Donated “dream house” on shaky ground for Sandy Bay family of 11

(Chief Lance Roulette in his home on the Sandy Bay First Nation versus the home a family of 11 lives is forced to live while roadblocks and infighting prevent a construction company from donating a home.)

Melissa Ridgen
APTN National News
Melinda McIvor’s family didn’t get the dream house they were promised for Christmas and it’s not looking good that they’ll get it at all.

Many were horrified in November when a YouTube video surfaced showing an over-crowded ramshackle home full of bugs and mould with holes in floors and walls. A broken sewage pipe flooding the crawl space under the house every time the family flushes the toilet. A stench that attracts rats that have bitten several family members as they sleep.

“I was just shocked. I was horrified to think that somebody would be forced to live in that sort of a condition and the sense of hopelessness to find a way out,” said Darryl Williams, an Indigenous construction company owner who happened to be in Winnipeg for an Assembly of First Nations Housing Conference when the video went viral.

He made the 90 minute drive from Winnipeg to the Sandy Bay First Nation and told the McIvor family he’d build them a new home, free of charge. All the band had to do was pour a concrete slab to and run electrical and sewer and water to the site, which sits adjacent the family’s current home.

Williams and Chief Roulette shook hands and told APTN last fall that it could be done in time for the family of 11 to celebrate Christmas. But that didn’t happen due to a series of events that have left both the chief and the home donor outraged at one another and left the family frustrated.

Williams said he’s not even welcome on the First Nation. Roulette hasn’t bothered with any of the band council resolutions to do the prep work — paperwork required when a community is co-managed or third-party managed. And emails back and forth between band council, Williams, and advocates of the McIvor family show growing tension and confusion in what should have been a simple process.

Roulette told APTN last week he’s been ill and it’s all just a misunderstanding and that the concrete will be poured in the spring.

But the next day the band hit Williams with a letter from their lawyer warning him to “refrain from representing to others that you’re…. affiliated with the First Nation.”

Williams said Roulette and two councillors had mentioned in passing last fall that since his company would be in the community building McIvor’s house, perhaps they could talk about another 15 homes and a four-plex.

“I said of course, we’d be delighted to do other work but that was it. There was no commitment or discussion,” Williams said.

So that same legal letter saying these projects are “denied” has him scratching his head. And regretting the charitable offer.

“It is clear that the ulterior motives of chiefs and councils, as shown by this First Nation property, is beyond our ability or interest to participate in these shenanigans,” he said. “I’m told the McIvors and the Roulettes have a long-standing Hatfield and McCoy thing going and that’s what’s at play.”

Roulette says the bad blood won’t stop the house from being built.

“The family will be getting a new house and any further dialogue can be successful once we get a healthy one,” Roulette said in a message to APTN. “All specs have been received and clearing [happened last Thursday] to where the slab will go.”

As for the BCRs required to do the work, he said those can be done quickly and “aren’t the delay.” He admits poor communication is to blame.

Williams said this experience will affect future philanthropic ventures on reserves.

“We had wondered about creating some sort of habitat program for Indigenous communities where once a year people can apply, tell us their story about why they need a home. But now our thought is we never want to do this again,” Williams said.

In the meantime, the McIvors – who have a one-month-old baby now living in the decaying home – are quietly playing wait and see – hoping their chief and council will make peace with their house donor so their dream home can be a reality in the near future.

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7 thoughts on “Donated “dream house” on shaky ground for Sandy Bay family of 11

  1. Politics is a dirty word in some communities! This needs to change for the betterment of our people! Too many self righeous leaders who show no compassion to their people but only to themselves and immediate families! These poor people were waiting patiently for this home as they were promised. They could have built the foundation and installed the plumbing and electrical, even in cold weather. I was at this conference when the home was promised by the contractor and I believed that he was sincerely a good person who just wanted to help. Jealousy comes to mind why the foundation was not built and it is a dirty word for some people!

  2. It’s obvious the feud goes on with added fuel to fight about. Not so good for the Chief to put his personal vendetta first before helping this poor family who desperately need this new home. Even if the band is managed by the department, Chief should have helped more by asking the gov’t. for the help needed to get the lot ready for this new home. Gee the band could be saving a lot of money by this donated new home for this poor family. Chief needs to give his head a good shake, that’s for sure, and not bite the hand……………..

  3. 🙁 I’m from that community. I’ve been applying for a house there since 1998, Unfortunately ive never gotten one bc of my last name.not even a used trailor n i have 4 kids one is 18 so now i have 3 name is always getting erased off the list and when i inquire about my application at band office,they smile and say they know nothing.even to get sponsored for education there’s never any funds for people with my last name.. My name doesn’t exist in that band office. Its 2017 n i STILL don’t live there. Id like to be closer to my family, Everybody else is.They say cnc is on your side when a family member gets in. Bullshit. Irvin mcivor was Chief once.. I didn’t get anything from him..not even a second thought. I struggle where i am today as a single parent. I have no outside support. I wish we were all looked at equally n maybe Lance should trade homes with Melinda. I know i would if i were in his predicament.

  4. No wonder off-reserve & White people think all chiefs & councils are corrupt, petty & self-destructive.

  5. That’s too bad, isn’t there a way that human rights can get in there and do something?? I mean C+C should be responsible for the peoples well being win the community!! That family is not safe, what happens if they one of them gets a disease and dies from the poor air they are breathing in? Then what?? Who is going to take responsibility!? I think the Chief is jealous, he should of been helping this family and showing his community that he’s worth it in another election!! But now, he has been exposed as a Chief who is not willing to help his people!

  6. The church’s divided the community, pitted Native Spiritualists against religious shakers. The government divided by feeding half and not feeding others. Created division by the opportunities, nepotism….Come together people we are all the same we are all the same.

  7. Shame on Chief Roulette and council. That’s all I can say. There is no adherence to the Seven Grandfather Laws here. There is only the interplay of vaulting pride, greed, dishonour, cowardliness, lies, fear mongering, foolishness, disrespect, hatred, and folly. Time to remove Chief Roulette and the entire council, hold another election, and start again. With luck, the residents of Sandy Bay will vote differently, and vote for a Chief and Council who have THEIR best interests at heart, not that of immediate family members, dicey friends, drug addicts, thugs and hangers-on.

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