Cottagers may lose big bucks

People face losing hundreds of thousands of dollars they’ve invested in cottage property near Lake of the Woods after a First Nation decided not to renew their lease at the end of the year.
The cottagers, who have been there for more than 30 years, have been leasing their land from the Rat Portage First Nation.
Chief Kenny Skead said talks broke down and the lease will not be renewed when it expires Dec. 31.
Skead said cottagers had reneged on commitments made in the past, adding the cottagers also owed the band money.
“It left us with no option but to break off any further negotiations at the direction of band members and elders,” Skead said. “We will not entertain further discussions for future leases.”
Reg Wightman, president of the Devil’s Gap Cottagers (1982) Ltd., blamed the federal Department of Indian Affairs, which technically owns the land where the reserve is located and negotiates leases for the band.
“The band has not done anything wrong,” Wightman said. “This is all Indian Affairs’ fault.”
There are 33 cottages on the site, located about five km southeast of Kenora opposite Treaty Island.
The site used to be a Canadian Pacific Railway tourist camp but the cottagers have lived there since the 1970s.
The cottages range in size from 37-46 square metres. The former 278-square-metre lodge also is being used as a cottage.
The lease arrangement had the cottage association charged an annual fee, which was allocated to the individual cottagers depending on the size of the unit they occupied, the amount of land assigned to it, and proximity to the lakefront.
Wightman said annual rents ranged from $1,100 to $1,700.
He added the limited company has a value estimated at between $3.5 million and $5 million.
The cottagers filed a lawsuit in Federal Court last month, alleging Indian Affairs had violated terms of the lease by backcharging them rent for a four-year period.
A spokesman for Indian Affairs has refused to comment on the cottagers’ legal action or the negotiations over the lease renewals.