West Kelowna is being accused of discriminating against a resident who is disabled because it wants to treat her the same as everyone else.
Glenn Olien, whose partner Linda Forner requires a large recreational vehicle for her living accommodation, says the municipality has a duty to reasonably accommodate people with disabilities and, as a result, should allow a “relaxation” of its bylaws to allow the RV to be connected to their existing property’s sewer and electrical systems.
The RV, which Olien concedes is very large, is not a manufactured home as the municipality contends but is in fact, recognized by the Canadian Standard’s Association as a recreational vehicle.
It would be located beside the house Olien and Forner have shared for years and is required because of Forner’s disability.
A concrete pad needs to be built for the RV to provide a level place for it and a small deck is also required. Both are allowed without a permit.
But the sewer and electrical connections appear to be the stumbling blocks in this case.
“This duty to reasonably accommodate is a very powerful tool the District of West Kelowna to use in order to do what is right for people with disabilities,” said Olien is a submission to council.
In an interview with the Capital News on Monday, he said the bigger issue is that the district does not have anything addressing its duty to accommodate people with disabilities.
Olien said by treating his and Forner’s request as a variance—something he described as a move council has choice in making—as opposed to a “relaxation,” which is something relative to a person with a disability that is not only allowed but compelled, West Kelowna is discriminating against Forner.
He would not publicly divulge Forner’s disability but said it has been reveled to municipal officials.
He said such cases should not be about an individual’s disability but rather the fact the municipality does not accommodate people with disabilities.
Olien and Forner have been trying to deal with the issue of the recreational vehicle for the last year.
But Jason Johnston, West Kelowna’s chief administrative officer, said his staff do not have the ability to change bylaw requirements.
That rests with council and that is normally done through variances.
Mayor Doug Findlater expressed sympathy about the situation and suggested a temporary use permit.
But Olien rejected that saying a temporary use permit would have to be renewed every three years and stability is important.
He said Forner has the right to decide where she wants to live and that is being taken from her if the municipality refuses to allow the RV.
Coun. Bryden Winsby expressed concern about a “one-off” situation if council allows such a change for one person.
But Olien countered that when it comes to accommodating people with disabilities each case will be different and needs to be dealt with on its own.
Coun. Carol Zanan said she would like to see something done but questioned how far council needs to go to ccommodate one person.
Coun. Duane Ophus suggested a staff report is needed to show the best way to accommodate Forner’s needs.
Olien expressed his frustration saying the issue has been going back and forth for more than a year and his patience is wearing thin.
“What we have is a failure of anyone (at the district) to take this seriously,” he said, adding if it continues he may commit an “act of civil disobedience.”
He did not say what that would be.
But he said he will complain to the B.C. Human Rights Commission if necessary, noting Canada signed the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Person’s with Disabilities last year.
Council meanwhile asked district staff to look into the situation and report back.