Cowichan Tribes brass is citing miscommunication after a member living on reserve land has been left with a hole in his roof for almost a year.
A single parent of two boys, John Alphonse said his Indian Road home was damaged when a tree fell on his house during a windstorm.
“I tried to get help from Cowichan Tribes but they took one partial tree off my house and I had to do the rest,” Alphonse said. “I did try to get help from them but they don’t give me a response.”
Prior to the tree incident, a grease fire in the home damaged the ceiling and he fears asbestos is falling out and making him ill.
“The doctors did tell me I had to get that resolved sooner than later because the asbestos can flow without you seeing it,” he said. “I’ve had to go to the doctor more than once but they said unless I get the hole in my ceiling resolved there’s nothing much more he can do.”
Alphonse said his calls to the band’s housing office have largely been ignored.
“They told me they’d get back to me but nobody has phoned back or I get a voicemail if they find out it’s me calling,” he said. “With my roof, they say we’ll send somebody out and nobody ever does come out. I’m just worried about the winter coming up.”
He fears the tarp on his roof won’t hold if the region sees any significant snowfall.
“This house was willed to me from my grandmother, they can’t help me, so I’m just frustrated that I don’t get any help,” he said.
Chief William Seymour (Squtxulenuhw) said he understands sometimes people get frustrated when they feel they’re not being heard. He said, though, that nobody at Cowichan Tribes has a record of Alphonse’s house damage.
“In speaking with our housing manager and the general manager, both of them had no idea that there was problems there. Housing is looking at it now,” Seymour said. “I guess nobody had any idea about a tree falling on his house, or a stove fire. It’s news to us.”
This situation is made more complex, Seymour added, because it’s not band-owned housing.
“He does own it, he is responsible for it, but when we look at emergencies like wind damage and that kind of thing, or fire damage, we do try to help.”