Corner Brook -
It looks as though one man's plan to donate property to the Qalipu First Nations Band is not as cut and dried as he may think.
In the Feb. 15 edition of The Western Star, Eric Tucker announced that he and his surviving brothers had decided to give a parcel of land in Meadows to the band, which is in the process of being established by the Federation of Newfoundland Indians.
However, Tucker's nephew, Walter Tucker, has since come forward, claiming that he and his mother are the rightful proprietors of the land in question and that it is not Eric Tucker's to give away.
The land once belonged to Eric Tucker's now-deceased parents, William and Annie Tucker.
Both Eric and Walter Tucker currently reside in Ontario.
Walter Tucker is the son of Eric Tucker's brother, the late Russell Tucker, who died in 2005. He immediately travelled to Newfoundland with his mother, Dale Tucker, after hearing about his uncle's offer to the Qalipu band.
Walter Tucker has produced documents which show Russell Tucker, who also lived in Ontario, was the person to whom the Town of Meadows corresponded with in relation to any business associated with the property, such as property assessments and tax bills.
He also has receipts related to tax bills being paid in the name of Russell Tucker.
In addition, Walter Tucker had a copy of a document from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, dated Feb. 2, 2007, which indicates Dale Tucker was appointed trustee of her husband's estate in the absence of him leaving a will.
While in Corner Brook, Walter Tucker's plan was to retain a lawyer and set about obtaining the documentation which would show he and his mother have clear title to the land in question and not Eric Tucker or any other of William and Annie Tucker's children.
"My father always had the land there," Walter Tucker told The Western Star. "It as always his and was given to him by his father, William Tucker.
"My belief is that, part of what happened is that Eric has waited until almost everyone who could say this was Russell's land was dead and gone."
In the Feb. 15 story, Eric Tucker said the land was located on Tucker's Road. The documents produced by Walter Tucker indicate the property is actually listed as 4A McCarthy's Rd., which is near what's known as Tucker's Hill in Meadows.
"Eric doesn't even know the proper address," said Walter Tucker.
Russell Tucker was injured in a car accident in 2001 and the injury prevented him from returning to Meadows to continue work on the land, according to Walter Tucker.
Walter Tucker said he has no intention of selling the land and wants to keep it in his family's name for their future enjoyment.
Calls to the Town of Meadows by The Western Star were deferred to Mayor Ken March, who could not be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, the Federation of Newfoundland Indians said it has no intention of getting involved in a family dispute and will not accept any offer of land without legal proof of who has clear title to the property.
Kent Brothers is a Corner Brook lawyer who has worked on many property transactions. He could not comment on this particular dispute, but said determining a clear title to property can be a complex undertaking that could take years and cost plenty in legal fees to figure out.
"Possession and ownership are complicated issues, especially with vacant land in rural areas," said Brothers.
Paying taxes on land or assuming ownership because the property was once owned by a parent or grandparent do not necessarily translate into a legal claim to owning that property, said Brothers. At the same time, Brothers said it is possible to acquire land thought to be held by another by way of what's known as "possessory title" or "squatter's title" if the property is occupied for a period of 10 years and no one else establishes ownership to it.
Unless lawyers representing contending factions can come to some sort of resolutions, property disputes could have to be decided by a court judge.