A 29-year-old First Nations man said he doesn’t know where to turn after leaders from the Williams Lake Indian Band had police forcibly remove him from his family home and community Wednesday.
“I grew up there and it hurts to be dragged out like that. It’s stressful … it hurts even more to be put out of the community,” Sheldon Wycotte said Thursday, the morning after three RCMP removed him from the home of his late grandfather Raymond Ned Moise, a respected elder in the community.
“I am taking a stand and fighting for my right to stay here with my girlfriend and our one-year-old child,” Wycotte told the Tribune Wednesday, in the hours before the eviction. “I have lived in this house since I was about 13 or 14 years old.”
Wycotte said he moved back into the home on Monday, May 16, against the will of leadership, after briefly renting a “rat and mouse-infested” home nearby that had no heat or hot water.
“My grandfather believed he owned the house,” Wycotte said, noting his late grandfather helped build it in 1983. “Three months after my grandpa passed last September the band started trying to charge me rent and sign a residential tenancy agreement.”
The band also wanted him to move out so they could renovate the house and told him they would decide afterwards if they would let him move back in, Wycotte said.
“They told me I had to go for family treatment, live a drug-free life, make amends to elders, make amends to councillors. I have been to treatment and sober since November 2014. I have never sold drugs.”
On Thursday Wycotte said he had also just received word that he lost his labour job on the band’s development project as well.
In an e-mailed reply to the Tribune, Williams Lake Indian Band manager Marg Shelley said the band did not want to comment on the specific details of the eviction to “respect the privacy of the individual involved.”
However, she shared some details on the band’s housing policy.
There are 101 homes on the reserve. The band manages and owns 26 units of rental housing and 29 band-owned housing.
There are also 46 private homes where band members have purchased or built their own homes.
“We have strong housing policies and procedures in place that allow for fair and equal treatment of tenants while ensuring the well-being of all members that live here,” Shelley noted. “In rare circumstances, we must make the difficult decision to end our tenancy relationship with individuals.”
Tenancy may end, she said, if there is a failure to pay rent, illegal activities occurring in the home, excessive disruptive behaviour after written warning, unsanitary conditions of the home, damage not covered by damage deposit, too many people living in the house as defined by the National Occupancy Standard, failure to comply with the Residential Tenancy Agreement signed by the band and the tenant, tenant has assigned or sublet the premises without the band’s consent, abandonment of the unit, refusal to resolve disputes and uncontrolled pets.
Band and council declined to comment.
Sugar Cane resident April Thomas, who supports Wycotte’s position, said the band’s housing policy was imposed on the membership in 2010 without proper consultation and consent.
“They are using that policy to their own advantage and they ignore it when band members are trying to get disclosure of information,” Thomas said.
No one can get their houses in their name, she added.
Sugar Cane Elder Helen Sandy said the band and its employees are picking on a family and making them homeless.
“My house was built at the same time as Raymond’s in 1983,” Sandy said. “We paid off our homeowner’s grant, we put our own labour into the houses, we worked really hard.”
Wycotte said he was released by the RCMP on a promise to appear in court in August on conditions he won’t go back into Sugar Cane.
He is hoping the conditions will be dropped.