By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: May 5, 2012
John Martins has had enough.
Martins is suing the provincial government for failing to live up to their promise and stress caused by its ‘apathetic’ attitude over resolving land error issue in Squamish Valley.
“I live in a no man’s land, and it’s extremely stressful,” Martins said.
Martins stutters when he speaks, a condition he says has worsened over the past one year because of the stress.
His family is one among the nine landowners rendered landless after a surveying error revealed the land actually belonged to the Cheakamus Indian reserve.
Last week, the Squamish Reporter interviewed people who were affected by the error.
Landowners were promised the issue will be resolved at no cost to them.
“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.”
These were just some of the assurances given by Pat Bell, the then minister of Forests, Mines, and Lands, to landowners in a letter.
The minister also hinted at a possible land swap with the First Nations, which never happened.
Now, the province is offering them money, the only option they are asked to take.
Martins owns one-third of an acre on Squamish Valley and he has lived there for the last 32 years.
He is being offered $310,000 for his house on one-third of an acre, an amount he says is simply won`t enough to buy a similar property anywhere else in Squamish.
“You can’t even buy a town house for that much in Squamish,” he says.
Martins said what really frustrates him is the province didn`t make much effort to facilitate a land swap with First Nations so the landowners like him could stay put.
Even more infuriating, he says, is their unwillingness to negotiate over property value.
In their offer, the province is discounting the home and land improvements he has made.
“I could have sold my house during the Olympics, but I didn’t because I want to live there,” he said.
Martins said it doesn’t matter to him if the lawsuit creates more stress on his life and on his finances.
“I don’t care, but I want the province to realise they should stop screwing with people’s lives,” he said.
Provincial spokesperon Brennan Clarke said seven of the nine property owners are at various stages of the compensation process. As of November 2011 only five property owners had opted to take part, he said.
He said the province had explored the idea of land exchange with the First Nation, but determined that it was a long and complex option that may take years to accomplish, given that the Cheakamus Indian Reserve is federal land.