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Grass-cutting fight put off indefinitely

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He came to court today ready to challenge what he perceives to be the fundamental unfairness of the City of Winnipeg forcing him to mow the boulevard alongside his home.

Instead, Island Lakes resident Richard Hykawy's fight was put off indefinitely as he sorts out the complex legal procedure involved in making a court challenge under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"This is not as simple as producing material before the court and asking the court to deal with it," Court of Queen's Bench Justice Don Bryk told him. "This process is more complicated than you understand."

Hykawy, a retired Canadian Forces veteran, is representing himself.

He's arguing his Charter rights are being violated by the city in that he's essentially performing illegal "forced labour" by being sanctioned for not mowing the boulevard along side his Henry Dormer Drive home.

After receiving repeated fines, which have been tacked onto his property tax bill, the city finally took him to bylaw court, setting in motion what could be a much lengthier legal battle for Hykawy than he first envisioned.

Hykawy has replaced the grass on his front and rear yards with landscaped rocks.

In June, the prosecution of the bylaw infraction was put over to allow Hykawy to make the necessary arrangements to make a Charter challenge. A key condition is serving notice to the federal and provincial governments of his intentions, which by today he had not done.

Bryk noted this, and also said his documents supporting the application were insufficient. "I would suggest that you redo it," Bryk told him.

Bryk also offered a warning to Hykawy, saying he could be held liable for paying the costs of the governments' legal bills if he loses his fight down the road.

After court, Hykawy told reporters he was committed to seeing this through.

"I say this is far worse than slavery," he said. "What makes this far worse than slavery is 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 provide the work," Hykawy said.

"In the case of the city, we're not clothed, we're not fed, we don't have paid living, and the city isn't offering any tools, or utensils or fuel to mow the boulevard, so this is actually worse than slavery," Hykawy said.

Asked if he was serious about equating the horrors of the slave trade and having to mow a patch of lawn, Hykawy was resolute.

"I would say that it equates worse, because I'm not in fact being given any provisions for food, for places to sleep or clothes — any utensils to work the land that's not owned by me, yeah, I would say it's not on the grandiose scale of picking cotton for a sharecropper, but the land is not mine."

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