Westbank First Nation office. - Google Maps

B.C. woman evicted from home on First Nation land after husband dies

A 64-year-old woman will have to move from her home on WFN lands

A 64-year-old woman who has lived on Westbank First Nation land for the last 25 years will have to leave her home since her husband died and she is not a band member.

Bonnie Alice Watts is a member of the Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nation in Ontario and married a member of the WFN, Michael Julian Watts in 1998. They have three adopted children, all members of the WFN and have lived on WFN land since 1995, according to court documents.

In 2016, the pair applied and were accepted to participate in a WFN home ownership program, and spend $20,000 renovating a property before obtaining a residential lease agreement with an option to purchase along with the approval that they could occupy the house, according to the documents.

Watts said the home is important to her because she provided input into the design and construction of the renovations, the property is located within the traditional lands of her husband and she has a strong connection to the WFN community.

After her husband’s death in April 2018, she continued to live on the property and paid rent to the WFN in accordance with the lease agreement.

READ MORE: Westbank First Nation talks implementation branch with Minister Carolyn Bennett

In June she was informed the lease option could not be transferred because the property was WFN community property and was delivered a formal Notice in End Tenancy in November 2018, said court documents.

Watts tried to get an injunction but B.C. Supreme Court Judge Dennis Hori ruled with the WFN.

WFN law states that housing must go to band members, and the option to purchase conditions were not yet fulfilled.

She argued that she has limited means and nowhere else to go if she is evicted. She has lived in the neighbourhood for 15 years and wished to pass the property down to her children.

The judge ruled “there is no evidence that Mrs. Watts could not continue to reside on the traditional territory of her deceased husband. There is no evidence that she could not maintain her connections to the WFN community or that she could not continue to live in the same neighbourhood. In fact, the evidence from the WFN is that there are market value rental properties available on WFN lands and that there are 10,000 non-members currently residing on WFN properties.”

Watts has 30 days to vacate the property.

The WFN has issued a statement in response: “This is an unfortunate situation. WFN feels for and has exercised compassion for those involved. While we cannot comment on personal details of the situation, WFN’s laws were followed in this case, supported by a B.C. Supreme Court ruling. WFN encourages all those who are interested to fully review ruling, which is a public document.”

READ MORE: Westbank First Nation Council approves annual budget

READ MORE: Westbank First Nation building solar rooftop for local school

READ MORE: Historic grad ceremony for Westbank First Nation technicians

@carliberry_
carli.berry@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Thornhill’s future takes centre stage at June 2 public hearing

The current community plan was adopted in 1981

Class will look different at Coast Mountain College this September

The college is embracing a distributed learning model

City council considers easing food truck restriction

Food trucks limited to four hours public parking, may increase to six hours

VIDEO: Injured bald eagle rescued in B.C. First Nations community

Bird suspected injured in fight, whisked off to Coquitlam rehab

Facing changes together: your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Love flourishes at Peace Arch Park, but COVID-19 concerns loom

South Surrey park becomes only place for international couples to meet

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

UPDATE: B.C.’s Central Kootenay issues evacuation orders for hundreds of residents due to flooding

An evacuation alert covers all areas except the Cities of Castelgar and Nelson

PHOTOS: Thousands gather at Vancouver Art Gallery to protest racism

Rally is in response to the deaths of black Americans and a Toronto woman

Number of students returning is a wild card as B.C. schools reopen Monday

A common model will see other teachers work four days a week in class then the fifth remotely,

Most Read