Darlene Necan supporter disappointed by 'colonialism on autopilot'
Letter in support of homeless woman facing fines for building her own home gets "boilerplate" response
The Ontario Liberals are taking a "boilerplate" approach that amounts to "colonialism on autopilot" in the case of a homeless First Nations woman facing fines for building her own home, according to one of her supporters.
Steve Watson received a response on Tuesday to a letter he and 48 others signed and addressed to Premier Kathleen Wynne last month, urging her to turn her attention to Darlene Necan's situation.
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The 55-year-old Anishinaabe woman is charged by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry with breaches of the Public Lands Act that carry fines of up to $10,000.
Necan is unable to secure housing on her own reserve, the Ojibways of Saugeen First Nation, 400 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay. Last year she began building a cabin, with donated materials, on land where her family home once stood in the nearby unorganized township of Savant Lake, Ont.
"Premier Kathleen Wynne shared with me your e-mail regarding Darlene Necan.
I appreciate your expressing your concerns to the provincial government as this case is about the use of provincial public lands and falls within our responsibility. In exercising our responsibility for the management of public lands, staff in my ministry try first and foremost to work with people on the land and find solutions to problems that may arise.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has not departed from that practice in this case. As this particular case is before the courts, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on its specifics. Thank you for writing.
Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry"
'Crisis of homelessness'
Watson said it's illogical to use the court case as the reason not to address the issues that led to the courts being involved in the first place.
"I call that colonialism on autopilot. These people are not thinking, they're not putting their minds to the reasonable position that I put forward," Watson said. "I said as long as there is a crisis of homelessness affecting Indigenous people, charges shouldn't be laid against them for building shelter.
"It's not saying that it's OK to do this. It's saying it would be OK to do this until we find a solution," he said. "And it's incumbent on government to find a solution of homelessness."
Watson said Necan should be lauded for her initiative, not punished.
Necan "knows how to survive. She knows how to make her own way," he said. "She's not asking for the province of Ontario to support her, she's asking for the province of Ontario to get out of the way and allow her to build her own life the way her ancestors always lived.
"That doesn't seem like too much to ask."