The Cultural Mosaic: la mosaïque culturelle

November 21st, 2014

While it isn't getting much media coverage, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear appeals from two sides of a case started 15 years ago by Métis leader Harry Daniels.  The decision of the Federal Court in this matter was released in January 2013.  The statement,   written by Federal Court Judge Michael Phelan, cited the lengthy constitutional and aboriginal history and concluded that Métis and non-status Indians should actually be considered Indians under modern law.

While I've ranted about this in past posts, somehow I feel it's important to reiterate:  That although some métis groups have been politically active in the course of discussions surrounding this case, others have not.  While the Supreme Court may be ruling on the definition of "Indian", apparently there is a subtext in the form of an necessary definition for métis. 

Some groups restrict the definition of métis by attaching stipulations drawn in the form of politics and geography.  This sort of restriction only serves to further discriminate against a group of people who already are, as Judge Phelan said in the January 2013 release, "lacking even the protection of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, are far more exposed to discrimination and other social disabilities. It is true to say that in the absence of Federal initiative in this field they are the most disadvantaged of all Canadian citizens." 

 All I'm sayin' is that in 1971, under the leadership of Pierre Trudeau, Canada began to establish a multicultural policy.  The Official Multiculturalism Act became law in 1988.

Fundamental to the act are two basic principles:  

  • All citizens are equal and have the freedom to preserve, enhance and share their cultural heritage.
  • Multiculturalism promotes the full and equitable participation of individuals and communities of all origins in all aspects of Canadian society.

Within the act, the government recognized Aboriginal rights, French and English were identified as the only "official languages", minorities were given the right to enjoy their own culture and language and equality rights were given to all people.

So... isn't it time that we were all on the same page?

How to avoid Bad Tenants

November 17th, 2014

Anyone who has considered investing in rental property knows it can be lucrative but, they've also heard a list of potential hazards. Bounced cheques, heaps of garbage, pet damage, midnight moves...  in most cases, the stories involve bad tenants.  Nobody likes to have a rental property sit empty, but it's better to take the time to go after a good tenant.



Let's be clear about this- there is only one way to avoid bad tenants and that is, don't rent to them.  Easier said than done?  Not really.  There are certain things a landlord can do, do prevent having issues with prospective tenants and... while I'm about to provide some advice, let me preface this post by saying that it's not a substitute for legal advice... this is simply, practical advice.


The first thing that I recommend is that, although many landlords opt not to have a formal lease, it's a good practice to have one for the first term.  Your lawyer will advise you on the appropriate format and it's best to have that in hand,  before you start advertising.  It's also important to prepare the property for the market.  You want to show the property in the condition that you wish it to be kept- so make sure it's in good repair and clean before you advertise it for rent.  Remember, the presentation of the property must match the sort of tenant you wish to attract.  



Make sure you are asking the appropriate amount of rent by comparing your unit with similar units in the same neighbourhood.  If you want to put a "for rent" ad in the newspaper, you need to mindfully craft the ad.  You don't want to be overly wordy (most people won't read the ad entirely) and you want to set the tone.  In your ad, lay out the basic description of the rental unit and the price of rent. It's also important to give all of your contact information and mention that there is a screening process. If you have a number of units, you may want to run the same ad, all the time.  On the other hand, if you have only one rental unit, don't let your ad go stale- if you need to re-run it, refresh it.   If you are posting a sign on the property, make sure it is in excellent condition.



When a prospective tenant calls you, be prepared with a list of questions and be ready to make notes.  The answers to some basic questions can speak volumes.  Ask how many will be occupying the unit.  Ask why they are moving.  Ask when they are moving.  Do they have pets?  Are they smokers?  If they want to make an appointment to view the unit, ask them to bring photo i.d., a credit reference (their banking information), a current pay stub and previous landlord contact information.  If they are hesitant to provide answers to these questions, they may have something to hide.  You can determine a valid issue from an excuse.  Perhaps they're from out-of-town and haven't brought their pay stubs- an honest renter will offer to submit stubs later. 


Beware of anyone who says they're calling "for someone else" and watch out for someone who badmouths their former landlord.


If the prospect wants to come and view the unit.  Be prepared to make note of how they present themselves.  Most people will make the effort to make a good impression.  Are they on time or late for the appointment?  Are they neat and tidy, or unkempt?  Did they wipe their feet or remove their shoes automatically?  Did you have to ask them to remove their shoes?  Are they making pleasant, polite conversation?  Are they asking pertinent questions?  Or are they finding faults and criticizing?



Have a rental application form prepared.  Important questions to ask on the application include:


  • Full names, including maiden names
  • Date of birth,
  • driver license numbers (make sure the photo matches the applicant)
  • previous addresses,
  • previous landlords and their phone #s,
  • previous rent amounts,
  • pets,
  • smoking,
  • vehicles and license plate #s,
  • intended residents,
  • evictions/criminal history
  • income and financial references (employment, income, bank accounts, credit)



Near the end of the form, include a perjury and fraud warning and note that keys will not be issued until checks are completed, the lease is signed and the requisite cheques have cleared.   

Bones in the Yard

November 14th, 2014


Recently digging in our yard to locate water lines, our son Jon was surprised when he uncovered some large bones.  At first, he asked if we'd buried a dog back there... which we hadn't...  his curiosity piqued, he dug until he uncovered most of the skeletal remains of a cow... which was quite a relief... and it made sense, a hundred years ago, our property was the site of a dairy.  We figure the cow must have been ill which is why she would have been buried in one piece.  Her resting place was just a few feet from our house and about two-and-a-half  feet beneath the surface.  Who knew?

The discovery reminded me of the Sarnia couple who were digging to put up a fence in their yard, in 2013.  They unearthed a 400-year-old human skeleton.  Called by authorities, a forensic anthropologist determined the bones were the remains of a young woman who had died in the late 1500s or early 1600s.  The site was close to the Blue Water Bridge area,  historically an Ojibwa trade center and the condition of her teeth led experts to believe the woman was part of that community.

Apparently, this is not an unusual occurrence.  In 2012, Buffalo N.Y. homeowner, Randy Moses, was installing a mailbox in his front yard when he came across a skeleton circa 1800.  Last month, in Riverton New Jersey, a crew discovered very old remains where there were excavating for a swimming pool installation and construction workers in Queen's were digging a gas line trench and found human bones.  A builder in Fareham Hampshire England, contracted for a home addition, uncovered the remains of three men that date back to Napoleonic times.  And these are just the stories that somehow made the news.

In June of 2013, Global News reported that The Registrar of Cemeteries in Ontario had dealt with about 180 cases like this, since 2001.  The Government of Ontario Website "Burial Site Discoveries" suggests that burial sites "Are usually discovered: Accidentally by someone while digging or doing home construction or renovation or during an archaeological assessment." 



So... what are you supposed to do if you find bones in your backyard?    Anyone who discovers human remains must stop all construction immediately and notify the police or coroner, who will investigate the discovery for signs of foul play.  Since it is up to the owner of the property on which the remains are discovered to have a licensed archaeologist determine the age and cultural heritage of the burial site.  Note:  the archaeological assessment cost the Sarnia couple $5000- so, it would be wise to contact your lawyer, too.

 Based on the archaeologist’s findings, the Ontario Registrar of Cemeteries will declare the site to be a burial ground or an irregular burial site. The Registrar will also try to notify appropriate representatives of the person or persons buried at the site.  The landowner and representatives of the deceased will then negotiate how to deal with the remains and their decision is set out in what is called a Site Disposition Agreement.  If no site disposition agreement can be reached, the matter will be referred to arbitration.

The remains may be disinterred and reinterred in a registered cemetery within the municipality or the burial site may be established as a cemetery, in which case the landowner will be responsible for maintaining the cemetery and must permit public access to the site. 

As for the cow skeleton, we put all of the bones back where they'd been found and apologized for disturbing her resting place.

What about burying pets?  Regulations vary- for instance, it's illegal to bury a pet in your backyard in Toronto, but there's nothing in the Ottawa bylaws that prohibits it.


Price Per Acre

November 12th, 2014

Recently, I have had a number of people inquire about the price of property, per acre.   For the past couple of years, there's been a lot of discussion about climbing prices of farmland in Southern Ontario,  particularly South-Western Ontario.  A March 2014 article posted by CTV London,  mentions skyrocketing prices and quoted a recent sale of 1 million dollars for 100 acres of land.  In May, the CBC quoted a 22% increase in the sale prices of farmland, nationwide.   A September 30th, 2014 article in the Chatham Daily News spoke of a sale,  just a kilometer north of Barrie, in which bare dairy land sold for $63,000 per acre- while Chatham area prices were as high as $25,000 per acre.  The article said that developers were paying up to $54,000 per acre for property North of the Greater Toronto Area.


A report released in September of 2014 gave average prices for agricultural land in the Quinte Region as between $1,500 and $7,500 per acre... and that same report suggested agricultural land in the Ottawa Valley would garner between $8,000 and $10,000.   Grey Bruce prices were somewhere between $3,500 and $8,500 and Huron area between $13,500 and $15,000. I am pretty sure that we're talking class 1 farmland in these cases.  

 The price per acre concept is a little m0re difficult to apply in cottage country.  Certainly we have agricultural properties, but prices on all of our vacant land depends a great deal on specific property features at the site.  Properties with larger road frontages are valuable because of severence potential, as are properties with river or lake frontage.   Prices usually climb for properties with features like rivers, creeks, great view, excellent topsoil or timber value, to name just a few. 

A snapshot of local area sales indicates that our prices have not skyrocketed like other markets... but have remained rather static.  Lower quality acreages may run between $500 and $850 an acre... high quality  properties sell for up to $1,000 per acre and some spectacular properties might climb toward the $1,500 bracket.

It just goes to show you, if you are looking for a large parcel of land, it's important to look at recent comparable sales in the specific area.  


Mineral Exploration and Property Rights

November 11th, 2014

It is important that landowners know and understand their land ownership rights with respect to mineral exploration in Ontario.The need for minerals is growing and mineral exploration is increasing, in both cities and rural areas in Ontario. This means there is a greater potential for prospecting and claim-staking on land with privately owned surface rights.

As I've mentioned in previous blog posts, in Ontario include surface rights, mining rights, timber rights and sand and gravel rights (to name a few)... and in some instances, these rights are reserved by the Crown.  In other cases,  there may be more than one title holder on the property. When you're purchasing property, you need to ask specifically about various property rights. 

Even though you may own the surface rights, the Ontario Mining Act allows for mining rights to be open to claim staking by prospectors.  If you own the mining rights on your property, you needn't worry about anyone exploring for minerals or developing a mine on your property without your knowledge.  If you don't know who owns the mining rights, you need to check with a lawyer.  In fact, it's best to have a lawyer conduct a title search on your behalf.

Property owners need to understand that anyone may enter private property without the owner's permission, unless the entrant has been given notice that entry is prohibited.  This notice can be as simple as posting a "No Trespassing" sign.  However, under the Mining Act, licensed prospectors are authorized to enter any property that is open for claim staking and there is no law that says a prospector has to notify a property owner about their intention to do so. After a claim is staked, the claim owner must provide written notice to the surface rights owner before they perform ground exploration. 


Please note:

The Mining Act does not permit staking a claim on any part of a lot where structures like buildings or gardens exist, without the consent of the property owner. 

While mining exploration does not always cause damage to the land, if there is damage, the claim owner must compensate the surface rights owner. 

If you have a dispute over a mining claim, you need to follow the resolution process laid out in the Mining Act.  You must give a valid, legal reason for your argument and disputes need to be filed within 12 months of the claim being recorded.   If there is a disagreement around compensation the matter will be heard by the Ontario Mining and Lands Commissioner. 

The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines is currently looking into the concerns of surface rights owners, including revising notification and consent requirements, and reducing the environmental impact of mining operations.  You can contact them Toll Free at 1-888-415-9845

The Ontario Landowners Association (OLA) is Ontario a group dedicated to protecting preserving traditional property rights and freedoms and the interests of rural Ontario communities, there is a great deal of information available on their website: