Tuesday, March 6, 2012

It's just like being forced to wear a burka.

So many human rights, so little time. There's life, and there's liberty, and now there's the right to park it where you please:
Has the City of Ottawa violated your human rights if it won't let you park in front of your house?
According to New Edinburgh resident Pamela Howson, the answer is yes - if, like her, you have three young children in car seats and your vehicle is too wide to easily negotiate the narrow laneway that leads to your backyard parking spot.
In a novel case before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario in Ottawa Monday, Howson argued that the city discriminated against her on the grounds of family status by not letting her build a parking pad in front of her house.
 But city lawyers argued that Howson has never applied for a minor variance from the city's committee of adjustment - the body legally able to consider her request - so has never actually been denied anything.
Now, what could give someone the idea that, after freely choosing to buy this particular house and a car that can't fit in its driveway, her human rights were being violated by not being excused from parking bylaws? Let's sift through the clues:
 Two years ago, Howson - a former investigator with the Ontario Human Rights Commission - approached the city to see if it would grant an exemption based on her family's "special circumstances."
Someone who used to work for the OHRC wants to leapfrog (or should that be "kangaroojump"?) over legal processes and have her wishes granted by a rights tribunal? I'm shocked - shocked, I tell you!
 The family was willing to eliminate its parking spot in the rear, she said, if the city would permit them to park in front of their property. "We proposed a number of reasonable solutions, all of which were dismissed," Howson said.
Howson said city officials told her to apply to the committee of adjustment, an arms-length panel that considers minor variations to zoning bylaws.
But once she raised her human rights concerns, she said she was warned that every city department would oppose her application. Moreover, she was told the committee of adjustment wouldn't consider human rights arguments, she said.
The nerve of them.
Given that, and the $1,500 cost of an application, Howson said she concluded that going to the committee of adjustment would be a "useless but expensive and time-consuming process."
No doubt she's seen her share of those, having worked for the OHRC.

Contrary to the story, there's nothing "novel" about this. It's par for the course where Canada's "human rights" bodies are involved.

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