Eviction notices not worrying Hooterville residents

  • Nov. 12, 2008 9:00 a.m.

By Heather Ramsay–Nobody, not the construction worker who can’t work due to his disability, not the small business people running the only working shellfish aquaculture operation on the north coast, not the Haida argillite carver who hunts and grows hundreds of pounds of potatoes every summer, nor the man who has been the most vocal advocate for the residents of the waterfront area known as Hooterville/Frog Flats/Bearskin Bay want to move. But they and six other households were given trespass notices last month, which require them to remove all improvements, goods, chattels and other materials from the land by this Saturday Nov. 15, coincidentally election day in Queen Charlotte. Kevin Gibson has appealed to the QC Council to advocate in favour of his fellow residents several times over the last few years and is frustrated by this latest development. He can’t believe that he and the others are being kicked out on their ears as winter approaches. “The assumption that people can hire a crew and tear their places down and find somewhere to put it in 30 days is pretty unreasonable,” he says. Not that he has any intention to move anyway. “We don’t agree that there is any necessity to move. There is no legitimate reason to kick us all out.” Mr. Gibson and other residents along the far western portion of the QC waterfront have been in limbo since June 2006 when the province allowed several licenses to occupy to lapse. In Sept. 2007 representatives from the ministry responsible for Crown Lands held a meeting with residents and told them the province intends to return the area to “its natural state” as requested in a Oct. 2006 letter signed by Guujaaw, the president of the Haida Nation.At the time, Dean Cherkas, manager of Crown Land Adjudication, noted there area is a known Haida village site due to the midden found there, and there were other problems concerning sewer and grey water systems in the area, as well as health and safety issues and the unauthorized removal of trees. Mr. Gibson says none of these are insurmountable. He’s personally worked hard to contain his waste in a composting outhouse with high cement walls and has even protected the midden from the run-off coming from the industrial site across the road. He has written a letter to Guujaaw and is still trying to get clarification from the CHN on its position, especially what is meant by “a natural state.” Human occupation is not outside the natural state of things, he says. In the meantime, he has been working with other residents and has come up with a rough proposal, which asks for probationary tenure. It suggests all rental/lease fees must be paid in advance each year or on a monthly basis and municipal taxes and other service fees would be billed separately. Lessees must protect the archaeological area and the environment of the foreshore and if at the end of a three-year probation the lessee is in good standing then a longer term tenure should be offered. “It’s not set in stone,” he says, “but it’s a start.”What really bugs Mr. Gibson is that the province is taking a position against a bunch of people who are trying to either live simply or operate sustainable businesses.Rick Lozon and Geena Kungal own QCI Shellfish and grow scallops and oysters on an aquaculture leasehold in Kagan Bay. Their place, just east of the log sort, is an important part of their venture.Mr. Lozon says that behind every successful aquaculture operation, there’s a land base where the operator can repair boats, nets and equipment. He also needs access to power to operate live tanks for the larvae to develop.He says the conditions at this site are perfect for his operation, not only does he have good relations with his neighbours, but it is somewhat sheltered and near an existing commercial area.And he’s already up and running there. “What’s the difference if Rick moves anywhere along the waterfront or stays where he is,” asks his partner Geena Kungl. Mr. Lozon finds it ironic the province is trying to evict a self-supporting farming operation, while at the same time injecting millions into promoting aquaculture as a viable option for the North Coast economy. He’d like a long-term lease so he can invest more in the hatchery and work on supplying larvae to others. Mr. Gibson says most of the public don’t know about the reality of the lives of people who live in his neighbourhood. Those who some candidates called “those people” at the QC all-candidates debate are living very authentic, hard working lives, he says. Rob Hart has been living just west of the sort since 1988. He received a license of occupation in 1989. He’s in a 12 x 22 foot cabin with a woodstove, propane lights and a battery radio. Why? “I’m a quiet person, I like it, and I have no money,” he says. In the past Mr. Hart has worked in carpentry, mechanics, concrete, anything to do with construction, he says. He’s helped build or pour concrete for most government buildings in Charlotte and around the islands. But in 1988 he herniated two discs in his back and later he was afflicted with Dupuytren’s contracture, which affects the ligaments and forces his hands to curl into a claw. His injuries are work related but he can’t get disability because the damage came on gradually and isn’t associated to any one accident. He says, now he can’t work and he’s not in a position to move. After all the hard work he’s done in the community he can’t believe what’s happening. “Now that I’m a useless citizen, its like, get out! I think its criminal to throw a disabled person on to the sidewalk,” he says. Mr. Gibson doesn’t believe anyone will be dragged out on Saturday, but he has been consulting a lawyer to discuss options. Michael Brown, a Haida, born and raised on the islands, isn’t worried about what might happen to his 10 x 15 cabin. He bought the tiny cabin, which sits near the road, three years ago, but has no agreement with the government about the land. “Why should I rent my own land back to me,” he says. “I feel like a foreigner in my own land.” He’s angry that no council, not his or Queen Charlotte’s, have consulted with him or taken the time to talk with him about what’s going on. Meanwhile, Mr. Brown, an artist featured in the new Breathing Stone book, continues to carve his elaborate argillite sculptures and other works. And he doesn’t need a big space. He goes out and gets his own food or grows it and lives very simply in his waterfront home. As for what he’ll do come eviction day, “I’m going to play golf,” he says.