By Kenneth Jackson
APTN National News
The mother of a child who died of leukemia last year in Tyendinaga has asked a court to order an injunction to force an immediate hearing to determine whether the band has done proper water testing on the reserve.
Dawn Sero filed the document in a Belleville, Ont. court Friday because she isn’t convinced the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory has done proper testing.
Sero’s daughter Paula, 13, died late last year of leukemia and is one of three children diagnosed with the acute lymphoblastic leukemia in a short span of time.
“I’m trying to find out what happened to Paula,” said Sero, pausing for a few seconds, “She was fine before we moved here.”
Shawn Brant’s daughter was one of the other children and she is still battling the disease in a Toronto hospital. Brant is also named as an applicant in the court motion.
Water issues have been an on-going problem on the Mohawk reserve, particularly around the closed landfill, about a 20 minutes drive east of Belleville.
They’ve been under a boil water advisory for years and late last year, because of the cases of cancer, the issue erupted with emotional community meetings attended by hundreds of people.
Other children have developed body sores and there have been other forms of cancer pop up. Just recently a toddler was diagnosed with stage four liver and lung cancer. Another child has a brain tumour.
The band maintains the water is safe to drink and had an expert attend a meeting to say he didn’t believe water was tied to the type of cancer the children got.
Still, after the meetings Health Canada agreed to pay for about 30 homes to be tested. The band has said the results came back showing the water was fine to consume.
Yet, the band won’t release the results of the tests.
“What are they hiding?” said Sero. “The band said they were going to have a meeting to show the results and haven’t.”
The band’s lawyer Roger Horst said privacy restricts the band from releasing the results.
The latest court filing comes on the heels of Brant’s motion filed in the same court in January as reported by APTN National News.
Brant said that motion would have led to a hearing in the middle of June, but he believes one is needed now and hopes the court forces one. Also, there was concern the entire hearing would be taken up by arguments about whether the case should be heard at all.
He said up until now the band has tried to delay the matter with procedural issues.
“As far as I am concerned, whenever I have been wrongly accused of something I bypass preliminary hearings and tell the judge I want an immediate hearing because I want it done and dealt with,” said Brant. “These guys have been making statements there is no basis to the claim yet they are using community resources to challenge this at every angle. An innocent person wants a hearing.”
Horst said he was unaware of the recent court document and denied the band has tried to stall a hearing.
“We didn’t do anything to stop a hearing from taking place. There was the government of Canada and government of Ontario who had taken the position that the application was inappropriate because of the facts in dispute,” said Horst.
Both governments were named in the initial filing and in the latest.
The court motion is mostly focused on the Tyendinaga landfill.
The band was required to complete a closure report and conduct water monitoring tests to ensure toxic chemicals didn’t leach into the ground water directly below. But documents Brant says he has uncovered say no such tests were ever done.
Brant said he can prove a closure report was never completed.
The landfill was opened in 1968 and sits on fractured bed rock and below that is an aquifer many residents use for drinking water. The dump is also about 100 metres from a creek that drains into the Bay of Quinte.
The documents allege that no retaining liner was placed over the bed rock. Instead the earth was dug out and the garbage, that included paints, tires, hydro carbons and construction waste, was placed on the broken stone.