Wins for Property Rights

Published November 1, 2017

Here are some examples of property owners (OLA and non-OLA) standing up for their rights and having a successful outcome.

1. When the Province decided to change the Building Code to enforce maintenance of septic systems every five years, Elizabeth Marshall, OLA Director of Research, wrote to the Minister of Municipal Affairs explaining why this should not be done. This change has been withdrawn.

2. When the City of Ottawa and the South Nation Conservation Authority decided to create wetlands on parkland near a suburban development, the adjacent property owners formed the Navan Landowners Committee. Supported by the Lanark and Carleton Landowners and the Goulbourn Landowners Group, Inc., this committee successfully reversed the decision – the wetlands will not be built. The success of the Navan group has resulted in increased respect for private property owners.

3. When a self-proclaimed environmental watchdog Ken McRae asked the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority to stop private property owners from improving their “wet” lands, OLA President Tom Black and several other landowners were on hand at the RVCA board meeting to present the landowners’ view. RVCA listened and have asked the landowners to provide more details on the Goulbourn wetlands situation.

4. When the municipality of Mississippi Mills decided to sell off parkland to developers, the community protested loudly. A senior who opposed the sale was wrestled to the floor at a council meeting. In the end, the municipality was advised that they did not have the authority to sell the land.

5. When the City of St. John’s, NFLD refused the Lynch family the use and enjoyment of their land, the family took the municipality to court. The court ruled in favour of the family and ordered the City to pay compensation, deeming the City’s designation of the Lynch property as a watershed as constructive expropriation. An appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada by St John’s was turned down.

6. When her municipality charged Donna Burns (President of Renfrew, Nippissing, Pembroke LA and OLA Governor) and a colleague in August 2013 with failing to buy a dog tag, Donna knew the law better than Council. After 31 months, 22 court appearances, considerable stress, financial hardship not to mention frivolous spending of taxpayer’s money, there is still no decision. The delays on the part of the municipality have demonstrated that they are not on solid ground with their dog tag bylaw and as a result, many people have stopped buying dog tags.

7. When the town of Perth told Shadowfax, a jewelry and clothing store that they had to change their newly painted storefront to different colours because of the town’s heritage conservation plan, Shadowfax’s owner rallied the community, went to a council meeting, and got a postponement on repainting the store.

8. When the Niagara Escarpment Commission proposed an expansion of the Niagara Escarpment Plan mostly in Grey, Dufferin, Bruce and Simcoe Counties, Elizabeth Marshall, OLA Director of Research, was among those who opposed it. She attended many of the public consultation meetings and she wrote to the Minister of Natural Resources asking for more open and respectful consultations and explaining how the expansion was a violation of people’s constitutional rights and the Criminal Code of Canada. The Province has backed away from the proposal.

9. When the County of Renfrew issued its Official Plan Amendment 25 (OPA 25), Donna Burns rallied the community to attend the public consultation meetings and to make sure they provided comments on the plan. Many people have no idea what an official plan is and how it affects them. Because of Donna’s efforts, many of us now know about the practice of “implied consent” used by municipalities. If you don’t contest a designation, you are assumed to agree with it.

10. The following are example of wins from Jeff Bogearts (Canadian Property Rights Legal Services).

Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority v. Bill and Ruth Martin (2 years)

Prior to trial, four Judicial Pre-Trial meetings were heard in front of a Justice of the Peace. At each meeting, issues were raised by the defence, that the evidence provided by the prosecution was not complete and inaccurate. Through the assistance of Bob Weirmeir and Bob Pattison, evidence was gathered and presented at the JPT.

After final negotiations, the prosecution dropped all charges.

Grand River Conservation Authority v. Nelson Leite (2 years)

On the first day of trial, the prosecution stated to the Justice presiding that one of the primary witnesses would not be available for trial. The prosecution also stated that the original Information be amended from a single day in July to a range of dates beginning in October of 2014 running through to October of 2016. When the prosecution was finished the Justice asked the defence for their comments. The defence stated that the witness which was not going to appear, was now living and working in British Columbia and would not be returning for the trial. The defence argued that this was a Charter violation in several areas and was prejudicial to the accused. After arguments were completed the Justice stated that a ruling would be given on the second day of trial one week later.

On the second day of scheduled trial, the Justice ruled that the information would not be amended. The prosecutor was asked how they wanted to proceed. A recess was granted to discuss with the GRCA staff. After the recess, the prosecution requested that the charges be withdrawn. The Justice disagreed and dismissed all charges. This was a clear win for the accused and the OLA using the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Township of Rideau Lakes v. Howard French (2 years)

There were contentious issues between the Chief Building Official and the accused. An Order to Comply was issued along with a Stop Work Order. A trial date was set.

Charter issues were brought forward. The Chief Building Official left the employ of the Township and moved to New Zealand and would not return for the trial. A Charter application was brought forward to be argued at Trial. The Charter arguments were under Section 7, Full Answer and Defence and under Section 11, no Fair Trial, the penalties were fines up to $50k, a building tear down and a prohibition on the building.

Approximately 15 minutes before trial, the prosecution offered a plea bargain to drop the first charge, a suspended sentence on the second charge and supply an engineer’s letter stating that he construction changes meet the building code standards.
The accused accepted the plea bargain.

This was not a direct win, but the defense was strong enough to cause the prosecution to offer a significant reduction in the penalties.
More Wins from Stefanos Karatopis …

Win 1: Exotic Animal Bylaw Ringtail Ranch and The Township of Wainfleet. Ringtail Ranch Owners is a private property zoned agricultural. The SPCA has used these owners to take rescued animals.

One day, Wainfleet was told to pass a bylaw to prevent exotic animals and they were told to do so by Regional Public Health. Private Property owners under the bylaw would be required to register their animals. If they did not register they would lose their animals and they would be destroyed. If they did register their animals it automatically granted the Township permission to enter private property anytime they wanted to.

When I became involved I worked with Ringtail Ranch and presented to the Township among other things that this was Extortion. When you are forced to do something under threat of force it become extortion.

I received calls during my Paralegal schooling and would leave class because Regional Public Health after hours were following the owners to children’s parties they were invited to and taking pictures. I made sure to instruct Ringtail Ranch owners to video tape the Public Health officers after hours besetting and watching/stalking them. We traced the licence plates to the owners and made police reports.

Later, SPCA, Police, Bylaw, and Regional Public Health showed up without warrants and searched the property and buildings. When I questioned bylaw on this, he said they could because an example was they had an animal at large. I asked what do you mean? Bylaw told me while they were at the back of Ringtail Ranch’s property that their goat was at the front of the house on the porch so that meant the animal was at large. It turns out not only was the animal NOT at large as it was on Ring Tail Ranches property but that goat was really a Donkey. One of the points I made during my presentation was that they should not have a bylaw officer for a rural township who could not tell the difference between normal farm animals and exotic animals.

A couple of weeks later Regional Public Health laid charges against Ringtail Ranch. After I sent the Township of Wainfleet letters from Regional Public Health stating they did not have authority to order the Ringtail Ranch to do some things and made the Township aware of the unconstitutional search of the Ringtail Ranch property has put them in an actionable position coupled with my presentation to the township, all charges were dropped against the Property Owners of Ringtail Ranch and the Exotic Animal Bylaw was dropped.

Win 2: Township of Pelham was contacting a private property owner, who just purchased his small-scale farm, on a complaint by a bad neighbour because he dug a pond and had 2 cows and some chickens on an Agricultural Zoned 10 acre property. A fine welcome to the Town of Pelham! The Township claimed he was not a farm because he was 10 acres and not a farm which needs to be 50 acres. Therefore, he could not have cows and chickens on it. After John the owner called me, I instructed him to write a letter and email it to the Township citing some Provincial Acts and educating him about private property rights and Constitutional Rights to live on his land, the Town of Pelham responded with a letter and email dropping all charges and the matter completely.

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