You know what? Sometimes, the world is not a very nice place. I’m sure that doesn’t come as a revelation to my LGBQT2+ friends, but I’m a white, middle class, heterosexual, cis-gendered male. The poster child for privilege. But now…. Now I’m a deviant. A threat to my neighborhood — and the fabric of society. And so are you, if my neighbors are to be believed.
Identifying under this umbrella of “ethical non-monogamy” is part of my biological makeup, not just something I do for fun on a Saturday night. I got to a point in my life where I felt confident and could be unapologetically transparent. The symbol generally associated with Ménage was actually created as a family marque. After, the name Ménage was chosen. French for “members of a household”, it was selected to reflect my chosen family within the community.
Over the years, I have surrounded myself with people in this community and ones outside who are accepting of my personal choices regardless of their own beliefs. This has created an artificial sense of reality: we’re finally accepting non-binary genders, non-traditional sexual orientations, and non-traditional relationship structures. Sure, some of the laws have to catch up, but social conscience is improving. I believed that the rest of the world – that peripheral circle of influence in which we must all operate as members of society – was evolving and if not accepting, was at least acquiescent.
My privilege made me naïve.
In early 2019, the City informed me that my house was being deemed a “Social Organization”, in contravention of the Land Use Bylaw. This is a continuation of an investigation I dealt with in 2016, and thought was resolved. Contrary to what I was told, the City continued to be fueled by a few squeaky wheels in my neighborhood, who object to my lifestyle.
Through the process of appealing this label, the neighbors have been given a forum to say what they really think of all of us:
- “a devisive, sexually driven group of individuals”
- “we are opening up our children and our residents to possibly dangerous situations”
- “our streets are not safe as a result”
- “some…cars are still parked…the following morning…affording people of questionable character the opportunity to meet with children”
- “sexual practices not suitable for our family neighborhood”
- “having individuals…gather at this location for activities that we find personally objectionable…are totally unacceptable”
- “ensure there is no continuation of objectionable activities that are so abhorrent to our…community”
- “we would like our neighborhood back to where we could be proud and feel safe of our surroundings”
- “brings us great concern for the health and safety of our children and our community”
- “built on the business of infidelity”
- “it is our fear minors may be allowed to enter the premise [sic] unaware of the intentions and sexual nature”
- “how will the City…enforce and ensure no minors be allowed on or within a residential property?”
- “everyday [sic] young children walk past…these children run the risk of being exposed to many dangers and age inappropriate sights”
- “the City…should require that all surrounding schools be notified for the dissemination of information to each student’s families”
- “no place in a residential community, does not belong near an elementary school”
- “the lure of sexually promiscuous individuals to our neighborhood”
- “we have three young adult daughters…as parents, this gives us great case [sic] for concern as we do not know if these people are intoxicated or what state of mind they may be in after engaging in, or having been a spectator of, explicit sexual activities”
- “they cannot account for what their guests do, and to whom they may do it to [sic], in the neighborhood once they leave”
- “there is increased risk to our children which can be affected by the…presence of sexually promiscuous people present in the neighborhood”
- “I…have concerns about…the property value of our…homes”
There you have it, friends. We are pedophiles, rapists and criminals – degenerates and deviants, the lot of us. I don’t actually bear them ill-will, and ask you not to, either. I was astounded at the ignorance, vitriol, and incredible leaps in logic. There is no educating or even debating this kind of mindset.
The “Social Organization” label includes any place “where members of a club or group assemble to participate in recreation, social or cultural activities; where there are sports, recreation, cultural, or social events for the members of the group”. This language is overly broad, and flies in the face of at least 6 areas of the Charter of Rights. Despite the broadness of the definition, not a single person has ever been pursued under it – not a Scout troop meeting, not a Bible study group, not a bowling group, not a weekly Game of Thrones party, nor any other group. Until us.
Because the Appeal Board which hears these issues has no jurisdiction over Constitutional matters, I have no choice but to take the case to the Court of Queen’s Bench. This is no small feat, nor at small expense; so far, I’ve spent over $50 000 defending against this ongoing witch hunt.
This will be precedent-setting and will have a positive impact on our freedoms and our community, no matter which sections of the Charter are accepted by the Court as a reason to strike down this section of the bylaw. We may not be able to educate the closed-minded and ignorant, but we can at least put laws in place to protect ourselves, and strike down those which discriminate against us.
Make no mistake, I will continue to invite my chosen family, my friends, and their friends, to my home. But if this overreach is allowed to stand, we will all have to fight for that right, every time a neighbor has a moral objection. A GoFundMe has been set up to help offset the legal costs as I pursue this matter. It’s going to cost far more than the significant amount I’ve already spent. I ask you to consider donating, because this as a fight for individual freedom against government intrusion into our bedrooms.
Court of Queen’s Bench Hearing
The next hearing has not been scheduled due to the public health emergency declaration. When a Court date is available, we will be re-appearing before the Justice to now argue the Charter issues.
As expected, the limitations of the SDAB jurisdiction meant they could only consider whether the Stop Order had been properly applied to the law as stated. They didn’t consider anything outside that scope. This extremely limited scope meant they didn’t consider the “justice” of the application of this bylaw, nor whether a different section of the Bylaw should/could be considered (s.308 instead of s.307, which the City refuses to do because it would invalidate their argument). With their ruling, however, we can now move back to the Court of Queen’s Bench where this issue belongs.
Court of Queen’s Bench Hearing
The SDAB is not able to make decisions on Charter issues. Given the arguments are Charter-related, we entered into an agreement with the City to acknowledge that the first court of competent jurisdiction was the Court of Queen’s Bench. We agreed to forego the SDAB hearing and proceed directly to Court.
The Justice, however, was reluctant to rule on Charter issues before all administrative rulings had occurred. So we must go to SDAB to have them rule on the limited jurisdictional issues under their authority.