MEMBERS ONLY: Widow evicted from Westbank First Nation home after husband dies - InfoNews

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MEMBERS ONLY: Widow evicted from Westbank First Nation home after husband dies

Westbank First Nation office.
April 08, 2019 - 8:00 PM

WESTBANK - Bonnie Watts married a Westbank First Nation man, adopted three children who are WFN members, and has lived on WFN land for nearly 25 years. But now that her husband has died, the band has lawfully evicted the 64-year-old woman from band housing because she is not a member.

Before they could, however, Watts tried to get an injunction but B.C. Supreme Court Justice Dennis Hori sided with the band April 5 and now she has 30 days to move from the home she planned to remain in for the rest of her life.

Watts, a member of the Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nation in Ontario, met her husband, Michael Watts, in 1995 and married him in 1998. The family, including their three adopted children, have lived on Westbank First Nation land beginning in 1995.

In March 2016, the couple successfully applied for an allotment — essentially housing designated for band members. They invested $20,000 renovating the house on the property and moved into the residence on Sept. 15, 2017 after signing a lease with an 'option to purchase'.

When Michael passed away on April 27, 2018, he gave everything to Watts.

That's where the matter gets complicated. Band laws state band housing must go to band members and marriage didn't bring her membership. She wasn't saved by the 'option to purchase' either because the home remains property of WFN until the obligations of the option to purchase were fulfilled — usually after 10 years of lease payments or according to the contract. They only paid for two years.

Westbank informed Watts on June 5, 2018 that the lease option agreement could not be transfered since the property is a community piece of land. 

In the decision, Watts said she has limited means and nowhere to go if she were evicted. She said she wants to stay at the property because it's located in the traditional territory of her husband and she has strong ties to the community.

In his decision, Justice Hori said Watts was free to stay on the territory, but on a different Westbank property. 

Watts will have thirty days from April 5 to find different living arrangements and vacate the house she thought her husband was buying and that she could pass to her children.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Sean Mott or call (250) 864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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