Bungled land swap could leave Fort Simpson family homeless

Dolly and Ernest Tsetso thought they were living on band land, so they didn't pay property taxes. But the paperwork handing their lot over to the band in 1989 didn't get filed, and now the couples owes the Village $50,000 in property taxes.

Homeowners thought they were living on band land, but paperwork was never filed

Bungled land swap could leave Fort Simpson family homeless 2:57

Dolly Tsetso has lived in her home in Fort Simpson, N.W.T. for 25 years. 

It may be small, but she still finds the room to feed all 12 of her family members. 

Dolly says she and her husband Ernest were given the land for their home by the Liidlii Kue First Nation in 1989, and therefore didn't have to pay property taxes.

But it turns out the paperwork that hands their lot from the federal government over to the band was never filed. 

The house where Dolly and Earnest Tsetso have lived for the past 25 years is going up for auction Friday. (CBC)

Now, the Village of Fort Simpson says the couple owes $50,000 in taxes — or else their home will be auctioned off to the highest bidder, leaving the couple and their four adopted teenagers homeless.

"We made this town and now the government wants us to pay when we live on the grounds that we made. This is our home," Dolly said.

A letter written in 1989 by then-chief Jim Antoine to set up the trade says Dolly and her husband acquired a lot in Fort Simpson.

So when property tax bills began to arrive at Tsetso's home, she took them to the band office. 

She says people there told her there had been an administrative mistake and that they'd take care of it.

But they didn't.

"They're (the Village of Fort Simpson) asking for $48,000 to $52,000," Dolly says. "Where on Earth am I going to get something like that? We just make it from one month to the other with our bills and the kids."

Dolly says no one has come forward to take responsibility

'We didn't make her any promises'

The Liidlii​ Kue First Nation didn't return CBC News' request for an interview, and the Village of Fort Simpson, which collects the tax, says the issue is not its problem.

Fort Simpson mayor, Sean Whelly, says there's nothing the Village can do. 'To us, she's just like every other taxpayer.' (CBC)

"From the Village's point of view, we really don't have any liability in that way," said Sean Whelly, the mayor of Fort Simpson. "We didn't make her any promises. We didn't do anything.

"We're simply doing what we have to do under the legislation, which is collect taxes and assess taxes. To us, she's just like every other taxpayer."

For now, Dolly is appealing to her MLA Kevin Menicoche to speak with the Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs to ask him to forgive her arrears.

And she's just waiting for the day her house goes on the auction block.

"I'm gonna go to that auction and I'm gonna stand there and I'm gonna find out which one is (lot) 580. I'm gonna ask those people, 'Please don't bid on 580, because it is my home and my children's home. They're gonna end up kicking us out of here and where are we going to go?"

The auction is set to take place Friday.


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