Human rights in the parking lot?
Lorne Gunter on the next crazy phase of human rights....
You know society has crossed into frightening new territory when a government agency thinks nothing of involving itself in a dispute over parking spaces at a condo, when it believes it has both the authority and wisdom to micromanage such trivial details of everyday life, and when the complainant imagines in the first place that it is acceptable to have a government agency use its power to bully her neighbours into giving her what she wants.
Marise Myrand weighs nearly 400 pounds. She has diabetes and heart and respiratory conditions. She needs oxygen to breathe and rides a handicap scooter.
In the summer of 2005, she asked her condo association to give her a parking space closer to the building’s door. The association’s board, quite sensibly, said it wasn’t their job to take stalls from one owner and give them to another, but Ms. Myrand was welcome to ask the woman who had the spot to switch.
Jocelyne Nolet turned Ms. Myrand down. Ms. Nolet, who is herself in her 60s and suffers from an injured shoulder, said she needed to be close to the door, too, since she is a shift cook who often comes home late and cannot carry more than a few kilos because of her bad shoulder.
I would hope that were I in a similar position, even if I had a bad shoulder, I would have said to Ms. Myrand, “sure, you take the stall; I’ll walk a few extra metres.” It would be the neighbourly thing to do.
But the stall is Ms. Nolet’s to give up or not. It is not the condo association’s to rearrange willy-nilly. And it is certainly not the business of the Quebec government.
Still, on Wednesday, the Quebec Human Rights Commission (Are there any three words more paradoxically creepy these days then “human rights commission?”) ruled that the Ste.-Marie-de-Beauce condo association must order Ms. Nolet to give her parking space to Ms. Myrand as of March 1. On top of that, all 35 of Ms. Myrand’s co-owners must contribute to a $10,000 award to compensate her for their failure to accommodate her handicap.
The Quebec tribunal claims Ms. Myrand was discriminated against because her neighbours used “insulting and degrading language” toward her and “violated the inclusive values promoted by our society.” The condo association is also alleged at one point to have suggested Ms. Myrand might be using her obesity for personal benefit.
Oh my God, call in the Dignity Squad, ready the Diversity Brigade, gear up the Re-education Detention Facility.
Clearly, it’s bad manners to wonder aloud whether someone who has allowed herself to become morbidly obese is now trying to use that condition to inch her vehicle closer to the entrance and save herself a few steps at the expense of a neighbour.
But so what if all that nastiness occurred? How does impoliteness constitute a subject of a government investigation?