Province to seize two Haida Gwaii homes, two residents face homelessness

Homes built in Hooterville near Queen Charlotte are considered Crown land

After a decades-long legal saga, time seems to be running out for two of the last three people living in Hooterville.

In April, Alexander MacDonald and Patrick Lemaire were hand-delivered a warning from a provincial lands officer saying the homes they built on Crown land in west-end Queen Charlotte are illegal and they have until July 31 to comply with a trespass notice they received in 2015.

Failing to comply means the province can remove, sell, or demolish whatever is left on site.

“If this is real, then all I can do is walk away with whatever I can carry,” MacDonald said, gesturing at the books, art, furniture, and weekly men’s group circle in a house he built with community support after his previous one washed away in a storm two days before Christmas 2003.

“I don’t understand how we got there, because last I heard we were going to court, and there is still a case before the court,” he said.

On July 20, MacDonald planned to represent himself and Lemaire at court in Terrace, where he had hoped to get an injunction against the province’s enforcement of the trespass notice.

MacDonald said he was advised to do that after a single meeting with a lawyer — all the legal help he could find or afford for his unique situation — because the province brought a court case against him but never finished it.

However, the province applied for and was granted a general adjournment of that case in November. As part of the application, MacDonald included a letter from Yaahldaaju, Gary Russ, who said he is the Haida who owns the land and has a lease agreement with McDonald.

“I would like Canada and B.C. to show me proof of ownership,” Yaahldaaju wrote.

But late last week, MacDonald’s application was also adjourned.

In 2015, shortly after MacDonald and Lemaire were served the trespass notices, Leonard Munt, manager of the Haida Gwaii Natural Resource District, said that after decades of shifting agreements between the province and Hooterville residents, the trespass notices were final.

“All the other options have been exhausted,” he told the Observer, adding that the district tried hard to get a variance for the few people then remaining in the area.

But while the variance worked for one resident, it came with conditions that MacDonald couldn’t meet.

MacDonald applied for a licence under the variance, but with some changes and a letter outlining his objections.

His application was never granted.

One of the criteria MacDonald couldn’t meet was a test for low-income status because of some inherited land he had in Ontario. MacDonald said he always intended to pass that land to his children, and he has recently done so.

That land aside, MacDonald said it was easy to show that all his life earnings — about $100,000 — have gone into his home.

Besides about $1,500 cash and whatever belongings he can carry, MacDonald now has nothing else.

“If this is gone, I’m homeless,” he said.

“And on top of it, they say they will charge me any cost associated with cleaning up the area. That will bankrupt me.”

Kevin Gibson is one of MacDonald’s two remaining neighbours, and he remembers what Hooterville was like even before MacDonald moved there in 1995, before its population dwindled due to cancelled Crown land tenures, deaths, re-locations, and a suspected arson fire.

“The residents have done a lot of work to clean it up,” Gibson said, noting how different the land looked even 30 years ago.

“There was all this wreckage from different industries, especially tow boating, logging, fishing, booming, saw-milling,” he said.

“Everywhere you went there were big rusty chunks of machines and abandoned vehicles and lots and lots and lots of garbage.”

Despite the many legal notices, public meetings, appeals to Haida hereditary leaders, and bureaucratic ins and outs, Gibson said he thinks what is happening to MacDonald and Lemaire is basically part of a move to gentrify Queen Charlotte by removing low-income people.

“I believe that’s the plan,” Gibson said. “I have all along.”

MacDonald said he keeps thinking back to something his brother said when he bought his original house in Hooterville in 1995, which even then was done with a one-off variance to a plan intended to wind up all the Hooterville tenures as residents moved or passed away.

“He said, ‘Well, it seemed like you just jumped off the dock onto a mattress covering a bunch of bowling balls,’” MacDonald said.

“I don’t know how he knew, but that’s pretty much how it’s been — all over the place. I had no sense at all. I just thought I was buying the house.”

READ MORE: Hooterville solution contradicts province’s intent


 


andrew.hudson@haidagwaiiobserver.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Queen Charlotte

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Snow flurries, cold temperatures in Cariboo-Chilcotin forecast

DriveBC reports road maintenance on Highway 97, Highway 20

COVID-19: New system in Wells helps neighbours check up on each other

A green square in your window means your household is well; a red square means you need assistance

WASHOUT: Slide at Soda Creek MacAlister Road makes road impassable

Next update on DriveBC is expected on Monday, March 30 at noon.

Spreading joy through music: Local musicians brighten everyone’s day on social media

LeRae Haynes and Evan Jensen post two songs online every day

LETTERS: COVID-19 will impact us all, one way or another

Let me say that our hospital staff are heroes

Canada expands 75% wage subsidy to COVID-19 affected businesses of all sizes: Trudeau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

Cruise ships, one with COVID-19 on board, carry Canadians covertly through Panama Canal

Zaandam, Rotterdam pass through canal under cover of darkness in face of local protests

’The energy sector is destroyed beyond repair’: expert on COVID-19’s impact on economy

‘That’s never been heard of before; no one sells oil for $4 a barrel.’ – Dan McTeague

LifeLabs reducing public hours as it assists with COVID-19 testing

Coronavirus tests not done at B.C. patient centres, referrals only

24,000 Canadian Forces members ready for COVID-19 response: Defence Minister

No direct requests made by premiers yet, national defence minister says

IN DEPTH: How B.C. emptied its hospitals to prepare for COVID-19

Thousands of beds have been freed up, but patients and seniors have had to sacrifice

‘Nothing concrete’: Tenants, landlords lack details after B.C. unveils COVID-19 rental aid

Single mom in Golden says she’s already going to the food bank after being laid off

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

Most Read