December 16th, 2008
Mohawk residents file $74M lawsuit against band council, owner of operation
Posted By Jeremy Ashley
TYENDINAGA TERRITORY — A group of residents, fed-up with what they charge is an "illegal" quarry and asphalt plant here, have launched a $74-million lawsuit against the Mohawk band council, varying levels of government and the owner of the operation, The Intelligencer has learned.
In a 40-page statement of claim filed in Belleville court last week, a group claiming to represent the majority of those living on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory alleges both projects "are extremely detrimental to the environment and to human life and habitat on the Mohawk Territory. The environment and human life and habitat are being irreparably harmed by these projects."
The lawsuit marks a new chapter in heated relations between some in the community of 7,600 and the owner of both operations, local resident Thomas Maracle.
None of the allegations contained in the statement of claim have been proven in court, nor has there been a statement of defence filed by any of the defendants named.
Within the claim, residents level accusations that Maracle and his two firms — Loyalist Asphalt and Build All Construction — forged ahead with establishing a new quarry pit off Clarence Road and an asphalt plant on Old Highway 2. The statement claims Maracle did so without concern for environmental conditions and without consulting the Mohawk community.
Further, the lawsuit demands an immediate halt to any activity at both locations and argues all levels of government, from the band council up, should refrain from issuing any work permits until proper environmental assessments are completed.
The residents "and many community members use the lands for traditional harvesting activities, trapping, hunting and fishing as did their ancestors before them," the claim states.
An environmental screening report prepared regarding the quarry on behalf of Maracle by Quinte Eco-Consultants following public outcry about the operation was found to be flawed in a number of ways after it was reviewed by another firm, the claim alleges.
That original report "is "flawed, incomplete, misleading, factually incorrect, remiss with errors and omissions and must not be relied upon in any way to support the furtherance of the quarry project," the claim demands.
Increased and unregulated activity at the asphalt plant, meanwhile, have led "numerous people" to complain they were "experiencing severe breathing difficulties, nose bleeds, nausea, burning eyes and throats and other symptoms of exposure to severe ... pollution," the lawsuit alleges.
The residents also claim the band council and most levels of government — from the Attorney General to the Minister of Health — failed in almost every way to protect the people and the lands of the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory and didn't consult with the community about either project.
"As a result of the negligence of the defendants, serious and irreparable damages have occurred to the impugned lands. Furthermore, numerous community members have been directly exposed to significant and potentially lethal harm."
One of the most vocal opponents to either project, resident George Smart, said launching legal action "was done as the very last resort, when all else failed."
Smart said residents attempted to reach a deal with Maracle, in addition to calling on all levels of government for help.
"It all failed, right to the very last moment, we still pleaded for remediation. Everything we brought to the table as a concern fell on deaf ears, therefore, the people had no alternative to bring a class action."
Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte Chief R. Donald Maracle said the lawsuit was discussed earlier this week by band council, which moved to hire legal counsel to defend the action.
"So at this point in time, I have no further comment to make," he said.
Build All and Loyalist Asphalt owner Thomas Maracle was not available for comment Tuesday.
However in past statements to The Intelligencer, he has described such actions as "witch hunt(s)" which are based on false accusations and misinformation.