Sovereign immunity is a tenant of international law that says that the rulers of one State cannot be pursued by the Courts of another State for criminal or civil prosecution. It stems from the notion in English common law that the Sovereign cannot violate the law because he or she — the King or Queen — is the law.
In the United States, tribal sovereign immunity is a well-established principle in Indian Law. Tribes cannot be brought into Court by States or companies because they are acknowledged to be Kings in the eyes of Western legal tradition and, as such, are immune from suit.
The evolution of Canada’s jurisprudence and its Courts’ treatment of indigenous people has not been as just.
But that’s just part of the reason that the Six Nations Reserve is so infuriated following a Superior Court injunction this morning, in which Hydro One is attempting to commence legal proceedings against the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council — effectively dragging sovereign Heads of State into the Courts of Canada to be criminally prosecuted on allegations that they are trespassing on their own lands.
The Haudenosaunee Council is the confederated legislative body of six sovereign nations. It is the oldest still-existant constitutional democracy in the world, in continuous existence since the founding of the Great Law of Peace in 1141. It’s a body of law that predates the Magna Carta by nearly 75 years.
Hydro One named the sovereign Chiefs, along with the Haudenosaunee Development Institute and eighteen individuals — many of them officials of the Confederacy government — in a Statement of Claim that accuses them of trespassing on lands to which the Haudenosaunee have readily available proof that they hold rightful title.
Hydro One’s contention that it owns the 76-kilometer easement known as the Niagara Reinforcement Line (NRL) is provoking political discontent on the Reserve, and blockades of area roadways are expected.
The Haudenosaunee have had a cease and desist order in place against Hydro One since January 21, 2019, and considered the company’s attempt to secretly restart construction work on the NRL line on Friday as an incident of criminal trespassing and contravention of their authority.
The NRL runs from Hamilton to Niagara Falls, through lands over which the Haudenosaunee continue to hold sovereign title — asserting the capacities of sovereign jurisdiction and eminent domain. Tribal civil regulatory powers are recognized in United States Courts.
“Hydro One is conspiring with federal Indian agents at SNEC to defraud us of our use and possession of our land,” explains one Haudenosaunee activist. “SNEC has no claim to that land. That they are accusing us of trespassing is laughable on its face.”
Activists are alleging that Matt Jamieson, who runs SNEC’s economic development corporation, made a deal with Hydro One and the Ontario Ministry of Energy that effectively defrauded the Haudenosaunee of 300 megawatts of renewable energy that was instead funneled to his economic development corporation for ‘new projects’.
The terms of that agreement — which activists say constitute criminal conspiracy — requires that the new NRL is “in-service” by September 1, 2019.
In exchange for Jamieson ignoring his quasi-fiduciary obligations as an Indian Agent to the Haudenosaunee on behalf of the Crown, Jamieson would be able to siphon valuable energy assets towards SNEC development projects in which his family would gain, they argue.
The easement is part of the Plank Road Tract, a parcel of land that has long been under claim and pending in the Court of Claims since 1987.
The Haudenosaunee government continues to hold sovereign title to the Haldimand Tract, as signatories to the Haldimand Treaty of 1784. The Haudenosaunee were not compensated for a series of land lease agreements that allowed Canada to build a plank road between Hamilton and Port Dover, in order to conduct commerce in the interior of the Great Lakes. Rather than honoring the terms of the lease agreement, Canada — in a fashion beneath the dignity of the Crown — instead fraudulently parceled and sold much of that land to newcomers.
But the Haudenosaunee, as a sovereign government, assert powers of eminent domain over Treaty lands — a twelve-mile swath of land that meanders along the Grand River from its source to Lake Erie.
The Haudenosaunee exercised an eminent domain action in 2006 against Douglas Creek Estates, a housing development near Caledonia that had not been properly sanctioned by the Haudenosaunee. The Ontario Provincial Police conducted violent raids against Haudenosaunee women and children who were conducting ceremonies on the land, a procedural act of reclamation and repossession. Political unrest engulfed the community and major roadways and rail lines were blockaded near Haudenosaunee communities across Ontario and Quebec.
That land has been repossessed under Haudensaunee domain and is now known as Kanonhstaton.
Another eminent domain action is being enforced at the Reserve’s Central Administration Building, which has been shut down since May 27 and made inaccessible to the Six Nations Elected Council (SNEC), a federal agency that is governed by the Indian Act of 1876. That eminent domain action could be temporary if SNEC signs an acknowledgment letter recognizing their limited role as an arm of the Canadian government, merely tasked with delivering services congruent with longstanding Treaty obligations.
Haudenosaunee activists allege that SNEC officials have been making criminally fraudulent misrepresentations regarding the jurisdictional capacities of that federal agency. They argue that Jamieson has defrauded counterparties — including Hydro One — with fictitious jurisdictional claims that advance development deals promoted by his father, the former Bank of Montreal executive Ron Jamieson.
Jamieson is the subject of new corruption allegations that he and his family are heavily invested in the newly emerging Indian cannabis industry. Haudenosaunee investigators allege that Jamieson’s son is operating several dispensaries without SNEC permits, seemingly in contravention of a cannabis control law that he played a leading role in writing and passing in February.
That law ‘intentionally’ infringes on Haudenosaunee regulatory jurisdiction and attempts to further criminalize Haudenosaunee people who are living and working within a sovereign scope of jurisdiction.
“It’s a vindictive criminalization of Haudenosaunee youth, who are being criminalized for honoring the sanctity of their traditional government,” another Haudenosaunee activist explains.
“If Matt Jamieson is criminalizing our youth while operating dispensaries without the permits he demands of us, then criminal charges should be brought against him,” she insists.