Gatineau Parc article only muddies waters
Contrary to what the NCC information officer says, the occupancy permits Gatineau Park director Christine Spence issued to Meech Lake residents in 2018 weren’t only for docks and boathouses (The Low Down, “NCC letter writer incorrect,” Dec. 16).
According to the NCC memorandum regarding these permits: “There are approximately 60 encroachments of private property structures partly or completely on NCC land at Meech Lake... These structures vary from boathouses, docks, stairs, walls and fences to changing cabins and flower beds.” And I count one house built on the lakebed — which is park property.
Furthermore, the NCC spokesperson [Valérie Dufour] is wrong in claiming that “no property rights were given for any amount of time.” The NCC memorandum underlines that the NCC will be granting “personal easements” or “occupation licences” to the “owner, spouse, children or grandchildren until the end of the structure’s useful life, or 49 years (not transferable upon sale outside the family).”
Perhaps most seriously, the park director did not have NCC board permission to issue these “personal easements.” Such approval is required because easements represent a change in federal land use — in this case from a public conservation park function to a private dwelling purpose. But the board never approved these permits, according to a June 5, 2019 email from the NCC: “...there are no board/ executive committee decisions or minutes related thereto.”
What I find most confusing about The Low Down article is this line: “Dufour said that permitting a dock or boathouse to occupy a space on someone’s private property in the park isn’t the same as issuing an occupancy permit.” The point is those structures, including one house, are built on public property.
Also confusing is the newspaper’s claim there may be a discrepancy between the letters they got from me and from the NCC. The letter I sent the paper was obtained from the NCC and its wording is identical to what’s in all letters sent to Meech Lake residents: “as owner of the property on which your infrastructure encroaches,” the NCC “is disposed to permit its encroachment on federal park property.”
Perhaps Ms. Spence should have made herself available to answer the newspaper’s questions instead of letting an NCC spokesperson further muddy the waters.
Editor’s note: Trevor Myles did not send the Low Down Spence’s letter prior to publication, nor did our article state there was any discrepancy between the two letters themselves, but instead in the meaning in the wording.