Family questions trespass notice from Masset military

  • Jul. 15, 2013 12:00 p.m.

by Sarah Peerless-A Masset family is questioning the actions of Department of National Defence staff, after they were ordered to remove an outhouse from a popular berry picking area near the military’s large listening post installation. Marlene Liddle said she and her family, and many other people, have used the area – popularly known as Ops Beach – for generations to harvest strawberries, huckleberries, spruce roots, even to catch octopus. They also enjoy camping, beachcoming and quad riding in the area. The beach and surrounding campsites are traditional Haida land, Ms Liddle said. “I grew up using the area,” she said. At the campsite was an old shelter, and behind that, an even older outhouse that had stood for at least the past 15 years. Ms Liddle and her family replaced the old outhouse with a newer and safer one two weeks ago. To Ms Liddle’s dismay, while her family was using the area last week, a sign was posted on the outhouse by an unknown member of the military detachment in Masset, claiming the outhouse was an illegal building, had been built without the approval of the Minister of National Defence, and violated the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. The sign told the builders of the outhouse that it needed to be taken down by July 7, and after that date, the outhouse would be removed on their behalf. “They didn’t come to speak to us,” Ms Liddle says, even though her family was not far away and the sign poster could have spoken to them about the construction. After the incident, Ms Liddle contacted the commanding officer at the base. According to Ms Liddle, she was told several things that irked her, including that First Nations people have already been compensated for the land that they are now purportedly trespassing on. “In the end, it’s not about the outhouse,” she said. No treaties were made and Ms Liddle said the land is still traditional Haida land, not Crown land. She recently sent an email to the Department of National Defense stating that destroying any structure she builds within traditional territory will be seen as the willful destruction of private property of a Haida citizen. In an email to the Observer, Ms Liddle explained her position. “Regardless of the DND having a ‘lease’ or ‘licence of occupation’ over that area for the radio station or ‘elephant trap’ or whatever you want to call it I am hereby giving notice that as a Haida I will not be pushed out, or bullied out of accessing an area that my family and generations before me have accessed for pleasure, and for food gathering!” she wrote. “Your ‘occupation’ of my traditional lands have altered the appearance and use on a much larger scale than my little outhouse ever will! Your ‘golf course’ has ruined our berry picking areas, and our access to a large swath of land that covers acres! I think that we have a bigger issue that needs to be discussed, not only with myself, but with our community as a whole!” The Observer contacted the Department of National Defence about this story, but they were not able to respond in time for our deadline. We hope to have more information next week.