Hamilton's Public Works, Infrastructure and Environment committee adopted a resolution on Monday "that the City commence a Court Action against all identifiable individuals who, during the summer of 2004, participated in activities in contravention of the City's Injunction Order, seeking to have them held in contempt of Court."
The city obtained an injunction in September 2003 to prevent anyone from entering a zone several kilometres in length and several hundred metres wide in the Red Hill Valley. In includes parts of a heavily-travelled road that crosses the Niagara Escarpment.
The resolution was debated in secret and appears to have been recommended by outside lawyer David Estrin who attended the in camera meeting. It will be presented for ratification at the next meeting of Hamilton City Council on Wednesday evening, November 24. Estrin is a partner in the firm of Gowlings Lafleur Henderson.
Some fear hundreds of people could face prosecution if the decision is approved, including four individuals who participated in a peaceful 105-day tree-sit that ended in early September. It is not clear whether the 200 participants in August's Red Hill Literary Festival could be targeted. Festival attendees were video-taped by police and security officials. Individuals who continue to utilize the walking trails in the area on weekends may also be at risk of charges.
The expressway issue has deeply divided Hamilton for decades. It was identified as the main issue in last fall's mayoralty elections which were won by the chair of the expressway implementation committee. However, the leading anti-expressway candidate took more than 40% of the votes.
In July of 2003, the city drew widespread criticism when it issued a letter to about 30 individuals threatening to sue them and seize their homes if they interfered with the construction of the expressway. That letter was signed by the acting city solicitor, but she later admitted it had actually been written by Gowlings lawyers.
That law firm was originally engaged by Hamilton to stop a federal environmental assessment of the controversial expressway. In accomplishing that task, Gowlings billed the city about $3.5 million. Since the conclusion of that case, they have collected an additional $1 million for Red Hill related activities.
Discussion of the Red Hill court actions against citizens and federal ministers and employees is on the City of Hamilton's agenda Wednesday, November 24, 7:00 pm.
Editor's note: The organizers of the Red Hill Valley Literary Festival, featuring Dave Bidini, Sarah Harmer, Gary Barwin and John Terpstra, do not believe that the festival took place in the area designated by the City of Hamilton as closed to the public.