WINNIPEG – Richard Hykawy says he wants to set a legal precedent for every Canadian who is forced to cut grass or clear snow from city property adjacent to their home — a situation he calls worse than slavery.
“Back in the day, slaves were kept. They were clothed, maybe not well. They were fed, maybe not well. But they were provided equipment and given what they needed to (perform) the work,” Hykawy said Wednesday outside a Winnipeg court.
“In the case of the city, we’re not clothed, we’re not fed.”
Hykawy is struggling to launch a challenge under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He has refused for the last few years to mow the grass on a strip of city property next to his suburban house, which sits on a corner lot in the well-to-do Island Lakes neighbourhood. He has been fined hundreds of dollars, in part to cover the cost of mowing performed by city workers.
The military veteran, in his late 40s, argues that the city’s bylaw requiring homeowners to maintain property they do not own amounts to forced labour and a violation of his rights.
He conceded to reporters Wednesday that his suburban lifestyle is not comparable to that of a slave and said he used the analogy in part for its “shock value.” Still, he said, he is defending an important principle.
“The city should mow it themselves. It’s their property.”
Hykawy faces an uphill battle in court. He has chosen to represent himself instead of hiring a lawyer.
Justice Donald Bryk told Hykawy on Wednesday he had not filled out his affidavit correctly and had included a lot of “irrelevant” statements.
“It’s more of an editorialization … than setting out facts within your knowledge,” said the Court of Queen’s Bench judge.
Hykawy had also failed to notify the provincial and federal governments that he is launching a challenge under the charter. Bryk postponed the case to give Hykawy time to file the required paperwork. No date was set for the next hearing.
Hykawy said he might change his mind and hire a lawyer, but he appears to enjoy fighting city hall on his own.
“It’s an educational process. I mean, I’m not opposed to getting a lawyer. We just have to weigh out the pros and cons.
“I’m still thinking I should be fine. I just need to make some changes to an affidavit and refile and take it from there, I guess.”