'No alteration' to Yukon's stance on alleged squatters: lands official

Lands branch officials with the Yukon government said they will not give up on trying to evict an outfitter they believe is squatting illegally on Crown land.

Lands branch officials with the Yukon government said a court ruling won't stop them from trying to evict an outfitter they believe is squatting on Crown land.

The territorial government's legal dispute with Bonnet Plume Outfitters suffered a setback this week, after the Yukon Supreme Court ruled that bureaucrats with the Energy, Mines and Resources Department do not have the discretionary power to evict alleged squatters.

That authority is exclusively reserved for the minister responsible for that department, Archie Lang, according to the decision by Justice Leigh Gower made Friday.

But Lyle Henderson, director of the department's lands branch, told CBC News that the ruling does not change their view that Bonnet Plume owners Chris and Sharron McKinnon are illegally occupying land along the Bonnet Plume River.

"There's been no alteration of our position. There's been no permission to use and occupy that facility," Henderson said Monday.

"If there's any use occuring, that continues at the risk of the company. There's been no permisssion given to continue using that building."

In December 2006, department authorities issued a court summons — which doubled as an eviction notice — to force the McKinnons off a base camp they had built along the river.

The summons threatened to burn down the camp after 30 days unless the outfitters could prove they had legal tenure of the property. Gower had the eviction suspended in an April 2007 ruling.

In Friday's decision, Gower ruled that evicting people from their property is such a serious matter that it should be reserved only for the top minister responsible, not delegated to department officials.

"We're viewing it as a procedural item tied to issuance of the summons, and it does not alter the fact that no permits are in place for the lodge to be there," Henderson said.

Government lawyers are considering their next move, he said. Until the matter is settled, any attempts to use the base camp in question will be met by "cease and desist" applications to the courts, he added.

The lawyer representing the McKinnons told CBC News that he needs to talk with his clients before commenting.