The latest human rights embarassment....
A nice editorial from the National Post...
Imagine you’re a hard-working suburbanite. You’ve scrimped and saved, and put together enough money for the a down payment on a four-bedroom house. You’ll be paying the thing off for years — decades, even — but it’s worth it: You’ve got a safe place for your children to grow up, as well as a rock-solid investment you can fall back on when the mortgage is paid, and it’s time to retire.
Now imagine your dream being destroyed: Landlords start buying up adjacent properties and turning them into cheap dorm rooms for students at a nearby trade school. Instead of your neighbours being families with young children, they’re suddenly drunken all-night party-goers who use the streets as a toilet.
And so you fight back in the courts — finally persuading a provincial judge to declare the offending properties illegal. It’s a first step toward taking back the neighbourhood from the flop-house industry and the denizen of Psi Chugga Chugga.
But now imagine — and we promise, this is the last vignette in this little reverie — that a bureaucrat comes wading in to the fray and litigates against you using your own tax dollars, wailing to the court that your desire to retain the family character of your neighbourhood violates Psi Chugga Chugga’s “human rights.” How would you feel?
We don’t have to speculate. We can simply ask the (sober) residents living in the area of Oshawa, Ont., near Durham College and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. A few years back, they saw their neighbourhood going to the dogs in exactly this sort of way. Landlords stuffed as many as nine students into a single home. Property values plummeted by as much as 25%. Residents’ lawns were used as bathrooms. The streets were littered with smashed beer bottles. “I would get calls at work from my wife in tears saying that there were kids urinating on our lawn,” recalled one homeowner.
In 2008, an Ontario Superior Court judge took the good guys’ side, ruling that 24 of the 30 properties in question were operating as illegal lodging houses. Neighbourhood planning, the judge ruled, would be impossible “if the definition of ‘single housekeeping establishment’ could include any number of persons, each independent from each other, coming together for temporary short-term economic reasons to share the cost of accommodation.”
But the battle didn’t end there. Enter Ontario Human Rights Commission chief Barbara Hall — best known to Canada for a creepy 2008 manifesto, urging government to give human-rights mandarins the power to censor media publications they don’t like. Litigating the Oshawa case all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, she argued that preventing lodging houses from operating in the disputed neighborhoods would compromise the students’ “access to housing.”
“We feel ... students should have access to various parts of the city in which to live and that we all should have that kind of access, and the bottom line is that none of us can choose our neighbours,” Ms. Hall said in an interview. “Sometimes we’re lucky and sometimes we’re not.”
In this case, fortunately, the outcome was “not”: The Supreme Court last month rejected her argument. Hallelujah.