YouTuber agrees to dismantle his backwoods Yukon cabin after court action

·5 min read
A still from a 2021 YouTube video posted by Matthew (Matty) Clarke, chronicling his efforts to build a log cabin in the Yukon wilderness near Dawson City. The territorial government filed a petition to the Yukon Supreme Court in March to force Clarke to leave the site at Ensley Creek and remove his cabin, saying Clarke built on public land with no legal authority. Clarke has agreed to dismantle the cabin and vacate the site by the end of the year. (Skote Outdoors/YouTube - image credit)
A still from a 2021 YouTube video posted by Matthew (Matty) Clarke, chronicling his efforts to build a log cabin in the Yukon wilderness near Dawson City. The territorial government filed a petition to the Yukon Supreme Court in March to force Clarke to leave the site at Ensley Creek and remove his cabin, saying Clarke built on public land with no legal authority. Clarke has agreed to dismantle the cabin and vacate the site by the end of the year. (Skote Outdoors/YouTube - image credit)

A self-styled backwoods guru has agreed to dismantle the remote — and unauthorized — off-grid log cabin in Yukon that he built, lived in and boasted about on his YouTube channel.

Matthew (Matty) Clarke has also agreed to post a new video online, stating that other would-be pioneers must have permission from the Yukon government before they occupy public lands.

Clarke is one of three people who drew the attention of government officials when they built cabins in a remote area near Ensley Creek, about 25 kilometres up the Yukon River from Dawson City, Yukon. According to the government, those cabins were all built without permission or authorization on public land and within the traditional territory of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in. 

The government asked Clarke, Simon Tourigny and Chloe Sergerie to each vacate and remove their cabins and initially all three resisted or ignored the requests. Earlier this year, the government petitioned the Yukon Supreme Court to force them out.

The court petition against Sergerie has now been dropped. A spokesperson with Yukon's Energy, Mines and Resources department says her cabin has been removed and the site rehabilitated back to a natural state.

Tourigny, meanwhile, did not respond to an earlier court summons and a hearing was scheduled for later this month in Yukon Supreme Court. A government spokesperson said Friday that the hearing has now been adjourned, as Tourigny's cabin appears to have been abandoned.

Clarke has agreed to dismantle his cabin by Jan. 1, remove any of his things from the site, and restore it to a natural state. If he fails to do so, the territorial government will do it for him and he'll be on the hook to pay.

'A guardian or steward of the land'

Clarke's adventures in the Yukon bush and legal system began two years ago when he apparently arrived in the territory intent on finding solitude and his own piece of paradise.

A series of YouTube videos — posted by Clarke last year under the name Skote Outdoors — appear to tell the story of his 2020 arrival in Dawson City to stake a mining claim, and then his trip upriver to find the claim and choose a spot to build his home.

The videos are a mix of step-by-step instructions for DIY cabin-building, northern travelogue, and inspirational musings by Clarke.

Skote Outdoors/YouTube
Skote Outdoors/YouTube

"Dreams come true, man. Dreams come true every day, boys — you just gotta make them come true," he says in one video.

Clarke posted a series of six videos — titled, "Alone in the Yukon" — that show him single-handedly felling trees and building his Yukon log cabin. According to the Yukon government, though, he was never as alone as his videos suggest — Sergerie and Tourigny's cabins were nearby though they're never shown or mentioned in the videos.

The Yukon government eventually found Clarke's cabin, and his 5,200-follower YouTube channel. And while officials tried last summer to force the YouTuber to vacate the site and demolish his cabin by threatening court action, Clarke initially tried to argue his way out of it, claiming an honest error and even offering to purchase the land and set up a tourism business.

In one letter to a local government lands manager, Clarke argued that the cabin was now his home and that he saw himself not as a "trespasser but a guardian or steward of the land."

Meantime, he kept posting new videos online through last summer with no mention of his legal predicament.

Now, the government says, Clarke's "dream come true" is boarded up and abandoned. He has a few months to dismantle it and remove all of his stuff from the site.

He has also agreed to create and post a new video to his Skote Outdoors channel by March 31.

"While the creative content will be his own, the video will include a statement that everyone must seek and obtain permission from the government of Yukon prior to occupying territorial lands," reads the agreement filed in Yukon Supreme Court.

Skote Outdoors/YouTube
Skote Outdoors/YouTube

Meantime, he's been posting a new weekly series of videos to Skote Outdoors, apparently filmed last winter, that show him building an off-grid log cabin in Labrador.

'Is living in the forest a crime?'

While Clarke was evidently focused on his new adventure in Labrador, Sergerie and Tourigny each took to the local Yukon media last fall and winter to try to argue for their right to stay in their Yukon cabins.

In a written statement to media earlier this year, Sergerie complains of how she and Tourigny were being harassed by government officials for simply pursuing an alternative lifestyle.

"Is living in the forest a crime?" Sergerie wrote. "We are not asking anybody to change their life but simply for our minority to be socially accepted and to be left in peace."

Tourigny wrote a similar manifesto that was published in local newspapers last year.

Speaking to CBC News in April, he acknowledged his cabin at Ensley Creek was unauthorized, but nevertheless seemed baffled by his legal troubles. He said he felt "persecuted" by overzealous government officials.

Government of Yukon
Government of Yukon

"They tell me that my cabin is unauthorized. Like, that's a fact, I can't deny it," he said.

"My question is, why? Like, what is it about my cabin? And at what point, like, is it not acceptable anymore? It's a shelter built with logs and moss that I can be comfortable and safe in the wilderness."

Tourigny said he was willing to somehow make his cabin legal, but nobody seemed willing to help him do that.

"I really want to live in the bush and I think I should have the right to have a cabin in the bush. If you want me to do it legally, then, like, let me do it legally," he said.

"The only reason I didn't follow the rules is because I want to live in the bush so badly that I went and did it anyway ... Nobody can tell me that I'm wrong because I know in my heart I'm not doing anything wrong."

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