N.W.T. government to take action against squatters

The government of the Northwest Territories is taking legal action against squatters in the territory.

The action is part of the government’s tougher stand against people who set up homes and cabins without any authorization.

One home the territory is targeting is located at the end of a rough road off the Ingraham Trail near Yellowknife.

The small trailer has a half-finished enclosed porch with sheets of plywood leaning against the side of the home. The surrounding area is cluttered with an assortment of furniture, a washing machine, jerry cans, and tarp-covered wooden boxes. There is even a hot tub lying on its side.

Notices of the court action are posted on the side of the home and the storm door to the porch.

There is an Akaitcho Treaty 8 sign in one window, but the government said it checked with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation and they said they don't know who lives there.

The court action is one of eight the territorial government is taking to remove buildings put up without authorization.

"Our lands officers regularly do inspections but they also act on complaints. So if we get a complaint from a member of the public, one of our lands officers will go out and investigate and determine whether or not there is someone squatting on commissioner’s land," said Emerald Murphy, the director of Lands Administration, Municipal and Community Affairs with the N.W.T.

More than 99 per cent of public lands in the N.W.T. are managed by the federal government, which isn’t prosecuting anyone right now.

"We do take people to court if they're not in compliance and are causing damage to the environment. We do continue to post and monitor these sites, and if and when additional resources came to light, we would pursue them," said Annette Hopkins with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

The territorial government is moving toward taking control of all lands in the territory through its devolution negotiations – presumably with the same scant resources the federal government currently provides for land management.

"They are simply not doing the job. And of course one of the concerns is that as a territorial government about to embark on devolution, we will be inheriting the problem the federal government has created by essentially not enforcing the laws," said Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley.

The territory will also inherit any environmental liability associated with the more than 200 buildings and cabins now on federal land without authorization. About half of them are in the Akaitcho region around Yellowknife.

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