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Woman fights trail eviction
GNWT, Yellowknives Dene say woman had no permission to build home near Dettah turnoff

Katherine Hudson
Northern News Services
Published Monday, February 28, 2011

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - A woman living on a piece of land off the Ingraham Trail is disputing the eviction notice she received last year from the Supreme Court of the NWT.

NNSL photo/graphic

Agnes Christensen has lived on a parcel of land just off the Ingraham Trail for more than 10 years and is now being told she has to leave. - Katherine Hudson/NNSL photo

On April 23, 2010, Agnes Christensen was delivered an eviction notice stating Christensen and her son, who both own mobile homes on land past the turnoff to Dettah, must remove their homes, vehicles and other possessions from the area.

Both Chief Edward Sangris of Dettah and Chief Ted Tsetta of Ndilo have signed a letter supporting the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs's (MACA) action against Christensen for trespassing.

Christensen said although she is aboriginal, she is not a member of an aboriginal band.

Yet, she feels she is exercising her treaty rights in calling the land - commissioner's land she does not own - home.

She said she delivered notice in writing to the Yellowknives Dene when she moved onto the land and has worked hard to build a home there, living without power for four years and now paying taxes.

"I put it in writing for the Yellowknives Dene a day before I moved ... that I would be moving my building here, my house and my son's trailer," she said.

"I moved out here and the GNWT came to my door in 2000 and got information off of me. Then nobody does anything for this long and all of a sudden, bang."

She said her family previously owned a house in the city, but after the Giant Mine strike her family was forced to sell the house and rent until the owners sold the residence, giving the Christensens one month to find somewhere else to go.

She settled on the Ingraham Trail.

"They say I'm in default. Default of what? I was just exercising my treaty rights because I'm treaty ... My ancestors hunted and trapped in this area. I'm within my land-base and I'm not going to be going anywhere no matter what. I have to stand my ground," said Christensen.

She is appealing the Supreme Court's statement of claim that she has continued the occupation of the 3,025 square-metre parcel of land without consent of the commissioner of the NWT.

"The Yellowknives Dene had meetings, not notifying me of these meetings. They just made a decision that they didn't want me here," she said.

"They talk about sacred land. There was no sacred land here, it was all mattresses and broken bottles. We had to clean it up before we moved, and we're still cleaning it up."

John Carter, executive director of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, said the band has been asking MACA to have Christensen removed for several years.

"She's been asked repeatedly," he said. "She has occupied there without our permission. She's been flipping the band the bird for 15 years.

"She has disrespected our council for the last 15 years because she never asked permission in the first place and she was never given permission," said Carter.

He said the land was never supposed to be occupied and the treaty rights that Christensen is referring to deal with temporary housing during the hunting season.

"You cannot set up a permanent residence. That's not a treaty right.

"Twenty Yellowknives Dene can't go down to Lutsel K'e and walk into town and say 'Hi guys. We're moving in.' The woman's a squatter, pure and simple. She's trying to assert rights she does not have," said Carter.

Beverly Chamberlin, MACA's director of land administration, said the department takes guidance for commissioner's land and trespassing in particular from the Commissioner's Land Act and regulations to the act.

"The act doesn't give any guidance with respect to the periods to the time (in question). The act simply says that anyone who is using, occupying or possessing land without authority to do so is trespassing," said Chamberlin.

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