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Health Unit cracks down on Caledonia hamburger stand

By Jennifer Vo

The Sachem

July 16, 2013

The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit has issued a closure order to the hamburger stand on Argyle Street South near Plank Road in Caledonia.

The business, which began serving food to customers about a month ago, sits on property in the middle of land dispute between the provincial and federal governments and Six Nations.

The Health Unit originally gave the business until Friday, July 5 to come back with a plan on how they would be compliant.

“They never got back to us,” said the Medical Officer of Health for Haldimand-Norfolk Dr. Malcolm Lock. “We had no communication from them, so that’s when we issued the closure order.”

The order was issued on Friday, July 12, and Lock said that the business was still serving food over the weekend, “so that was in contravention of our order. Definitely, they were open on the weekend.”

He said from here, the Health Unit is working through their legal channels, and the next step would likely be to request an injunction or a restraint order in court. At that point, the health department would be reliant on the enforcers to carry out the orders.

“We have no method of policing any of these actions that we order,” said Lock. “We have to go to courts for that. We only have authority to issue orders if it’s in contravention of the Health Protection and Promotion Act.”

He said the OPP have been supportive of the Health Unit assisting staff when inspectors served the closure order.

Haldimand County Mayor Ken Hewitt is hopeful that if the issue does go to court, that it will be enforced.

“If we have rules for serving food to the public and the health department has identified that those rules are being broken then I’d like to believe that we absolutely have the strength to stand behind those rules regardless of location,” said Hewitt. “We haven’t been given any reason lately for [the OPP] to not [be supportive]. We’re not always on the same page and we’ve seen that in the past, but everyone is trying to ensure that we’re all on the same page.”

The hamburger stand, which was constructed on disputed land near a smoke shop in 2011, began serving customers food about a month ago. According to the Health Unit, the one-room wooden shack lacked a proper hand washing station, access to potable water and a reliable power source.

“They’re trying to shut us down, saying we’re not safe,” said Dylan Vanevery, who’s worked at the restaurant since it opened. “My boss just told them this is Six Nations land.”

Along with the Health Unit, the fire department has also inspected the site since it opened. Hugh Hanly, general manager of Community Services at Haldimand County, confirmed that no approvals were granted from the fire department.

“Anything that was found, we’re working through the process from a fire inspection perspective. We’re not treating it any differently,” he said.

But the big issue at hand is the public health issue, and Hewitt said the county is working with the Health Unit to get that resolved.

“We’ll be moving along through legal channels this week. We just have to move through those bit by bit,” said Lock, adding that the Health Unit is also not handling this case any differently than other businesses.

“We would generally work with people to try to get them up to the standard that we require for any food establishment.”

But compliance isn’t good enough for the mayor. He added that regardless if the business does become compliant, the county would still not support the business.

“We’ve made our position clear. It hasn’t changed. It doesn’t matter what business is on that corner. It doesn’t matter what it’s doing whether it’s compliant or not. We don’t support it as it sits today.”

Hewitt said the big item still holding up the issue is the landowner and operator dispute.

“The problem here isn’t the people squatting on the land running businesses. The problem is the landowner, and the landowner is the province. I’m concerned that the precedence has already been set,” said Hewitt referring to the smoke shops around the area. “[The province] already allowed activity to occur on those sites that’s not conforming, not legal and as such has backed themselves into the position that they are in now.”