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New Directions, RM continue legal wrangling over proposed group home

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The RM of Springfield wants a court challenge on its decision to disallow a group home for three intellectually-challenged individuals to be put on hold.

In a hearing this morning before Justice Joan McKelvey, counsel for Springfield said the application by New Directions is an abuse of process and is asking the court to for a stay of proceedings until the Manitoba Human Rights Commission completes an investigation.

The dispute between the rural municipality and the group home operator began in 2010. New Directions bought a home near Birds Hill Provincial Park for three clients with severe intellectual disabilities who need around-the-clock supervision. While the municipality's zoning bylaw definition of a family includes no more than four unrelated people living together, Springfield would not allow the New Direction clients to move in unless the home was rezoned for an institutional use.

New Directions complained the municipality was discriminating against its clients and filed a human rights complaint. Frustrated by the slow pace of the human rights complaint process and an allegation that the municipality was refusing to participate, New Directions later asked the court to make a declaration that it didn't need a rezoning and that Springfield's actions were a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

At this morning's hearing, Springfield counsel Darcie Yale argued that the court application was an abuse of process as the complaint before the Manitoba Human Rights Commission is still under investigation. Yale said dealing with the issue in two different forums is unnecessary and could result in two conflicting rulings.

Yale said New Directions needs a letter from the RM before the province will provide funding for staffing at the home, adding however that the group home operator isn't asking the court to order the RM to produce such a letter.

New Directions said in a written submission that today's hearing is a stalling tactic by Springfield, which is discriminating against its clients by refusing to allow them to live in the home.

Counsel Ken Dolinsky said New Directions wants the court to rule that three individuals living together in a supervised home complies with the municipality's bylaw.

The hearing continues.

 

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

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