Sunday, March 8, 2009

I'm Not Blowing Smoke

Wed, 02/11/2009 - 18:32

Whoever coined the phrase "truth is stranger than fiction" must have had extensive dealings with government. Poor Ted Kindos has one strange story to tell.

Ted Kindos is the owner of Gator Ted's Tap & Grill in Burlington. Four years ago, Kindos committed the apparently grievous act of asking a medically licensed marijuana smoker to move away from the front door of his restaurant. The smoker, a man by the name of Steve Gibson, took such objection that he decided to complain to the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) on the grounds of bias against a disabled person.

A reasonable person might have expected the case to be dismissed outright, but the ensuing details makes one wonder what the OHRC was smoking. Here's what they came up with:

As part of a settlement offer that took no account of Kindos’ $40,000 in legal fees (Gibson had his bills generously covered by the taxpayer), the struggling business owner was ordered to pay the licensed marijuana smoker a sum of $2,000 for pain and suffering, to educate his staff and the public about the human rights code, and to post signs saying, “We accommodate medicinal marijuana smokers.”

But Kindos' ordeal doesn't end there. After the settlement, Kindos was helpfully informed by Ontario's Alcohol and Gaming Commission that Ontario laws prohibit him from serving anybody in possession of a controlled substance, even if that substance is medically permitted. With the OHRC-mandated signs hanging in his restaurant, Kindos was told that his liquor license was now in jeopardy.

As he enters the fifth year of this dispute, Kindos continues to incur substantial legal fees in the defense of his liquor license. Meanwhile, his business prospects are clouded by a recession that has been particularly harmful to the hospitality sector.

The OHRC was originally intended to mediate cases of housing or employment discrimination. How did this agency overstep such a simple but important mandate?

Unfortunately, the McGuinty government has given the OHRC and other government agencies the green light to take on a more intrusive role. After all, why worry about the backlog of 3000 OHRC cases, including complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace, when you can blaze exciting new trails for human rights through Gator Ted's Tap and Grill?

If the McGuinty Government doesn’t bring about an intervention and focus these drifting agencies to their actual mandates, the whole experience will simply leave the OHRC and others jonesing for more.

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