A citizen and her spouse were expelled from Le Michelois community garden, for a period of two years, following an altercation between her husband and another gardener who would have made offensive remarks towards her. The police had been called to the scene but no formal complaint was filed against either of the people concerned. This garden is located in Arrondissement de Villeray – Saint-Michel – Parc-Extension.

The gardeners of Le Michelois must abide by the Règles de civisme et de jardinage which the borough hands over to them. These Rules stipulate that an enjoyable atmosphere is essential to the practice of any leisure activity and that a person whose repetitive comments, behavior or attitude harm the serenity of the place can be sanctioned and, as a last resort, be expelled.

The same document provides that when the rules are not respected, a verbal warning must first be given, and then a written warning, following which the person may be expelled.

The procedure to be followed, when a problem arises, was imposed and communicated to the gardeners by the borough: in our opinion, therefore, they are binding on both the gardeners and the borough. According to these rules, prior notices must have been issued before a gardener may be expelled.

In the present instance, the borough initially alleged previous notices given to the citizen/complainant. After investigation, however, it turned out that all of these notices had been cancelled by the borough: thus, the citizen’s file did not contain any valid previous notice and the altercation should have been sanctioned as a first offence.

The borough then acknowledged that the expulsions were sprung only from the acts of the citizen’s spouse, during the altercation, and that it considered the citizen to be fully liable for the actions of her spouse/co-gardener. The Règles de civisme et de jardinage do not refer to such mutual liability between co-gardeners, but the borough rejected our suggestion that only the co-gardener/spouse should be sanctioned for his own actions.

The borough also submitted that under a Zero tolerance policy, it systematically expels anyone who verbally or physically abuses another person. In the present instance, however, the other gardener involved in the altercation was not expulsed nor imposed any sanction whatsoever.

In light of the foregoing, this double expulsion, for a period of two years, appeared to us as unjust and unfair.

The Ombudsman de Montréal issued a Recommendation that the expulsion of the citizen be cancelled and that she be reinstated in her community garden and that the borough reconsiders its decision in regards to the spouse/co-gardener and reduce his expulsion to a period of one season only.

The Borough Council of Arrondissement de Villeray – Saint-Michel – Parc-Extension reexamined the case and, in spite of our Recommendation, it maintained the initial decision to expel both the gardener and her spouse for a period of two years. We were very disappointed by this decision.

However, the borough has committed to update its Règles de civisme et de jardinage et de jardinage to clearly specify that expulsions may be imposed as a first sanction, in some instances, and to clarify the current “non written rule” according to which gardeners are fully responsible for the actions of their co-gardeners.It is very important, in our opinion, that complete and unambiguous rules be communicated to the gardeners.

In 2008, Arrondissement de Villeray – Saint-Michel – Parc-Extension modified its Règles de civisme et de jardinage which now clearly provide for the main gardener’s responsability toward the actions of his co-gardener as well as the existence of a “zero tolerance” policy in regards to violence, in any form.

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