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Campground residents hire lawyer

Concerned residents of the Beecher Bay campground gather for a meeting to discuss the 30-day notice given to them on July 11, 2013. - Britt Santowski
Concerned residents of the Beecher Bay campground gather for a meeting to discuss the 30-day notice given to them on July 11, 2013.
— image credit: Britt Santowski

The tenants at the Beecher Bay First Nation’s campground continue efforts to obtain an extension to their current Notice to Vacate, which is set for August 11.

The residents have contracted the services of lawyer L. John Alexander.

On July 19, 2013, Alexander sent a letter to the Beecher Bay First Nations pointing out that the transitory nature of the “campground” was questionable as there were many residents who had lived there “in excess of 20 years.” He references English common law and in his letter to the band writes that “a person who pays half yearly in advance, becomes entitled to six months’ notice of termination.”

There are tenants who pay monthly, twice annually, annually, and several years in advance.

Alexander also points out the dubious nature of the notice.

“It does not appear to comply with the existing Land Code, or the FNLMA (First Nations Land Management Act). It is not even necessarily from a properly identified ‘landlord’,” reads the letter.

As band member Lucy Charles pointed out at the residents’ meeting on July 20, the Notice to Vacate was not printed on letterhead, nor does it contain names or signatures of authorized band members.

The campers are requesting that the directive to vacate be extended until November 30, 2013.

At the meeting updating the residents, held on July 20, Owen Seeton referenced a number of other projects that were supposed to happen, but never did.

Research shows that in 2010, Beecher Bay proposed to bring in a destination resort and casino. In 2011, a “Garbage to Gas” project and in 2012, there was talk of a Fish Hatchery. According to Seeton, when rumours started about the development of a village with no proposal or contract yet in place, the campers had developed a degree of numbness to the possibility of an eviction in the near future and proceeded to live life as usual on the campground.

During this period of frequent proposals and explorations of developments, sales of structures — some more permanent than others — were allowed to continue, contributing to the notion of business as usual.

In fairness to the Beecher Bay First Nations, the need for an economic driver is clear. According to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development of Canada’s 2006 Census statistics, 15 of the 90 reserve residents over 15 years of age have a high school diploma or an equivalent, and 10 have a trades or apprenticeship training.

The band’s employment rate was at 50.0 per cent in 2006. According to Statistics Canada, the B.C. employment rate for June 2013 is 60.2 per cent, and Canada-wide it is 61.9 per cent.

A strong majority of Beecher Bay First Nation Band members voted in favour of modifying the Land Agreement. The vote held by on July 10, 2013 was to change the terms of the Land Agreement, increasing the period of a lease from 35 years to 99 years. The day after the vote that enabled the modification of the Land Agreement, residents were given a 30-day notice to vacate. There is no contract with any developer, nor has the band voted on accepting any contract. Although the band has indicated that discussions were underway with David Butterfield of Trust for Sustainable Development (TSD.ca).

All attempts to contact David Butterfield of Trust for Sustainable Land Development, have been unsuccessful.

Current Chief Russell Chips is in his fourth term as Chief. Each term is two years. The next band elections will be held in October 2013.

The issue at hand is not whether or not the residents of the campground should vacate, but how much notice they should be given. Given that many have established permanent residency at the campground that exceed 20 years, and backed by documentation demonstrating rental terms that exceed the standard month-to-month tenancy, they feel that a mid-month notice for 30 days in not sufficient.

The residents at the Beecher Bay Marina campground want more time to relocate.

Despite repeated efforts to contact the band by phone, email and in person, the Sooke News Mirror was unable to obtain a comment from Chief Russell Chipps, Councillors Gordon Charles and Bernice Millette, or spokesperson Sharon Chipps.

 

news@sookenewsmirror.com

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