Nicole Brideau helps her father clean.

Nicole Brideau helps her father clean.

Call for help from a 40-year tenant on Semiahmoo First Nation land

Month-to-month renter struggles to make deadline to clean up property

Nicole Brideau has fond memories of learning how to ride a 50cc Yamaha bike up and down the driveway of her family home, located in the Semiahmoo First Nation reserve, when she was three years old.

She remembers the wrap-around deck attached to her house, only a block from Semiahmoo Bay.

The deck has since been brought to the ground, the lawn – which once had space to park 22 vehicles – is overgrown with blackberries, weeds and a collection of garbage, wood, scrap metal and a work shed that has since fallen over.

The property – which Nicole hasn’t lived in since 2007 – is now unrecognizable from what it was when she moved to start a family in Maple Ridge.

Her father Theodore Brideau, who still lives in that home, received a letter Sept. 29 from the owners of the property he rents informing him that he might be evicted.

The 75-year-old was given until Nov. 1 to clean his property, including removing piles of garbage/wood, excess building supplies and overgrown bush/yard waste.

“Which is everything,” his daughter notes.

The purpose of the cleanup, the letter states, is to prepare the properties for Semiahmoo First Nation’s plans to connect to the City of Surrey’s sanitary sewer, water and fire-protection services.

A separate letter issued Aug. 21 states that SFN will provide the service connections to the individual property lines, however, connections to individual residences will be at each tenant’s own expense and full connections are mandatory.

SFN Chief Harley Chappell explains he wears two hats for this particular issue, one as a leader of the First Nation and one as a member of the Dolan family that owns the property.

“It’s not band business, it’s family business and I am part of that family,” Chappell told Peace Arch News Wednesday.

Chappell said the family got together to discuss the imminent infrastructure upgrades and health, welfare and environmental impact of people leasing land from the families.

“Unfortunately, it’s years of catching up,” Chappell said, noting there’s no legal tenure for those homeowners renting land from the families. “They’re actually declared buskshee tenants, which is an illegal tenant. They’re just on month-to-month directly to the family. It’s a difficult situation, definitely for the tenants. For us, it’s a must-happen.”

Theodore Brideau has lived on the property for nearly 40 years. He owns the home but rents the land from the Dolan family for a modest price.

A welder by trade, Brideau became a woodworker after crushing his leg working as a longshoreman 15 years ago. His property is filled, he says, with abandoned projects.

After his injury, he started collecting miscellaneous materials and items that he intended to refurbish or repurpose. Resting in a pile of rubble Tuesday were two metal bench ends – the kind found fitted to a bench in a park. He intended to rebuild the bench, but never got around to it.

He likes to keep things. His 1993 pickup truck, for example, is approaching one million kilometres.

It was never his intention to let the property fall into disrepair, he told PAN, but his injury prevented him from taking proper care of it. An avid runner in his earlier years, he has since been slowed to a walk, though he is quick to point out – and demonstrate – that he’s still able to kick up to seven feet in the air and do the splits.

Unable to complete the cleanup on his own, he has the help of his daughter.

Nicole, a 28-year-old mother of three, agrees the cleanup is needed, and she has put her life on pause to help her father. After dropping off her six-year-old at school Tuesday and leaving her two babies with her cousin, Nicole made the commute from Maple Ridge to clean the land.

She plans to spend a lot of time there over the course of the month.

“I’m overwhelmed,” she said. “I understand why they want to clean up the reserve. My dad has been here for a long time and he just didn’t pick up all of this stuff and put it in the garbage when it was garbage. Now, instead of just pushing it to the side, we have to get rid of it.”

If they’re not able to complete the work by Nov. 1, she said she’d be “devastated.”

“I would like to one day live here with my kids. My husband is all for it, too. Build an extension, put a couple rooms on it…. My kids love coming here, the beach is one of their favourite places.”

Staring at the debris Tuesday, Nicole said she “doesn’t know where to start.”

The hardest part, she says, will be removing the shed and blackberries, which have grown to approximately10 feet high.

Nicole contacted PAN, asking for help.

“I need help to help my dad!” she wrote. “Volunteers, maybe a company is able to lend a dump container to put the junk in….”

This weekend she plans to make a dent in the project. She’s found the help of a few strangers through Facebook, who will join her husband and friends to work to remove the shed. She plans to provide a couple bins to haul away the scrap. and estimates the cleanup will cost her at least $2,000.

“My dad lives paycheque-to-paycheque, he’s an old pensioner. My husband has given me the OK to spend some of the money we saved for our family of five and donate to my dad to put in a couple of bins here,” she said.

Nicole was clear she knows the cleanup is needed and wants to make it a positive experience.

Chappell said he wants to ensure that both sides of the story are shared in order to have a “deeper understanding of what this looks like.”

“This could look very much like we just want to weed everybody out… but no. There are some properties that are in real disarray that need to be cleaned up. We don’t have those measures, if they’re not willing to do that, maybe they will have to go somewhere else.”

Nicole is staying optimistic.

“It would be a miracle, but anything can happen,” she said.

She asks that anyone who can offer manpower or machinery to email nickytupper@gmail.com



aaron.hinks@peacearchnews.com

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