post it and toast it

In 2005, the government burned Guy Mirabeau’s cabin to the ground. The fellow built the sod-roofed place on Crown land 165 kilometres from…

In 2005, the government burned Guy Mirabeau’s cabin to the ground.

The fellow built the sod-roofed place on Crown land 165 kilometres from Mayo.

It had a clay oven and a 400-volume philosophy library.

It was to be his retirement home.

But the federal translator didn’t have permission from the Yukon government to build it.

And lands branch officials happened on the cabin in 2004 while cruising the area in a helicopter.

There was no documentation proving Mirabeau had registered the site.

So the government ordered it destroyed.

Mirabeau fought it in court, filing his defence himself.

He lost.

The lands branch has every right to evict Mirabeau and destroy the cabin, ruled Yukon Supreme Court Justice Ron Veale in 2005.

“Our intention is to remove the building and his personal belongings forthwith,” said Stephanie Schorr, the government’s lawyer.

Such an operation is called a “post and toast,” because the government posts a sign on the building before it is set alight.

And so it was.

That same summer, Bonnet Plume Outfitters was building a tin-roofed lodge on the Bonnet Plume River, a renowned Canadian Heritage River.

Like Mirabeau’s cabin, the outfitter lodge was 160 kilometres from Mayo.

And, like Mirabeau, apparently, the outfit has no formal authorization to build it.

Lands branch director Lyle Henderson considers it an “unauthorized occupancy,” he told CBC Radio One.

Apparently, the government hasn’t found any records.

So it has asked the outfitter to provide some.

But it hasn’t asked the outfitter to remove the lodge, which is a fairly large facility.

In a CBC Radio One interview, the outfitter Chris McKinnon suggested he had verbal permission to build the lodge from someone in the civil service.

He didn’t say who.

But it seems a bit cavalier for a business to build such a costly facility on Crown land without the necessary government paperwork.

And it gets more strange.

When it built the lodge, McKinnon’s outfit destroyed $6 million in core samples that belonged to Fronteer Development Group Inc., a Vancouver-based mining company.

Fronteer is waiting to see what the Yukon government will do before deciding its next action.

So the affair seems bound for the courts.

The government has extraordinarily close ties to the outfitting business.

In fact, Archie Lang, minister responsible for the lands branch, owns an outfitting business.

Which is why he won’t answer questions on this issue in the legislature. That’s why Premier Dennis Fentie is handling the file.

Despite all this, there should be no special treatment for McKinnon.

There should be no sudden out-of-court settlement with Bonnet Plume Outfitters, with the standard gag order worked into the deal.

It is essential, given the government’s ties to the industry, that the whole affair be transparent.

And there’s no doubt where it should end.

As Mirabeau’s case showed, the government has established a clear-cut process for dealing with squatters on Crown land.

Provided McKinnon has no written permission to build his extensive lodge on the Bonnet Plume, the government should hold a second “post and toast” in the Mayo district. (RM)