By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: April 27, 2012
It’s been a little over a year since Rollie Clarke and Ulrika Moodie found they didn’t own the five-acre lot in Squamish Valley they thought they owned.
In February last year, it was revealed that a 100-year old land error had mistakenly provided a ten-acre given land owned by Cheamus Indian reserves to people like Clarke.
Clark and Moddie were one among the nine property owners who suddenly found themselves in this unexpected limbo.
A year later, some of them still inhabit this no-man’s land, ruing their fate and waiting for a solution that has yet to arrive.
“This has added so much stress to our lives,” says Clarke, who runs a trucking business from his five-acre lot.
“You don’t know whether you are leaving, you don’t know whether you are staying.”
A letter he received from Pat Bell, the then minister of Forests, Mines, and Lands, last year was full of tender assurances.
“I assure you the provincial government will work to correct this situation soon as possible…We will work with you to fully resolve any issues…The government will complete this process without any financial impact to you.”
Bell had also hinted at a land swap with the First Nations to ensure the owners could keep their land and stay.
A few months later, they were asked to sign an indemnity agreement which said they would receive $3,000 dollar to cover legal cost.
They were also advised to get a lawyer.
One year later, Clarke says the province makes no mention of negotiating with the First Nations, and has offered only one solution to the problem.
Take the money and go away.
They are offering fair market value, but Clarke says the amount isn’t reasonable.
“We paid for the fill when we bought this, we did extensive renovations to the home, and where else would we find a property like this in Squamish,” he said.
That same question riles Jay Bicknell, a neighbour of Clarke, and an owner of an ecotourism company. Bicknell owns two properties he bought in the last 90s; he rents one and lives in the other.
His biggest worry is his mortgage renewal, which he knows the bank wouldn’t do because he’s no longer the owner.
He can’t sell it, he can’t transfer it; his only option might be to take the buyout.
“I own a business, and I have 4 vans, 4 boats, I have a fuelling station, where will I find a place in Squamish for the $300,000 the government is offering,” he said.
Provincial spokersperson Brennan Clark said the province explored the idea of land exchange with the First Nation and determined that this is a long and complex option that may take years to accomplish, given that the Cheakamus Indian Reserve is federal land.
“Instead, we have offered compensation packages to all the affected property owners,” he said.
Two families have reported to have taken the offer. The homes they lived in once sit empty and deserted, a fate that awaits other homes in this area.