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Houseboat battle in court's hands
GNWT seeks authority from judge to remove floating home from nature preserve

John McFadden
Northern News Services
Friday, February 12, 2016

There is joy and relief among some residents in Old Town after word that a houseboat may soon be removed from the Willow Flats nature preserve on Yellowknife Bay.

NNSL photo/graphic

The territorial government has gone to court to have this houseboat removed. The houseboat, owned by Randy Sibbeston, sits near the end of the boardwalk at Rotary Park on Yellowknife Bay. The government argues it is on commissioner's land illegally and is in a nature preserve. Officials want it removed no later than March 23. - John McFadden/NNSL photo

The houseboat, owned by reality television star Randy Sibbestson, is grounded on the shore near the end of the Rotary Park boardwalk and is the only houseboat in that particular area.

Court documents show the territorial government has asked a Supreme Court judge to order Sibbeston to remove the houseboat it says is illegally on commissioners land as well as the nature preserve no later than 5 p.m. on March 23.

If he doesn't comply, the GNWT is seeking the authority to remove it and send Sibbeston the bill. A judge is scheduled to rule on the request March 4.

Dave Kellett, who lives nearby, said he is glad to see the GNWT cracking down.

"It's a derelict thing pulled up on public space. It's a nature preserve ... and it was a really nice place to walk through and kids used to swim there because it's a little shallow bay," Kellett said. "As soon as he unilaterally pulled his houseboat in there that was kind of all done.

"I don't have a problem with the houseboat if it was moored with the other houseboats. I can't even call this a houseboat because it doesn't float. It's an abandoned shack sitting on a plastic foundation."

The court action against Sibbeston was brought forth in October and Sibbeston missed a Nov. 6 deadline to file a statement of defence.

In an earlier court document related to his houseboat, Sibbeston stated the Constitution of Canada allows him to live and travel freely within a traditional land-use area.

Kellet said although he understands Sibbeston's position, it doesn't alter his perspective.

"It's his ancestral land ... that's an argument. But if you are not living in it - he's living in Fort Simpson - and it's just there. As far as I am concerned it's abandoned," Kellett said.

Sibbeston, who appeared on the reality television show Ice Lake Rebels, which featured houseboaters on Yellowknife Bay, is Metis and the son of NWT Senator Nick Sibbeston. He ran unsuccessfully for MLA in the Nahendeh riding in last fall's territorial election.

Sibbeston told Yellowknifer in October he planned to move the houseboat to his hometown of Fort Simpson.

According to court documents, several trespass notices have been placed on the houseboat since it was first left where it currently sits in 2013. An affidavit from Steven Skinner, senior lands officer with the GNWT, states he found a note on the houseboat back in July of 2013 from Sibbeston that read: "This boat moored temporarily. Sorry for any inconvenience."

Mike Byrne, another neighbour, said the houseboat was occupied initially by people who had rented it from Sibbeston.

He said he had more of a problem with it when it was occupied, because it made those walking by on public land feel like they were intruding on somebody's front yard.

The Sibbeston houseboat saga has been dragging on for years when it was one of several houseboats the city wanted removed from the Baker Creek area near Giant Mine as far back as early 2013.

The issue, at that time, was a shared responsibility between the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the territorial Department of Municipal and Community Affairs, along with input from the city.

It became the jurisdiction of the GNWT's Lands department after devolution in April 2014.

Bob Bromley, former MLA for Weledeh, said he has been closely following the situation for years.

"It's long overdue. I assume that they could just lift it out of there and then sell it," Bromley said. "Aboriginal people have special rights that are recognized in society. But it is also recognized that everybody needs to be managed within the areas that we agree are to be managed and this is solidly in that area."

Yellowknifer tried to reach Sibbeston for comment but he did not respond by press time.

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