasoned.

Members of the OPP's Aboriginal Response Team attended last weekend's presentation as listeners.

A popular lawyer for the Haldimand area wondered where the Men's gets its authority and was told that "The (Haudenosaunee) people are the government."

Local Coun. Buck Sloat said that the people of Six Nations have to deal with the different groups that evolve in their own community, but he believes that people have to put aside other issues and focus on what HALT has done since day one.

He said people need to separate the Edwards Landfill issue from issues surrounding native land claims and that any group of people that rallies around the environment is a good thing.

"I'll stand behind anyone who keeps it focused on that."

Trainer also said that development issues were something completely different than the dump issue.

The Men's Fire is "an ace in the hole for HALT," she said. Without its support the dump would probably be operating, she noted.

"Since the Six Nations has got involved the government has started listening."

Following a county council in committee meeting on Monday, Lorne Boyko disagreed with the stance taken by the mayor and ward two councillor calling it "totally hypocritical."

You can separate issues but you can't separate the action of certain groups, he said.

The Men's Fire has been responsible for stopping numerous developments, Boyko reiterated.

"Just because they're opposed to a similar issue doesn't mean you bring them on side."