Darlene Necan says I have been made to feel 'awful' for trying
to house herself
Homeless Indian woman fined for building her own home
By Jody Porter, CBC News
"This is my castle and I'm so proud to have it," Darlene Necan
says of the one-room house she built with donated materials on
the same spot where she grew up. (Jody Porter/CBC)
A First Nations woman in Northern Ontario faces thousands of
dollars in fines and a stop-work order on the cabin she is
attempting to build in the place where she grew up.
Darlene Necan is a member of the Ojibways of Saugeen First
Nation, but she's been unable to acquire housing in that
community, about 400 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay, since
the reserve was created in the late 1990s.
Last year, Necan began building with donated materials on land
where her family home once stood, 20 kilometres south of her
reserve, in the unorganized township of Savant Lake, Ont.
"This is my castle and I'm so proud to have it, even though it's
not done yet," Necan said during a recent visit to the one-room,
plywood house she is not allowed to live in.
Darlene Necan cabin (Jody Porter/CBC)
The Ministry of Natural Resources
and Forestry has charged Necan with breaches of the Public Lands
Act that carry fines of up to $10,000, and up to an additional
$1,000 fine each time she is caught continuing to build.
Necan believes it is because somehow the place she grew up has
become Crown land. The ministry did not respond to questions
from CBC News about this story.
'A lot of times I cry'
As an unorganized township, Savant Lake doesn't have a municipal
leader. Denis Mousseau owns the only store, across the street
from his hotel, on one of the community's two main roads.
"It's a common thing for First Nations people to do, is build
their own house without title to the land," Mousseau said.
"First Nations people have the right to do that and I don't see
why [the Ministry of] Natural Resources should be hassling her
Necan has boarded up the unfinished doorway to her cabin for the
winter, and said she feels "shattered" by the charges against
her. Her next court date is Nov. 20. Some of the donated building
supplies Darlene Necan was unable to use before a stop-work
order was issued.
"I still keep going with this fight no matter how awful it makes
me feel for trying to house myself and help people, because a
lot of people don't believe in themselves or that things can
change if you fight hard enough," Necan said, her voice
"It's what I try to believe. I try to be hopeful. That's hard
too and a lot of times I cry by myself here. But I talk to my
[late] mom and my [late] dad and it keeps me going because I
keep thinking of them." 'Not any better in the city'
Necan has spent much of her adult life couch-surfing among
relatives and camping out on the family trap line when the
weather allows. The 55-year-old was looking forward to a
different life, living in her own home and offering shelter to
Darlene Necan works on her small cabin.
"This is exactly the same spot where
we lived," Necan said. "We slowly started moving to the cities
because we didn't have anything after my dad got hurt and we
were pretty well desperate."
Necan's father was injured while working for the railway.
"My family... they're not any better in the city than they were
here," she says. "Here, at least they were free to roam around
in the bush and go hunting and all that, but in the city you
need at least five, 10 bucks to even live for the day."
'Aren't we under treaty?'
Fewer than 100 people live on the reserve up the road. Edward
Machimity has been chief for nearly two decades, since the
reserve was created. Necan said he refuses to help her, or even
answer her questions.
"He has said that he has to be careful about how he helps the
off-reserve people and that really got me confused because I
thought, aren't we on Anishinaabe land right now? Aren't we
under treaty?" Necan said.
"Isn't this why we elected him for, is to help all people, not
only the people inside reserve? That is so crap because natives
are scattered all over Canada. How can they say only the people
on reserve have rights?"
Machimity did not return repeated calls from CBC News.