SAVANT LAKE, ON – Eighteen months after the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry first charged Darlene Necan for building a cabin in her family’s ancestral land without a permit, they have decided to drop all charges. This means that Necan, who opted to fight it out in a trial rather than pay the more-than-$10,000 fine, can finally move into her home, in Savant Lake, near Thunder Bay, Ontario.
Necan, 55, has been homeless for years, which is why she attempted to build her own home in the same area where her family had grown up. But one day she was suddenly handed a stop-work order and told to stay away from the area or face more fines. Since then, many events and fundraisers have been held in her name by the large grassroots community that supports her cause.
According to a letter Crown counsel Scott Dunsmuir wrote to Necan’s lawyer, Mike Leitold, on March 17, as reported by the CBC, the official government line is: “It is not in the public interest to proceed with these charges… In this case the public expense of a lengthy trial does not appear to be justified when weighed against the gravity of the offence.”
Necan is also a spokesperson for the off-reserve members of the Ojibway Nation of Saugeen #258, which is facing a serious homelessness problem. She has been organizing marches and protests for years in and around her reservation, even as she fought the ministry. In 2012, she helped build a cabin for another elderly member who had been reportedly living in chicken coop for years.
For these efforts, Steve Watson, a long-time supporter of Necan, has urged Premier Kathleen Wynne to grant her a humanitarian award. He said she deserves the award because she was able to find a solution for her own problem amid the housing shortage her reserve faces.
Watson, a retired CAW/Unifor activist who actively helped Necan’s campaign, said her victory should be seen as an inspiration for the province to find a solution to the homelessness issue affecting indigenous people.
“All they want to do is live on their land and be independent, to live by their own wits, to live by their own hands,” Watson told the CBC. “And we shouldn’t stand in the way of that.”