Lisa Voelker and her mother Mary have lost an appeal to keep two soft-sided sheds on their Innisfail property, which they say are needed for practising their First Nations traditions. (Contributed photo).

What’s an eyesore for the Town of Innisfail is a ceremonial place for an indigenous woman

Lisa Voelker feels singled out by a town order to remove her two soft-sided ‘sheds’

An Innisfail woman is refusing a town order to remove two soft-sided structures from her property, saying she needs to continue practising her First Nations traditions in them.

Lisa Voelker and her mother have been performing smudges and other Indigenous ceremonies in the tent-like “sheds,” or car storage covers, for the past four years.

They heard of no previous concerns expressed about the structures in their front and backyards until Aug. 30, when an order for their removal was issued by the Town of Innisfail.

Voelker was told that a municipal bylaw makes it illegal to have car storage shelters up year-round — which is similar to rules enforced by many other central Alberta communities.

She told town officials she uses her tent-like structures, which are needed year-round for praying, drumming, and ceremonies that honour her First Nations culture.

Voelker feels singled out by the town, since so many other such “sheds” are allowed to remain in Innisfail yards. She recently presented 30 photos she’d taken of similar ones, but her appeal to the town was still denied.

Voelker believes it could be a sign of cultural discrimination.

But Innisfail CAO Todd Becker said that’s not the case since other removal orders have been issued: “There is no indication of a culture-charged discrimination. That is a no-go area…”

Becker added that the town does not want to take a “heavy-handed” approach, but prefers to be pro-active by first talking to property owners about the need to removing these soft-sided structures that contravene a bylaw.

While tents and gazebos are allowed during the summer months, Becker said the town does not want year-round soft-covered garages to proliferate. He believes it’s for aesthetic considerations that the bylaw was drafted some 20 years ago — either spurred by community demand, or instigated by town council.

“You are allowed to put up a holiday tent in your yard because it’s a temporary structure,” said Becker. But many communities have outlawed soft-sided garages because they are an eye-sore, and can become dilapidated by weathering.

Voelker believes her 10-foot-by-20 foot tent-sheds look as good as when she first put them up. She said she does not intend to take them down by the end of the month, as ordered, even if the town fines her $250, then bills her for their removal by city workers — as the bylaw stipulates

When asked if she’ll continue her fight in court, Voelker said “I’m taking it one step at a time.”

H



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

ere is general signature for all briefs:

Innisfail

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer’s new courthouse on track despite pandemic

Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda reaffirms commitment to build courthouse

Central Alberta business sanitizes with bacoban against coronavirus, results to last for over 3 months

Innisfail’s Dark Woods Brewing got coronavirus-proof clean recently with bacoban. The brewery… Continue reading

Vulnerable Lacombe resident says COVID-19 ‘extremely scary’

Elderly residents and people with prior conditions at risk for severe cases of COVID-19

A message from the Advocate publisher

In good times and bad, The Red Deer Advocate has been here… Continue reading

Snow expected in Red Deer and other parts of central Alberta Monday

Spring is on hold in central Alberta. Heavy snow fall is on… Continue reading

Alberta Health Services provides COVID-19 prevention tips

Alberta Health Services has a number of recommendations for people amid the… Continue reading

Alberta government website has latest COVID-19 statistics

Red Deer Advocate readers can stay up to date on the COVID-19… Continue reading

Newspapers are safe to touch, World Health Organization confirms

Just make sure to wash your hands, as you would after touching any surface or object

David Marsden: Signs of kindness lift our spirits during COVID-19 pandemic

From teddy bears, to colourful cutouts of hearts, to expressions of support… Continue reading

Delay in tackling COVID-19 adds mightily to death toll

The basic choice all along with COVID-19 has been: do we let… Continue reading

Health care workers should have the protection they need

Hospital staff are now having serious problems getting protective equipment to prevent… Continue reading

Lacombe Police respond to multiple incidents

LPS respond to thefts, outstanding warrants

Tokyo Olympics rescheduled for July 23-Aug. 8 in 2021

TOKYO — The Tokyo Olympics will open next year in the same… Continue reading

Most Read