Family faces eviction from a home they thought they owned

The chief of the Salt River First Nation in Fort Smith, N.W.T., has given a family of five until 6 p.m. tonight to vacate their home. Anthony John McKay was once a tenant of the First Nation, but he says the band council gave him the house last year, and has no right to take it back.

‘All of a sudden they said you don’t have to pay rent anymore,’ says Anthony John McKay

Anthony John McKay poses with his nephew and two young children in front of their home on the Salt River First Nation in Fort Smith, N.W.T. McKay says he originally signed a tenancy agreement for the property, but the band council unexpectedly gave it to him last year. Now they want it back. (Courtesy Anthony John McKay)

A family on the Salt River First Nation in Fort Smith, N.W.T., has been given until 6 o'clock this evening to leave their home.

Anthony John McKay lives at the house with his two young children, his adopted nephew and his 76-year-old mother.

He says he took ownership of the home last year.

In July, he got a letter from the band chief demanding they go, because of too many complaints and police activity at the residence.

Chief Frieda Martselos wrote in the letter that the disturbances violated a tenancy agreement McKay signed with the Salt River First Nation in 2012.

But McKay says the agreement no longer applies.

McKay says former band CEO Brenda MacDonald transferred ownership of the house to the family in 2012.

Ever since, he hasn't been required to pay rent.

The problem is, his family, and others who got the same deal, are still waiting for documentation from the council that proves the homes are theirs.

“It’s wrong,” McKay says. “You give something and now that they don’t like it they take it back. I’m really frustrated, stressed out.”

‘All of a sudden they said you don’t have to pay rent anymore’

David Poitras is the former chief of Salt River First Nation.

He says he had Mckay and three other families sign a tenancy agreement when they moved into four newly built homes back in 2012.

“We made an agreement where they would pay $500 a month, and we would do the maintenance, and they would eventually own the houses. If they did any damage then we could fix it up with the $500 they were paying,” Poitras says.

The arrangement was supposed to last about 15 years.

“When we gave them the houses we didn't have a clue as to how and what they were gonna do," Poitras says. "If they were gonna look after the houses, if they were gonna party there. Actually, it was really none of our business.”

Poitras says that agreement changed when Martselos became chief. McKay corroborates that. 

“All of a sudden they [the band] said you don’t have to pay rent anymore, the house is yours,” McKay says.

“Now the chief and council have made a decision to take my house away from me.”

‘We need somebody’s help:’ wife

McKay's wife, who’s currently at a women’s correctional centre, says her neighbours' issues are with her, not with her husband or kids.

Bridget McKay says the neighbours don't like her, and police have been called to the home several times to resolve disputes that she's been involved in.   

“We need somebody's help," she says. "If he ends up losing that house, you're gonna have five people that are gonna wind up being homeless.”

McKay works full time, and is raising their children with his mother's help.

He says they have nowhere to go if they lose their home.

The CBC contacted the CEO of the Salt River First Nation, but the First Nation declined to comment on the matter.


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