Should By-Law Officers have all that Power?
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been railing against a specific provision in the Ontario Municipal Act. That provision permits municipalities to pass bylaws that allow bylaw officers to walk onto your private property without having to give the landowner notice, and without the need for a warrant.
It lets strangers come onto your property, while you’re away at work, and maybe your kids are home alone. It allows them to do this with no oversight, and without a confidential complaint system to ensure that bylaw officers don’t become nothing more than bylaw bullies.
Section 436(1) of the Ontario Municipal Act gives bylaw this extraordinary and unreasonable power. It needs to be repealed. That’s what I argue in this Huffington Post piece. And what I’ll be talking about at the Canadian Property Rights Conference in Ottawa.
If you think that this Power of Entry (or Right of Entry, as it’s sometimes called) is necessary for effective enforcement, you should have a conversation with Alberta. Or Manitoba. Or Saskatchewan. Or any of the three Territories. All of these jurisdictions require that “reasonable notice” be given to the landowner prior to an investigation or inspection. If the landowner gives them the middle finger, as probably she should, the bylaw officers can try and get a warrant to enter the private property.
At no point can they just hop over your fence and maybe peek in your windows if a neighbour complained, or if the officer has a hunch (or just wants to see your backyard. He can always claim, afterwards, that he thought he saw something contrary to bylaw somewhere on your property. Since there is no arms-length body overseeing these officers, nor accepting complaints about their behaviour, these officers are basically free to check out your yard for any reason whatsoever).
Isn’t this, dear reader, just about the best way to harass your neighbour if you’ve got a beef with her? Phone in a phony complaint to bylaw. Your complaint is totally anonymous. Can they do anything to you if you’re obviously just stirring up shit? No, they can’t.
What a brilliant system we have in Ontario!
It’s a recipe for abuse. And it really has got to go.