Alexander MacDonald stands by his Hooterville home, which he fears will be seized by the province. (Submitted)

Letters: A thank-you and update from Hooterville

First and foremost, I wish to express my gratitude to the many people in Queen Charlotte, Skidegate, and from every community on Haida Gwaii who have expressed concern and offered support to Patrick and me in our bid to continue living in our homes in the west end of Charlotte. Thank you very much everyone who has approached and shook my hand, asked how I was doing, and wished me the best.

Thank you also to everyone who has signed the petition requesting the village council to intervene on our behalf. Thanks too for the “likes” and comments on social media. All of these loving offerings have contributed to assuaging some of the anxiety, confusion, frustration, and shame I’ve experienced in this process.

Also, I want to offer an update on Patrick’s and my eviction. On Nov. 28 we received the verdict, and it has taken until now to translate the legalese in which the 12-page response was given. It seems that the province (FLNRORD) was mistaken or misrepresented the situation when they informed Patrick and I that our belongings had been seized. The judge forwent ruling on our injunction to stop the FLNRORD from bulldozing our homes before we were found guilty of wrongdoing stating, “I note that a seizure has not been effected, and therefore there is no need to address the (injunction) order sought.” Patrick and I have a court date next July to determine if we are actually guilty of illegally occupying Crown land.

My third intention is to offer some clarity about my house and life in Hooterville. Some people were angry that we in Hooterville and Frog Flats weren’t paying taxes. In fact, Patrick, Kevin, and I had paid all the taxes up to when we were evicted. The village staff told us they could neither charge nor accept taxes from people who had been evicted. Later former Mayor Martin made a remark in public that I had never paid any taxes. He was mistaken. In fact I have paid all taxes for which I’ve been billed and I want to continue to pay taxes. Further, I am unhappy to potentially be accumulating a tax bill I have no access to pay. The debt could be accumulating interest and penalties — all the while I am missing opportunities to access homeowner grants for which, as a person of limited fiscal resources, I would be eligible. I want to be able to pay like everyone else, to contribute to the community I have chosen as my home.

Some people have suggested I landed in Hooterville over 20 years ago with the intention of thumbing my nose at the authorities. This could hardly be farther from the truth. In fact, the agreement to purchase the improvements to the land (house, greenhouse, woodshed, outhouse) was conditional upon my successfully getting the Licence of Occupation the province was offering.

I bought the improvements to the land, the seller left the islands, and then I got a printed version of the licence agreement. Immediately it became clear there had been miscommunication and misunderstandings about the terms of the licence. A wiser person would have either accepted the licence on faith, as the province suggested, or backed away from the whole deal. I did neither, and so I made a mistake. As often happens when one is behaving in a wrong-headed manner, I continued to make mistakes.

Throughout this process I sincerely believed I was acting with honour. Even though my intentions were noble, I made the additional mistake of inviting the generous, kind, and venerable Chief Skidegate into my mess. He unhesitatingly gave me his support and endorsed my continued living in my house, on the land for which he was responsible.

I say I made a mistake because, although I believe right to the centre of my being that Haida Gwaii is Haida land, there is much going on beyond my understanding. It was audacious and xants’iiga for me to spill provincial and municipal business into the lap of my magnanimous hosts. I am embarrassed and ashamed of my inability to see the bigger picture. I am humbled by the ongoing support I receive, even though my mistakes are clear. The support I have received here, on the beach in Hooterville, and on Haida Gwaii, has been an essential part of my healing, and relief from past pain.

Finally, my house in Hooterville is my only home and constitutes the extent of my worldly wealth. I was refused a life licence from the province a few years ago because I had not yet passed the vacant land in Ontario from my parents to my kids as my parents had instructed. I have since done so.

I’m open to address any other questions anyone may have about my house and life in Hooterville. I am happy and grateful to be a member of the island community and ask people to forgive me my trespasses, and continue to support Patrick’s and my on going occupation of our homes.

Thank you for your attention to this matter and please accept my best wishes for the new year.

Alexander MacDonald

Hooterville

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