Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Citizens Held-Up for 123 grand

City Demands $123,000 from Expressway Opponents
Hamilton City Council has decided to seek $123,000 in court costs from six citizens who oppose the construction of the Red Hill Creek Expressway. The decision was taken today in Committee of the Whole which authorized the City's lawyers to make a written submission to Superior Court Justice Joseph Henderson.

McMaster professor Jim Quinn, one of the six citizens, called the Council's decision "vindictive" and "an attempt to silence opposition to the expressway and prevent discussion of need and alternatives as they've done since 1985".

The six citizens volunteered to present legal arguments against an application for an injunction made by the City in early August to stop protests at the site of planned construction of the proposed expressway. They were among several hundred people who picketed the site and blocked construction vehicles on August 5, 6 and 7. The protestors believed that the City had not received the permits and approvals required to allow construction to begin. They also pointed out that nesting migratory birds on the site were protected from disturbance by federal law.

After filing the injunction application, the City released letters purporting to show that the three required permits were obtained on July 28, July 30 and August 5. However, they filed a report that migratory birds were still nesting on the site on August 21, thus showing that the protestors had actually saved the City from breaking the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act.

Court evidence also showed that the City still does not have other key approvals for the expressway project, including the authority to re-locate 7.6 kilometres of Red Hill Creek, and a permit to excavate 70,000 tonnes of the toxic Rennie Street dump which lies in the path of the proposed road.

Justice Henderson approved the injunction request in a 23-page decision issued on September 12. Despite this, the City has not started work because the site has been occupied by citizens of the Haundenosaunee (Six Nations) Confederacy. On Friday, the City agreed to begin discussions with the Confederacy about treaty rights and aboriginal burial sites in the valley.

City officials claim they ran up $235,000 in legal expenses in the injunction. The City was represented by the Toronto law firm of Gowling Lafleur Henderson which fielded a team of seven lawyers in the day and a half of court hearings in early September. Court cost awards only allow for reasonable expenses, and make it impossible to recover excessive legal fees.

The six citizens represented themselves and spent less than $500. They each stepped forward voluntarily to argue that the injunction.

For further information:

Don McLean
Chair, Friends of Red Hill Valley

Dr. Jim Quinn

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