Seized canoes take Yellowknife houseboaters by surprise

Houseboaters in Yellowknife Bay aren’t impressed with the city’s recent move to impound canoes that don’t have a $200 parking tag. ‘There’s no services, nothing. Why is it $200? It’s punitive against houseboaters. That’s the only explanation I can think of,’ says Gary Vaillancourt.
Gary Vaillancourt pulls his canoe across the melting ice of Yellowknife Bay. On Thursday, the City of Yellowknife impounded several canoes near the government dock in Old Town, raising the ire of houseboaters who rely on them for transportation to and from their homes. (CBC)

Houseboaters on Yellowknife Bay say the city is jeopardizing their safety.

On Thursday afternoon, city workers removed a number of canoes from the government dock in Old Town.

Houseboater Gary Vaillancourt says the move unfairly targeted houseboaters, and put them in danger.

“The ice is really bad right now,” he told the CBC. “These people depend on their canoes. They cannot cross without their canoes. So the city forced them into a situation where they had to get home by walking on the ice when they didn't have their canoes. I think the city would be criminally responsible for that.”

Every year at this time, when the ice is melting, people who live in houseboats push their canoes across the ice, jumping in when they reach a spot they can’t cross on foot.

Two years ago, the City of Yellowknife changed the rules for people who store their canoes near the government dock.

Instead of being stored for free, canoes need to have a tag, at a cost of $200 a year.

The city had been posting warning notices throughout the month, reminding people to buy and display their tags.

It says the notices told canoe owners that canoes without tags would be removed May 22.

The city says it's not forcing anyone to cross the bay, and that people can pick up their canoes without penalty, but if they want to keep storing their canoes at the dock, they'll need to get a tag.

Otherwise they'll be removed again.

Vaillancourt says paying $200 to park a canoe for four months of the year is unfair.

“There’s nothing provided here,” he says. “This area’s been used traditionally for years. There’s no services, nothing. Why is it $200? It’s punitive against houseboaters. That’s the only explanation I can think of.”

The city says the tags will help keep the dock clean and orderly.

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