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

Just Posted

Housing affordability in Northern B.C. sees slight improvements: report

Higher paying jobs mitigating effects of increased housing prices, Realtor says

Volunteers brave the rain for Earth Day clean-up

Positive Prince Rupert - Civic Pride clean-up held at the Pacific Mariners Memorial Park on Apr. 21

Prince Rupert students share portraits of kindness with children in Peru

The Memory Project gives teens a chance to sharpen their art skills and global awareness

Rupertykes descend on Pacific Mariners Memorial Park

The sun was out for the Rotary Club of Prince Rupert’s annual Easter egg hunt on Saturday, Apr. 20

Memorable quotes, moments, from Prince Rupert’s first TEDx

The city’s inaugural event was held at the Lester Centre, Apr. 19

Homeless activists outside Notre Dame demand ‘a roof too’

Wealthy people have donated millions to effort to rebuild cathedral after devastating fire

B.C. VIEWS: NDP’s lawyer show is turning into a horror movie

Court actions pile up over pipelines, car insurance, care aides

PHOTOS: Green Party Leader Elizabeth May says ‘I do’ on Earth Day

May and John Kidder got married Monday morning in Victoria

Fire forces 36 people at Vanderhoof care home to evacuate

No one was hurt after the fire at Stuart Nechako Manor

Sri Lanka invokes war-time military powers after nearly 300 killed in Easter bombings

Sri Lanka’s minister of tourism says 39 foreign tourists were killed in the Easter Sunday attacks

B.C. Interior yoga studio raises $2,500 for woman leaving abusive relationship

The 100 Mile House studio held a fundraiser yoga class and accepted donations from members to help the woman

Deadly synthetic drug found in Kamloops that puts users in ‘zombielike’ state

Interior Health warning says substance causes ‘speedy, trippy-like symptoms’ and hallucinations

Trudeau to be portrayed on ‘Simpsons’ episode

Toronto journalist who’s posted videos of himself doing impressions of the PM voiced him for the show

Elizabeth May’s wedding dress a ‘walk through a garden’ on Earth Day

Green Party leader set to get married in Victoria

Most Read