Barge moored on public shoreline in Yellowknife Bay can be removed, judge rules

A judge has ruled that the territorial government can remove Randy Sibbeston's barge from its resting spot along the shoreline of Yellowknife Bay while the case continues making its way through the courts.

N.W.T. government expects to remove barge this week, store it until case is finished

This barge, shown in June 2017, has been for area residents and unwelcome sight for almost four years. (Walter Strong/CBC)

A barge that's been moored on public shoreline at the end of Yellowknife's Rotary Centennial Park boardwalk will be removed this week, following a court order from Supreme Court Justice Shannon Smallwood.

Randy Sibbeston and the government of the Northwest Territories have been in a court battle for four years over whether he has a right to moor his boat at the park on the shores of Yellowknife Bay.

Smallwood ruled on Tuesday that the territorial government can remove the boat while the case continues making its way through the courts.

She said the government demonstrated that "irreparable harm" could come from leaving the barge where it is since the government is unable to plan for future use of the area while the barge is in the water. 

Officials with the Department of Lands will move the barge from the shore and be responsible for storing it. The government will also be expected to not damage the barge.

The government will pay for moving and storing the barge, pending on the outcome of the case, explained Chris Buchanan, a lawyer with the N.W.T. government. He could not say how much that would cost, but that he doesn't expect it to cost "too much."

Residents routinely complain about the barge, which has been sitting unused on the shoreline for years.

Chris Buchanan, legal counsel for the N.W.T. government says the barge will be removed this week. (Alex Brockman/CBC)
"This case has really been under intense public scrutiny," Buchanan said. "The Department of Lands has received complaints from members of the public and of the City of Yellowknife for the past four or five years."  

The government argues he is squatting on Commissioner's land; Sibbeston says he has an Aboriginal right to keep it there.

Sibbeston also filed a counterclaim against the government for trespassing. He says officials did not have permission to board his barge when they issued trespassing notices to him, Buchanan said.

Tuesday's ruling does not make a judgment on any of those claims.

The case is next in court Dec.12, when the government will make an application for the judge to make a summary judgment, Buchanan said. That means it is asking the judge to make a decision without having the case go to trial.

Sibbeston appeared in court over the phone. CBC News called him after the decision, but he was not immediately available for comment.