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Jackie Vautour's family discussing next steps after belongings boxed from N.B. park

FREDERICTON — After Edmond Vautour took in the sight of what was once his family home, he said he was at a loss for words to describe the scene.
Some members of the 67 families who continue the fight with Parks Canada over expropriation are shown in Kouchibouguac National Park, in New Brunswick, on Wednesday, May 19, 2021. The granddaughter of a man who laid claim to land in the park says it is a "very frustrating time" for her family. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Kevin Bissett

FREDERICTON — After Edmond Vautour took in the sight of what was once his family home, he said he was at a loss for words to describe the scene. His late father, Jackie Vautour, had laid claim to land in New Brunswick's Kouchibouguac National Park, calling it home for decades.

The 70-hectare parcel of land where a teepee, two recreational vehicles and several sheds once stood looked like a mess of upturned earth, Edmond Vautour said in an interview Wednesday. The signs of decades of dwelling and the place his father called home were razed to the ground.

"I was sad and heartbroken to see all the damage they did," he said. "The damage looks like a real mess."

Jackie Vautour fought a nearly 50-year battle against expropriation after the park was created in 1969, living in a cabin without electricity until his death in February 2021.

Parks Canada said it had given the family until March 31, 2022, to remove their belongings from the park.

"The family’s belongings are being carefully boxed and securely stored outside of the national park," the federal agency said Tuesday in a statement confirming it had begun dismantling the Vautour encampment.

"Parks Canada will ensure the family has the details on how to retrieve these items."

Jackie Vautour was compensated by the New Brunswick government for the expropriated land in 1987, the agency said. "Despite accepting the money and the land and signing an agreement to relinquish his claim on the land, Mr. Vautour returned to occupy lands in the park."

About 250 families were displaced through expropriation when the park was created in 1969.

On Tuesday evening, employees of Parks Canada, along with RCMP officers, erected barricades while the family's belongings were boxed up. 

Edmond Vautour said he and other members of his family weren't expecting to be evicted because they had received no communication from Parks Canada since the March 31, 2022, deadline passed.

The granddaughter of Jackie Vautour, Courtney Vautour, said the family found out Tuesday morning from her mother, who lives in Miramichi, N.B., that Parks Canada had blocked off the road.

"It's a very frustrating time for my family," she said in an interview.

The only person living on the site was her father, Rocky. "At the time, my father had run into town to the store," she said.

Parks Canada said in an email Wednesday that Route 117, which was the road that ran to the Vautours' campsite, had reopened.

Edmond Vautour said he came to the area around 11 a.m. Wednesday. The sight that met his eyes sent him back to 1976, when he was 15 and the family home had been torn down during the original expropriation to make way for the national park. 

"It brought back those memories to see that they did the same thing here again." He said he doesn't know where his brother Rocky will live. "It's scary," he said. "It's unbelievable."

The family is regrouping, talking with their lawyer and considering their options, he said. "We're going to put teepees and tents," he added. "We ain't going to stop."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 12, 2023.

Hina Alam, The Canadian Press

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