Thursday, August 21, 2003


Save Red Hill Creek
BY GORD PERKS (EYE Magazine, Thursday, August 21, 2003 -ENVIRO)

We must do what we can to stop the construction of the Red Hill Creek Expressway. We must because we treasure important ecosystems, because we oppose sprawling, car-dependent development and because we are contesting what is meant by "democracy." Red Hill is both a precious place and a precious political moment.

The expressway is planned as a 7.5-kilometre highway running through the Red Hill Creek Valley, which snakes down from the Niagara Escarpment to the east end of Lake Ontario. Transportation planners who work from different maps see the expressway connecting the Lincoln Alexander Parkway to the QEW.

Red Hill Creek Valley is made up of over 700 hectares of mostly forested natural area and parkland. It has remarkably diverse plant, mammal, bird, fish and butterfly populations. Over half of the valley is in the United Nations-designated Niagara Escarpment World Biosphere Reserve. Building the expressway would require blowing the biggest man-made hole ever through the escarpment, then rerouting the creek through a new 7.6-kilometre trench, and finally clearing a quarter of the valley and stripping out 41,000 trees. A native band, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, have asserted their inherent rights to camp, hunt and fish in the Red Hill Creek Valley. They have told the city to stop the project and have issued a permit to protesters to occupy the land and frustrate construction efforts. Also at issue are 22 archaeological sites in the valley.

The two purposes of the road are: 1) to add the final link to a trucking route that runs from the American Midwest, across southern Ontario, over to New York state. Some call this the NAFTA highway. It would allow truckers to bypass tolls in the US, and would shave 9 kilometres off the current route; 2) to open up the area south of Hamilton for subdivision development. Hungry developers are already queuing up at the Ontario Municipal Board to win approval for plans to slap sprawl on this spot.

For a visceral understanding of the issues at stake, meditate on two questions: what would Toronto (and Markham) be like if we hadn't built the Don Valley Parkway? What would Toronto be like if the Spadina Expressway hadn't been stopped? Look deeper into the Spadina question. Look beyond the fact that Forest Hill, the Annex and Chinatown would have been blasted to smithereens. Apply the aphorism "to the victor, the spoils."

The Spadina Expressway battle was a watershed moment in the civic life of Toronto. It made heroes of people like Jane Jacobs and the late Colin Vaughn. It emboldened others from the struggle to do still more. They include some of the Toronto School Board trustees who brought in heritage language programs and a host of other progressive reforms that Harrisites haven't been able to completely dismantle. The Spadina struggle made way for the famous "reform councils" at Toronto City Hall, councils that saved and strengthened the neighbourhood character of the city and developed world-renowned programs such as the Healthy City model.

The politics that brought us all of this were legitimized because they triumphed in the Spadina Expressway battle. How different things would be if the other politics had prevailed. Replace protest, street theatre, marches, civil disobedience and an alphabet soup of community organizations with backroom deals, bureaucratic control and growth at any cost. Civic duty in this scenario is reduced to paying taxes on time, following rules and picking a candidate from a ballot just as you would pick a brand of soft drink from a variety store shelf.

Back to the Red Hill battle: the question of which politics will be honoured, legitimized and tolerated is precisely what is in play. Should the expressway be built just because the duly elected Hamilton City Council has decided that it should be? Should protesters back off because Hamilton's city fathers are seeking a court injunction to end the protests and criminalize the native people and activists who have been delaying construction these past three weeks? What is your civic duty?

If you answer this last question the same way that hundreds of anti-expressway Hamiltonians have answered it, and you want to join the battle against the expressway, you can find out what help is needed by going to

I should acknowledge my friend Don McLean for much of the information above. For well over a decade, Don has been an awe-inspiring researcher and organizer on this issue.


This was written with pencil and paper during the big blackout. For reacquainting me with that pleasure, I want to thank everyone who pushed for deregulation, privatization and free trade in electricity. I also want to thank the energy technocrats who built a big, centralized, brittle power system while pooh-poohing environmentalists who pleaded for conservation and green, small-scale, flexible power systems.

Gord Perks is a campaigner with the Toronto Environmental Alliance. Enviro appears every two weeks.


On Red Hill

A quarter-century scrap over controversial expressway opens a legal hornet's nest

By JOHN BACHER, NOW Magazine, Thursday, August 21, 2003

Hamilton ecologists have re moved their banners and their protest tents from the golden trefoil-dappled meadow at the foot of Greenhill Avenue. Now nothing is left but the rustle of the tall grasses. But after a quarter-century contest over the proposed Red Hill expressway, this silence will clearly be temporary. Last Friday (August 15) an agreement was reached in court whereby environmentalists will leave the site in exchange for a delay in construction of the much-disputed highway that is, until September 3, when court proceedings begin on a city of Hamilton bid to remove anyone blocking construction.

The question is, will the city be able to steamroll over protests from an astounding number of constituencies to legally proceed? The injunction move certainly has an air of desperation about it. The city watched helplessly last week as protest campers stopped construction trucks from beginning a feeder road.

And municipal authorities must know what a legal hornet's nest their bid is sure to stir up, including debates over the Migratory Birds Convention Act, the Fisheries Act, the Planning Act and the Niagara Escarpment Act. Not to mention a 300-year-old treaty between the Iroquois and the British Crown, called a Deed of Trust, which may fundamentally throw into question land tenures for all of southern Ontario.

Indeed, the most sweeping objections in Friday's courtroom drama came from lawyer Paul Williams, representing the Iroquois Confederacy at Six Nations near Brantford. The Red Hill Valley has 22 identified archaeological sites, including an 11,000-year-old site and a native village whose partial excavation has generated over 56,000 artifacts.

It was Williams's treaty claims that shook up the proceedings. Referring to the 1701 treaty, he said it gave the British the obligation to act as an agent of the Iroquois with respect to an area of land reserved for them, "an area which includes southern Ontario and was known as the Beaver Hunting Ground.''

To this, Superior Court Justice David Crane in some degree of shock responded, "Are you saying the city of Hamilton is a hunting ground?"

Answered Williams, "Although our people have not hunted in the Red Hill Valley for many years, it is viewed by our people as a hunting ground, an area where we can gather the fruits of nature. Our role here is as protector of the valley.''

This explains why in April the Confederacy ordered all digging in the valley to cease and then posted no-trespassing signs, making it clear that these were not directed at hikers. Though they denied a permit to the city of Hamilton, the Confederacy gave one to campers protesting the construction. These permits pledged those who entered to abide by the Iroquois Great Law of Peace and to refrain from "violence, verbal and physical, towards any person'' and to "not damage property.''

So now the city is facing the combined opposition of bird watchers, eco activists and a prestigious traditional First Nation government. And while the Friends of Red Hill Valley folk were party to the vacating deal, Six Nations traditionalists who don't recognize the Canadian court system are maintaining their own parallel camp in the black walnut and oak forest that guards the slope of the Red Hill Creek's valley. Deep in these woods, near the centre of the designated construction site, they have built what they call a "round house," an arbour protecting what they say is a sacred fire.

Nature lovers can only hope it keeps on burning.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

calling the columnist on colonialism

First Nations have a claim

RE: Six Nations' Red Hill claim defies native history (Aug. 20).
Ignorance of and inaccuracies about First Nations history have once again reared their ugly heads. Andrew Dreschel's commentary about Six Nations' "flim-flammery" not only smacks of colonialism and conceit, but misleads readers to believe in erroneous information.

Dreschel claims that the Five Nations had been driven out of the area north of Lakes Erie and Ontario a decade or so before 1701 by the Ojibwa. For the record, the Five Nations withdrew peacefully and orderly to national territories in present-day upstate New York to provide reinforcements against attacks by the French.

Although the Ojibwa did indeed compete with the Five Nations for rich fur resources, there was no clear victor. In 1700, they eventually entered into a mutually binding treaty to hold in common the hunting grounds north of Lakes Erie and Ontario. This treaty ended the beaver wars between the Five Nations and Ojibwa, and was regularly renewed thereafter.

Dreschel also writes that the English "Crown retained the right to use and develop the land." In actuality, the Five Nations placed their hunting grounds in present-day Ontario under English protection by virtue of the Nanfan Treaty of 1701 to maintain continued and unimpeded access to vital hunting grounds and prevent encroachment by Europeans.

Dreschel implies conservation is incompatible with hunting rights. Indeed, conservation is integral to ensuring a viable hunting ground. The Five (later Six) Nations have always been sensitive to the need to cultivate game, fish and food supplies as well as the relationship between earth and game: the delicate balance of conservation and hunting.

Dreschel questions whether the protection of hunting grounds in the Nanfan Treaty of 1701 extends to the present- day Red Hill valley because provincial laws prevent hunting in densely populated urban areas such as the Red Hill valley. This appears to be based on the erroneous assumption that the Nanfan Treaty of 1701 only protects the right to hunt with firearms, which activity would threaten human life in urban areas. However, the protection of hunting rights in the Nanfan Treaty of 1701 includes a broad range of hunting, trapping, fishing and harvesting activities that do not threaten human life in urban areas. In addition, wherever treaty or aboriginal rights have been asserted by a First Nation, an obligation to consult is imposed. The Crown or third parties who will be using land or resources in such a way as to affect an aboriginal or treaty right must consult in good faith with that First Nation and reasonably accommodate their interests.

Dreschel's commentary is based on contentions demonstrating, at a minimum, historical ignorance. Misguided and erroneous information only furthers the divide between Canadians and First Nations at a time when we urgently need to work together in cooperation. Whitewashing history? To Dreschel, we say: Do your homework.
Chief Roberta Jamieson, Six Nations, Ohsweken.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Red Hill Rally


1:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Albright Avenue at Harrisford (off Mount Albion Road)

Calling all artists, musicians, poets, writers, performers and nature lovers: come to the Sunday August 17 from 1 - 5 pm. event at Albright Ave. near entrance to the Red Hill Valley (Public Park) off Mount Albion Road.
Come join the fun and show your support. There is the sacred flame lodge. Artists come draw paint, sculpt and perform. Musicians are welcome to bring their instrument. We hope there will be a drum circle. Poets and writers can come and do a reading. There will be many activities, e.g., nature walks, workshops, games, ceremonies, possible learning circles, et cetera. It is potluck so please bring food, water, non-alcoholic beverages, et cetera.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

View from the Valley


by Randy Kay
August 14-20, 2003
Hamilton City Bylaw 01–219 makes it illegal for people to use green space they have been using for several decades at Greenhill Avenue. The bylaw warning against “trespassing” came into effect 7am Tuesday, August 5, 2003, the day after several hundred people rallied for the adjacent Red Hill Valley. A week later, people are still camping on the site, neighbours continue to walk their dogs, children play, adults stroll or jog down the footpath to Red Hill Valley, all in contravention of the bylaw.

The Greenhill Community Garden, located at the site of proposed on–ramps for the $220–million Red Hill Creek Expressway, is being tended despite signs posted by the city of Hamilton threatening people with trespassing charges. Twelve–year–old Patricia Nowak of Harrisford Drive was there last Thursday evening (August 7) helping keep the Greenhill Community Garden bird–feeder filled with seed.

“A lot of animals and trees are going to die because of the road. I hope they change their minds about building this and just leave it,” she says as she stretches to pour seed into the feeder perched atop the custom–painted Greenhill Community Garden sign. Brown–eyed Susans, Purple Coneflowers and False Sunflowers nod in the breeze beneath the sign. The flowers, transplanted to the site August 4, are being watered by volunteers with the aid of neighbours’ hoses.

Across the field, people open their back gates and walk into the 01–219 trespass zone. Margaret Hastings stands in the off–limits area in her pyjamas and talks with her Brookstream Court neighbours Angie Blaschuk and Donna Staruck. Hastings has lived in the area for 28 years. She’s had a long–term relationship with the Expressway project.

“It raises its ugly head, then it lies down again, raises and lies down” she relates. She thinks the trespass threat is “ridiculous.” “People have been walking here a long time, and hopefully will continue to do so.” Blaschuk has lived on Brookstream for 20 years. “Who is to say I can’t go through here to go to the mall to do my shopping as I’ve always done? I can’t see how I’m trespassing on park land.”

“I’m coming out here with the dog and I’m walking up there until someone tells me I can’t. I’m not stopping because someone says ‘no’ after I’ve been doing it all these years,” Staruck declares. These residents only received a letter from the city on July 4 notifying them of impending construction including noise walls that will go up at the back of their properties.

The three women join other area residents and activists from across the city at nightly outdoor meetings at the site. People discuss tasks and strategy in their ongoing efforts to save the valley. Oakville–based Dufferin Construction has refused to come back to the area until protesters are removed. They have also refused to take part in discussions with protesters. Mayor Wade refuses to discuss anything but implementation of the road, and is seeking a court order to end the pickets at Greenhill and Albright roads. Donna Staruck’s husband Joe says the lack of process has been frustrating.

“I just get pissed off at the way government forces their way onto people without going through the whole process properly. Nobody [from the city] has said anything to me yet, and I’ve lived here for 20 years. This nonsense about killing the last green we have is sheer stupidity.”

At City Council last Tuesday, Ward 15 councillor Margaret McCarthy asked for a referendum on the Red Hill Expressway issue to allow citizens a voice. She was supported by councillors Andrea Horwath (Ward 2) and Dave Braden (Ward 14). The remainder of councillors present voted the motion down.

Back at the Greenhill Community Garden they helped to build, nine–year–old Jessika and her friends are sharing concerns about noise and air pollution as well as the impact the road will have on wildlife. Children in the area are especially vulnerable to the negative health impacts of the expressway, with asthma being all too common for the east–end kids. Losing the access to nature they currently enjoy would also be a blow to their quality of life.

So far, The Showstoppers, a coalition of people opposed to the destruction of the valley, have prevented Dufferin from taking vehicles onto the site. Showstoppers have initiated attempts at dialogue with the city and the contractor, and refuse to let any destruction take place until outstanding issues are addressed. Issues include the likely presence of migratory birds in the area which could trigger a federal Migratory Birds Convention Act limiting activity that would disturb their nesting and mating, the lack of permits to undertake work in the valley including a Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC) permit, and outstanding First Nations issues.

The Showstoppers and Friends of Red Hill Valley have been issued a permit from the Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse), who have inherent Aboriginal rights to camp, hunt, and fish in the Red Hill Valley.

Along with the right to use the valley, the Haudenosaunee have the responsibility of protecting the valley for future generations. They have not issued any permits to the city.

Arrests have been threatened but so far avoided. A private security firm keeps a wary eye on the 24–7 protest.

And so it is, beneath the shadow of threatened lawsuits, criminal charges, heavy machinery and bylaw 01–219 that the first wave of citizen rebellion against the Red Hill Creek Expressway has taken root at Greenhill Avenue.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

The King of Satire?

Elvis Busted?

Presentation of HOUND DOG AWARD nixed by City's Court Proceedings

For immediate release, Wednesday, August 13, 2003 Hamilton Ont. - A pro-Red Hill Valley/Elvis fan-club protest group is "all shook up" over the cancellation of their proposed presentation of a "Hound Dog Award" to Hamilton City Council.
Hamilton City Council was chosen to receive the award for their efforts to keep alive a bad 1950s idea despite advances in education, science and culture: namely, the Red Hill Creek Expressway.
The Mayor of Hamilton's office refused to entertain the award which was to be presented at Wednesday's (August 13) council meeting, The award was timed to coincide with Elvis Week (Saturday, August 9 - Sunday, August 17)

An e-mail from the Mayor's office sent Monday pooh-poohed the ceremony: "Your request for an opportunity to present Council with a satirical award related to the Red Hill Creek denied as the matter of the Red Hill Creek Expressway is now before the Court in legal proceedings and it is therefore inappropriate for Council or staff to accept and/or make delegations, presentations, comments on the matter."

The group proposing the award, calling themselves the 50 WABIs (The 50's were a bad idea* and so is this road) intended to present council with a life-size gold and silver plastic Elvis bust ($29.99 at select corner stores) accompanied by a short speech.
"50 years ago, in the age before civil rights and women's rights; when TV was new and black and white; when people pondered where to build the family bomb shelter and kids learned to 'duck and cover' in case of nuclear war; when women wore gloves and men wore hats; in this context, in 1956, two-years before the hoola-hoop, the Red Hill Valley expressway is first proposed.
"Even 50's icon Elvis Presley changed from his hip-shaking, black-leather clad rebel, to morph into his 70's rhinestone-studded Vegas Elvis; yet, while Elvis changed (some say for the worse) and we've moved past most of the bad old 50's ideas, a few folks still cling to the outdated urban Expressway as a panacea for what ails the city.
"Sadly, tragically, Elvis never dealt with his terrible drug addiction, and as a result he got pretty bloated, sick and (some say) died at home at Graceland, August 16, 1977. We hope a similar fate will not befall the city of Hamilton due to the current addiction to building a $220-million expressway in a natural river valley, and spending money we haven't got."
The city of Hamilton is currently seeking an injunction to end a week of protests that have so far prevented the destruction of the valley. The City will make their motion for an injunction FRIDAY AUGUST 15, 10:00 AM at HAMILTON COURT HOUSE (45 Main Street East). 
Protesters have already received letters from the city threatening, along with criminal charges, civil actions to seize their assets- including their homes- to cover any costs incurred by delays.
"Not content to just make a threatened species of flying squirrel homeless, the city is going after peoples' homes for defending the valley and its inhabitants," says Randy "Don't Be Cruel" Kay. "If the city gets their way we'll all be singing "Jailhouse Rock" for exercising our constitutionally protected rights."
According to Kay, the relationship between the city and its citizens is definitely at a low point: "As Elvis would say, "we cant go on together, with suspicious minds."

*not all ideas of the 1950's were bad.

Tuesday, August 5, 2003

Not Goodbye - the beginning of Nonviolent Resistance

Goodbye to Red Hill valley?

Protesters say farewell as bulldozers poised to make east Hamilton greenspace a construction zone starting today

By Lori Fazari
The Hamilton Spectator. Tuesday August 5, 2003 (front page) Hundreds of people came out to say farewell (sic) to Red Hill valley as they knew it. Today bulldozers arrive and begin work on the new north-south road.
When Brian Tammi wakes up in his tent this morning, he'll be breaking city bylaw number 01-219, which has to do with municipal parks.
Tammi and his fellow campers are well aware of that. It's the reason they set up camp this weekend on a patch of land at the end of Greenhill Avenue, off Mount Albion Road in the east end.
This morning, the green space officially becomes a construction zone, the physical start of building the Red Hill Creek Expressway.
"No entry beyond this point," says the sign posted at the edge of the grass.
But Tammi, 18, and other activists are making a last-ditch effort to stop the start of construction and show their opposition to paving the Red Hill valley.
This fight's been going on long before Tammi's time, decades before he was born. But the moment has arrived for bulldozers to begin work on the expressway that will connect the Lincoln M. Alexander Parkway on the Mountain to the Queen Elizabeth Way in east Hamilton.
Dufferin Construction crews were to arrive early this morning at the eastern edge of the valley, at the dead-end of Greenhill Avenue, which will be extended to connect with on and off ramps to the expressway.
Yesterday, protesters, neighbours and those drawn by the sight of the crowd of hundreds spent the afternoon in the sun in the park, listening to anti-expressway speakers. They gathered for a group picture, with a line of trees in the background, and held a potluck.
Tammi was the first one here, Saturday afternoon.
Others were supposed to camp out with him that night but couldn't make it, so it was him alone -- one man with a tent and tarp, camping supplies and the conviction that the expressway is a bad idea.
"This expressway is, for lack of a better word, silly," he said yesterday afternoon, sitting by the campers' tents while the crowd listened to one speaker after another.
"Economically, environmentally, legally, it's not sound."
Tammi often rides his mountain bike on the valley trails. On Saturday he was loaded down with gear, so his mother dropped him off at Greenhill Avenue, just before the rain started pouring.
He camped in the rain here just last month. Expressway opponents spent a weekend camping and planning ways to block the start of construction without violence. Tammi said some people were scared off from coming out this time, after the city sent a letter threatening to arrest or sue protesters.
"It's just bullying tactics and it's worked," he said.
Things were peaceful on the Civic Holiday weekend. Tammi was joined Sunday by other protesters, six of whom camped out with him that night. They spent the afternoon digging out a circle of grass to plant flowers in a Greenhill Community Garden, topped with a birdhouse. Their food was plentiful, with several watermelons for the potluck.
Tammi has been involved in many a protest and can't understand why more people don't get involved. "That's disgusting that people think they can't change anything," he said. "Apathy rules."
He wasn't sure what to expect this morning when construction crews arrive. "I don't plan to risk arrest," he said. "If they ask me to leave, I'll leave and I'll just return when it cools down."
As long as he stays off the grass, as required under bylaw 01-219.
Haudenosaunee Permit Granted to Showstoppers and Friends of Red Hill
A permit to camp in the Red Hill Valley has been granted to representatives of two groups who are interested in protecting the ecology of the valley.
The Friends of Red Hill and the Showstoppers have been granted permits by the Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse), who have inherent Aboriginal rights to camp, hunt, and fish in the Red Hill Valley. Along with the right to use the valley, the Haudenosaunee have the responsibility of protecting the valley for future generations. The Haudenosaunee people, whose traditional territory stretches between modern-day United States and Canada, lived in harmony with the natural world for hundreds and thousands of years, but in today's world, we face new environmental problems that our ancestors never had to consider.
The Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force was formed about ten years ago to work towards solutions of some of these environmental problems. More information about the Task Force can be found at
Norm Jacobs, delegate to the Haudenosaunee Task Force, is currently in hospital in Hamilton and was unable to personally attend the rally in Red Hill Valley yesterday. On behalf of Norm Jacobs and the Haudenosaunee people, yesterday's rally was opened with the traditional Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving address, by Al Loft. Mr. Loft gave some background information about the Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force and announced that permits had been granted to the Showstoppers and to Friends of Red Hill.
The permit is valid only if the permit-holders abide by both Kaianara:kowa (the Haudenosaunee Great Law of Peace), and the Showstoppers "Basis of Unity". The Basis of Unity consists of the following six points:
  • Our attitude will be one of openness, friendliness, and respect towards all people we encounter.
  • We will use no violence, verbal or physical, toward any person.
  • We will not damage any property.
  • We will not bring or use any drugs or alcohol other than for medical purposes.
  • We will carry no weapons.
  • We will make decisions by consensus.
The Haudenosaunee have never granted a permit to the City of Hamilton, and have not signed any agreements with the City of Hamilton about the Red Hill valley. The City of Hamilton signed an agreement with the Six Nations band council, as represented by Chief Roberta Jamieson, on June 30, 2003. The City of Hamilton and Six Nations have agreed to appoint a city-paid facilitator for discussions about archaeological activity in the Red Hill valley. However, the Six Nations band council is only one of the stakeholders with regard to archaeological activity in the valley, and the City of Hamilton also has a responsibility to consult with other stakeholders including the Haudenosaunee, the Mississaugas of the New Credit, and others.

The Sun on Red Hill

Rally rips new Hamilton Road

Expressway through greenbelt

Toronto Sun, Page 19, Tuesday, August 5, 2003

Several hundred people rallied in east Hamilton yesterday to stop the construction of a four-lane highway through one of the city's largest greenbelts.
Work is set to start today on the first ramp of the Red Hill Creek Expressway, and eight-km freeway linking Hwy 403 to the QEW.
"We need to stop the destruction of over 40,000 trees in the Red Hill Valley," protest organizer David Cohen said from the Greenhill Ave. construction site.
Some participants were planning to stay overnight at the site so they could be there when work crews arrive. They plan to use "every peaceful means at their disposal" to convince Hamilton to halt the four-year, $220-million project, Cohen said.
Even though half the cost of the epressway will be covered by the province, Cohen said critics are opposed to the "tremendous tax burden" it will put on city residents.
City staff were not available for comment yesterday, but in a statement Friday, Hamilton's city manager Bob Robertson urged protesters not to interfere with a "democratic decision that was taken years ago, after years of study on this much-needed transportation route."
Robertson said the city will take legal action against anyone who causes costly delays to the project.
"If they decide to take illegal actions that drive up costs, the city will have no choice but to seek to recover those costs from the persons who are responsible," Robertson said.

Monday, August 4, 2003


Publicly Oppose the Plans to Cut Valley Trees

Rally, Monday August 4, 1:00 - Greenhill

Friends of Red Hill Valley and other organizations invite you to a "Rally for the Valley" on civic holiday, Monday, August 4 at 1 pm. The City is pushing ahead with construction despite not having numerous approvals and permits. It is crucial that people call them to account. Please bring your friends, neighbours, relatives.
The City has announced plans to begin construction of the Greenhill Avenue interchange in the first week of August.
We expect they will try to start this work on August 5.
The $3.3 million contract has been awarded to Dufferin Construction. It includes extending Greenhill Avenue westward from Mt. Albion Road down an unopened right-of-way bordering about 50 homes, erecting noise walls, and building a bridge to allow the planned expressway to pass under the road. Slightly more than half a hectare of valley lands are scheduled to be cleared as part of this work. While this is less than one percent of the planned destruction associated with the expressway, it is the first significant damage.
The August 4 event will include the planting of a garden of hope (please bring trees or other plants, soil, etc.) as well as the Rally. The location is the dead end of Greenhill Avenue, one block west of Mt. Albion Road at Harrisford Drive. Parking in this area is limited, so please try to car pool, bike or use the Parkdale bus if possible.

Campout Coverage

Hamilton Indymedia has posted extensive coverage of the July 4-6 campout in the valley by the Showstoppers Union, including photos of "tree huggers" and a portion of the speech by mayoralty candidate Dave Christopherson.

Expressway Argument Dealt Another Blow

The economic reasons given for building a north-south expressway have suffered another major setback. Over the past few months, the main economic argument of expressway supporters has been the necessity to increase industrial development in Hamilton. The north-south road is supposed to help by improving access to the East Mountain Business Park and the North Glanbrook Business Park that lies immediately south of it. While both of these areas are serviced by the Linc, the valley road allegedly will make them more attractive for new industrial development, especially the North Glanbrook site where most of the land is vacant (most of the East Mountain area is already occupied).

There are a number of flaws in this argument and some have been identified by the City and its hired consultants. For example, they admit that (1) the North Glanbrook lands are not serviced and it is unprofitable for their private owners to provide the services to attract new industry; (2) it will cost the City nearly $50 million to provide the necessary services; (3) there is no current market interest in purchasing these lands for industrial development; (4) the owners of the lands are actively demanding that their lands be rezoned to much more profitable residential uses; (5) residential development in greenfield areas doesn't pay for itself so more of it will simply make the City's financial position worse; (6) even if the City refuses to rezone these lands to residential, the owners would likely overcome this through an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).
In light of these facts, the Economic Development department at the City has proposed a fairly desperate gamble:build the expressway AND provide enough subsidies to the private owners to make it sufficiently profitable for them to accept industrial development on these lands. The advocates of this position candidly admit that it has two major problems -- the City can't afford to subsidize the landowners, and such subsidies are currently illegal under Ontario law (in order to prevent cities from getting caught in an increasingly expensive bidding war for new development). In fact, the scheme is even riskier since it rests on a unproven prediction that these steps will convince companies to want to move to Hamilton.

In the last few days, a provincial government decision has unravelled the argument. The City has been attempting to expand its urban boundary out to Fifty Road in Winona. This step was supposed to add enough land for residential development to create a 20-year supply. Then the City could argue that any attempt to convert North Glanbrook to residential was unreasonable or premature. Council eagerly approved the expansion into Winona, despite the fact that these are prime agricultural lands, and much of them are irreplacable tenderfruit lands found no where else in Ontario. Like so much done in Hamilton, this move broke the rules. This time it was so blatant that even the Eves government couldn't stomach it. They have objected to the expansion and forced the City to back down.

This leaves the North Glanbrook landowners in a much stronger position to argue that their lands should be rezoned to residential, and pretty much ensures that if the expressway is built, it will simply generate (and subsidize) more unsustainable and very expensive sprawl. Will it convince the gamblers to back down? The only guarantee is the November 10 elections for City Council.



For Immediate Release August 3, 2003
Hamilton, Ont. -- With work to start Tuesday, August 5 on a component of a proposed expressway in an east Hamilton valley, opponents of the road are vowing to use every peaceful means at their disposal to convince the City of Hamilton not to go ahead with construction.
On Monday, August 4, beginning at 1 p.m., opponents of the expressway will gather a point just east of the Red Hill Valley for a rally and a street dance.
A garden of hope will be planted in a green space that is to be turned into a ramp and bridge for the expressway. The location for these events is at the western end of Greenhill Ave. (off Mount Albion Road)
The proposed expressway will see 93 hectares of the Red Hill Valley cleared and a similar additional amount of land "negatively impacted" in what is one of the most significant urban green spaces in Canada. At least 41,000 trees will be cut down and replaced with 54 hectares of pavement.
Total cost of the expressway is now estimated at $220 million, well over $40 million a mile. Hamilton's external debt is expected to triple by 2006, to over $1,000 per person.
More information about the expressway and its expected effects can be found on the website of Friends of Red Hill Valley at

Saturday, August 2, 2003

Showstoppers under the gun

Protest must be peaceful

Police to watch as Red Hill work begins

By Eric McGuinness The Hamilton Spectator, Saturday, August 2, 2003.
Hamilton police say they weren't consulted about a city letter threatening Red Hill Creek Expressway opponents with lawsuits or arrests for any attempts to delay construction. Deputy Chief Brian Mullan says police understand the city's position, but remain neutral in the dispute over putting a road through Red Hill Valley.

What will happen next week when the anti-expressway Union of Showstoppers says its members will use non-violent civil disobedience to halt construction?

Mullan says: "We acknowledge an individual's right to protest and demonstrate. We as a police service take the position that when possible we will facilitate that. When behaviour becomes unlawful and public safety is in jeopardy, we will step in and take the necessary steps to protect public safety."

Signs are already up warning that the area around Greenhill Avenue will be closed to the public at 7 a.m. Tuesday, and save-the-valley groups plan a rally at the site while it remains open. Organizers say there will be walks, talks and a mass photo shoot, among other activities, starting at 1 p.m. on Civic Holiday Monday. The gathering will be on the eastern edge of the valley, where Greenhill dead-ends off Mt. Albion Road.

Hamilton West NDP MPP David Christopherson, a mayoral hopeful and expressway critic who will speak at the rally, says the warning letter sent to selected expressway foes "sure smacks of bully tactics. Whether that was the intent or not, that's how it looks."

Former councillor Fred Eisenberger, also running for the mayor's chair, considers it "overkill" and "more than was necessary," although he supports the expressway and says everyone should accept that it's going ahead.
City manager Bob Robertson said yesterday the letter was approved by a staff-level committee he chairs, one that has consulted former deputy police chief Christine Silverberg, recently retained on Hamilton's behalf by the city's Red Hill lawyer, David Estrin. Silverberg, a former Calgary police chief, was used by the city last year in talks with native leaders concerned about the valley's archaeological sites.

An aide said Mayor Bob Wade wasn't available for comment yesterday and acting city solicitor Elaine Holt, author of the letter, did not return a call from The Spectator.

The letter, which Robertson says went to 10 to 20 people, said the city could file multimillion-dollar lawsuits against those delaying work and that those who couldn't pay might see their homes seized and sold.

Canadian environmental lawyer David Boyd calls it "extraordinary" and a "slick" move to intimidate protesters without letting them respond.

Boyd, a research associate at the University of Victoria and former executive director of the Sierra Legal Defence Fund, said it's not unusual for environmental activists to be sued, but the suits are generally used only to get a court injunction to stop demonstrations. They almost never go to court.

Boyd says what's unusual is that protesters haven't done anything to block construction, and it's a government going after environmentalists.

"That's what's odd about the situation. No one has done anything remotely unlawful. And in most cases, it's a corporation wearing the black hat, not a democratically elected government."

Boyd said defendants in a "strategic lawsuit to suppress public participation" have means to fight back, but Hamilton's letter only threatens legal action, so "there is little recipients can do to defend themselves. It's fairly slick for the city to do this by means of a threatening letter."

Julie Brezden, of the Red Hill Neighbourhood Association, complained yesterday the city hasn't consulted area residents about construction-related issues even though a recently distributed "neighbour's guide" said local issues were to be addressed at meetings in June and July.

Robertson offered no explanation for the lack of meetings, but said something could be set up quickly to answer questions.

Friday, August 1, 2003


Red Hill trespassers warned

City letter threatening arrest or lawsuits called 'appalling tactic'

By Eric McGuinness
The Hamilton Spectator, Friday, August 1, 2003

The City of Hamilton is threatening to arrest Red Hill Creek Expressway protesters or sue them and seize their houses if construction is slowed or stopped.

The warning was delivered yesterday afternoon, with the first interchange work in the Red Hill Valley scheduled to start Tuesday. A six-page e-mail message to opposition leaders such as Don McLean of Friends of Red Hill Valley and David Cohen of the Showstoppers Union says it will be illegal to enter the valley at the dead end of Greenhill Avenue after 7 a.m. Tuesday.

That warning appears to apply to anyone who enters the construction area but it was sent specifically to protest leaders who have vowed to stop the highway. Mayor Bob Wade couldn't be reached for comment last night, nor could senior city officials.

Dufferin Construction is expected to start building a bridge Tuesday over the route of the expressway that will connect the cross-Mountain Lincoln Alexander Parkway to the Queen Elizabeth Way in east Hamilton.
Paul Muldoon, executive director of the Canadian Environmental Law Association, is outraged by the letter, saying it's wrong for the city to presume expressway opponents intend to break the law.

"They must presume any protest will be a lawful assembly, that people know the rights and responsibilities of a citizen," he said yesterday. Muldoon, a Hamilton native who has led anti-expressway legal action, called the city letter "an appalling tactic that speaks loads about how this council views its own electorate."

Councillor Larry Di Ianni, chair of the expressway implementation committee, said he hadn't seen the letter from acting city solicitor Elaine Holt, but "from what staff say, I wouldn't characterize it as a threat, but rather information.

"I've heard Paul Muldoon's rhetoric before and I respectfully disagree with it. We expect things will go peacefully and everyone will respect the law. We want to give people the opportunity and right to protest and are saying, 'Here are the laws, we hope people will stay on the right side, and here are the consequences if people go beyond.'"

Those consequences, as outlined by Holt, include being sued for any loss and legal expenses if the $220-million project is held up, being fined under bylaws that make it an offence to obstruct vehicles or pedestrians on any street or sidewalk, and being arrested for mischief, intimidation or other offences under the Criminal Code.

Police officials could not be reached for comment.

It says the city can seek court orders against any attempt to obstruct access to the construction site and can ask to have violators jailed or fined for breaching such orders. It also says any damage award can be enforced by seizing and selling the defendant's property. It's not clear if council authorized the notice or if city bureaucrats gave the OK.

"I was floored to be warned of all the different ways the city can get us, that the city might sue for more than the total value of the contract and if you don't pay would take your property," said McLean. "I think it's very heavy handed. We've been treated as enemies and I think it will make people angry."

Cohen said the e-mail "strikes me as a bit of an intimidation tactic and I resent that. I don't take kindly to receiving a lawyer's letter from the city to which I pay taxes when I haven't done anything wrong."