By Don Crosby, For the Confederate
Southgate Mayor Brian Milne says a motion passed by council on Wednesday gives the municipality legal options, if necessary, to remove the blockade at Dundalk’s Eco Park. But he said that the solution to the three-month impasse might not necessarily be a legal one. He’s open to many others.
“We gave our legal counsel authorization to prepare for legal proceedings in the eventuality that we decide to go that route. An injunction is one of the options available to the council… to remedy a situation such as this. And to launch an injunction you need to prepare a number of documents, some information. So we are preparing for a number of options. An injunction is simply one of them. But at this point we have not launched an injunction,” Mayor Milne during an interview on Thursday.
The motion moved by Councillor Dennis Evans, seconded by Deputy Mayor Jack says: Be it resolved that the Corporation of the Township of Southgate is hereby authorized to commence and carry out legal proceedings in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice against Southgate Public Interest Research Group and any associated persons or other persons causing or contributing to the blockage of ingress and egress to and from the public highway known as Eco Park Way in Part of Lots 236 and 237, Concession 2 (former Township of Proton) including interim, interlocutory and final injunctions and to take such steps in furtherance thereof as reasonably necessary; and for those purposes the Corporation shall retain the law firm of WeirFoulds LLP to act as its solicitors; and WeirFoulds LLP is authorized to take instructions with respect to the said legal proceedings on behalf of the Corporation from David Milliner, Chief Administrative Officer, based on direction from Southgate Council. The motion passed by a vote of 6-1.
Councillor Kim Peeters, the lone dissenter during Wednesday’s vote, said during an interview on Thursday that it was her understanding that the motion called for legal action to resolve the blockade.
She voted against the motion, preferring instead to find less confrontational ways to resolve the stand off by members of Southgate Public Interest Research Group and members of the Six Nations Confederacy.
“I would rather work peacefully rather than go through court injunctions and all that sort of things especially when it comes to our citizens,” said Councillor Peeters.
She is also concerned about a reaction from the First Nations protesters if the municipality seeks a legal remedy.
“That’s quite a delicate situation and I’m concerned that this is not the right timing to do this,” she said.
Mayor Milne said the protesters have had ample opportunity to make their point now it’s time to get people back to work. One of the requests the First Nation’s protesters made was for consultation and accommodation. That, said Mayor Milne, has taken place with the elected Six Nations council, the Six Nations Confederacy represented through the Haudenosaunee, and Saugeen Ojibway Nation.
“We’ve done that and we continue to do that… We’ve met extensively with them, talked to them on the phone, made presentations. We’ve done a lot of work and quite frankly I think the Six Nations are appreciative of the efforts we have made,” Mayor Milne said.
Floyd Montour, a representative of the Six Nations Confederacy who took part in setting up the blockade at Dundalk on April 4 said he and the other First Nations protesters would oppose a court imposed injunction but in the end would abide by the court.
“We kind of expected them to try and get an injunction. Whether they do or not I don’t know if they can,” Mr. Montour said. He explained that Lystek still doesn’t have a certificate of approval from the provincial government, adequate archeological assessments have yet to be completed, and the company hasn’t completed its environmental assessment of the site.
“We know what an injunction is and how it affects us. If they ever got an injunction we’d have to follow the injunction and the law,” he said.
Mr. Montour said he’s opposed to lifting the blockade to allow work at the composting site owned and operated by Sittler Environmental, the only other tenant in the Eco Park that is located across the road from Lystek. Its operation has been closed down since the blockade began April 4.
He said compost produced at the Sittler plant would be used by Lystek in the company’s holding ponds used to store the liquid fertilizer that the Dundalk plant will produce from human waste.
“There will be a layer of compost and a layer of sludge, a layer of compost and a layer of sludge. That’s why they are located so close together,” said Mr. Montour who also noted that liquid from the composting site is seeping into the ground and running into nearby streams that feed the Grand River.
Christian Pipe, a former employee with Sittler told council on Wednesday that he’s been without work at the Dundalk Eco Park since the blockade went up nearly three months ago.
“When will the blockade be lifted, so I can go back to work? Sittler is an established business,” Mr. Pipe said.
John Pugliese, the foreman on the Lystek construction site said he hasn’t worked full time since April 4.
He said trespassers recently got onto the site and built a structure about 12 feet high using steel construction forms each of which weighs about 250 pounds.
Police escorted workers to the site to remove the stacked up forms as a safety measure and posted no trespassing signs.
Mr. Pugliese said while at the site he noticed that over the past three months water has caused erosion and created large ponds filled with a metre of water that could be dangerous to anyone coming on to site.
“If somebody fell in they would not get out especially a child. I’ve been there since Monday pumping water out of the foundations and the back ponds that were deep and dangerous and trying to make the site as safe as possible,” he said.
Lystek company spokesperson Kevin Litwiller noted that a number of people in the community have been affected by the blockade, including the businesses located in the park, as well as other businesses in Southgate.
“We understand the frustration with the blockade. It’s definitely harming the reputation of the entire township. Lystek has always wanted to and still wants to bring jobs and safe and proven world class technology to the Eco Park,” Mr. Litwiller said. “As soon as we can get back to work in Southgate, we’ll continue working with the community, the First Nations and council to make sure this is a success for both the local and the global community,” he said.