Hooterville issue to get CHN-backed public hearing

  • Jan. 30, 2009 10:00 a.m.

By Jeff King–The Council of the Haida Nation will be holding a public hearing on the Hooterville issue, likely in early May, and is inviting the Village of Queen Charlotte and the province to take part. At an informal, information-gathering meeting in Skidegate on Thursday, about twenty residents of Hooterville and Frog Flats told CHN president Guujaaw that the involvement of the CHN is important in their dispute with the province over leasing the land their homes sit on. “They (the province) have refused to issue any more licences there on the basis that it is a heritage site,” Hooterville resident Kevin Gibson told those attending, “Now, they have decided we are out. We have no legal recourse. There is only a political one.” Mr. Gibson said he was asking the CHN to clarify its views on the heritage status of the area in the west end of Queen Charlotte. “If the CHN does not want us to occupy the area, give us a clear statement and we will leave,” Mr. Gibson said.The issue has been brewing for years, and was raised in the municipal election in Queen Charlotte in November, as the province sent ten residents eviction notices coincidentally dated election day.Many residents believe the CHN has a strong role to play, since three years ago it wrote the village, saying the area should be returned to its natural state. That letter was used in the election to justify the village’s lack of support for the residents.Guujaaw said Tuesday’s meeting was called to get a clear picture of what’s going on and then determine what’s next. He said the issue “.seems to point back to us adding that “we are not going to take any responsibility for (people being evicted).”Those attending were able to express their frustration with a process that has seen them receive eviction notices and threats of having their homes bulldozed, with no apparent way out. “We’ve all helped with the land, I’ve been helping with the community ever since I came here, for eighteen years. I can’t see why we should have to move”, Bill Walker said, “I feel I am being violated, my rights as a father, as a human.”George Martynuik said “the government wants to get heavy-handed, Charlotte council wants to get heavy-handed, that doesn’t work. There are enough homeless people around,” he said and Rick Lauzon asked “Who is responsible for the land? The Crown, the Village of Queen Charlotte, or the CHN? It’s a very, very grey area, meanwhile people’s livelihoods are being affected”.Alexander MacDonald, one of the few residents without any lease licence at all, said he understood the CHN is the political body, “so I place more importance on what the CHN says to me than on the Village of Queen Charlotte. (The ultimate authority) is the Haida chief whose land I am on”, he said.Rob Hart, another resident, said “I have had nothing but trouble with the government. My licence was cancelled when I couldn’t come up with the money. They are hard to work with. I’ve been there for over 20 years. I’ve paid my dues. I don’t take kindly to threats. Now the town comes along. (Mayor) Carol (Kulesha) wants to do whatever she wants, seems like (she says) we don’t like you.” “There have been people occupying that land for a lot of years,” Mr. Hart said.Queen Charlotte councillor Leslie Johnson attended, but not as a representative of council. “I am on record as supporting the residents to stay in the area”, she said, “I hope we can find a way to work it out. Things can be corrected. It’s not a simple landlord/tenant issue. Who is the landlord? That’s where the CHN needs to be involved…”, she said.”We know some of the story. We know a certain amount, we don’t know everything. We want to give you the chance to lay out your story in front of our people, in front of our chiefs, in front of the Village of Queen Charlotte and the province,” Guujaaw said.The CHN will organize a public hearing, likely during the week of May 4. to hear all sides of the issue.Earlier, one resident expressed a concern that provincial bulldozers may roll as soon as the province enters a new fiscal year on April 1, but Guujaaw suggested that won’t be a problem. “You don’t have to worry about that,” the CHN president said.