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Caledonia hamburger stand serving food despite closure orders

By Jennifer Vo

The Sachem, August 23, 2013

Despite a closure order that was issued from the health department, the hamburger stand on Argyle Street South near Plank Road on the outskirts of Caledonia has re-opened.

Health officials confirm that the hamburger stand re-opened the week of August 12, and is serving food to the public on what appears to be a daily basis.

“We’re certainly monitoring that, and we’re in consultation with our lawyers just deciding what our next steps are going to be,” said Sandy Stevens, program coordinator for the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit’s Healthy Environment Team.

The Health Unit had issued a closure order to the food stand on July 12 for violating the Health Protection and Promotion Act, which included lacking a reliable source of power, potable water and a hand washing station.

“The next step would be to go back to court for a contempt of court hearing, so we just need to make sure we’ve got all of our evidence and information together and have covered all of our basis before we do that,” said Stevens.

Haldimand County is in the midst of obtaining its own closure order for the hamburger stand as well as the neighbouring smoke shop.

The respondents were scheduled to appear in court August 20, but the case was adjourned on consent to September 3.

“The respondents have retained legal counsel, and they needed more time to review the documentation,” said Karen General, general manager of Corporate Services at Haldimand County. “It was viewed that having them prepare their defense with sufficient time was better for the process than trying to rush through and potentially have it thrown out on the basis that they weren’t given enough time.”

The application filed by the county stated both the food stand and smoke shop violated building and fire codes as well as the County’s zoning bylaws, but the greater concern noted was the safety of municipal staff as well as the public.

“The second and greater concern is for public safety based on rallies held to protest the illegal smoke shops and native occupation of Douglas Creek Estates since 2006,” stated in the affidavit. “These rallies have generally been arranged by Gary McHale, and have resulted in violence or potential violence in the past. OPP presence is always required at the rallies.”

Activist Gary McHale was one of a few people who showed up at the courthouse on August 20, and he takes credit for the County’s injunction application.

“The smoke shop has been there since 2007. The burger shop has been there since 2011, so why is the county now seeking an injunction – six years after the smoke shop and two years after the burger place?”

He said he believes that if it weren’t for his protesting in the first place, the county would not have brought the issue to court.

“Does that not send a message to everybody how important rallies are? It’s absolute proof that the only reason politicians ever do anything is not because they want to do the moral thing. It’s because they’re pressured into doing it.”

The county affidavits stresses that because of the violence that sometimes arise from the various rallies, an injunction order is crucial in maintaining public safety.

But McHale maintains his rallies are getting results, and he insists change will only happen if “we do three or four protests before [the next hearing on September 3]. Then the county will get the message and that’s the only way that it will change. That is my plan.”

Both the hamburger stand and the smoke shop sit in the middle of a land claim dispute between Six Nations and the provincial and federal governments. The smoke shop was erected in 2007 and continues to sell tobacco products while the food stand was erected in July 2011 and began serving food in June 2013.

The county’s application for an injunction stated that the Ministry of Infrastructure is the registered owner of the land. The business operators argue the land belongs to Six Nations, and natives argue they did not surrender the land to the Crown in 1835.