Canada's weirdest laws: walking along a sidewalk to nowhere

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

A website devoted to promoting the public understanding of law in Canada is not the first place most people would go looking for a bit of a laugh. However, the law really can be a funny thing and some strange stories crop up from time to time. Here are a few that may garner at least an eye roll, if not an outright guffaw.

Unusual rules of the road

There have been cars in Canada since late in the 19th Century, and rules governing their use came soon after. Some of these laws have remained on the books long after they stopped being practical.

A perfect example can be found in the laws of Prince Edward Island. Although the law is seldom, if ever, enforced, it is illegal to pass another motorist without honking your vehicle’s horn. A local driving instructor suggests a light tap or two on the horn is sufficient.

To all visitors to the island except residents of New Brunswick, where a similar antiquated law exists, local drivers must seem either very rude, or very friendly!

Walk this way

Looking now at the opposite side of the country and just off to the side of the road, we see what happens when a bylaw is enforced in defiance of clear logic.

A British Columbia business owner moved his company to a new building in 2016 and undertook extensive renovations. A bylaw in the community of Smithers requires property owners holding building permits exceeding $75,000 to invest in public infrastructure outside the premises. In this particular case, the owner built a $10,000 sidewalk stretching hundreds of feet.

The only problem is the sidewalk doesn’t connect to anything, because there are no other sidewalks within 500 meters. Given the location on the side of Highway 16, and the lack of any neighbouring businesses engaging in large-scale renovations, the “sidewalk to nowhere” seems destined to remain alone for many years.

The sincerest form of flattery

A strange lawsuit involving two stores on Toronto’s trendy Queen Street West may require the invention of an entirely new term for imitation. “Retail parasitism” comes to mind.

The owner of a boutique shop selling bar accessories, syrups and glassware, is suing the owner of a boutique shop selling bar accessories, syrups and glassware. Although it is not uncommon for similar shops to spring up, it happens that these two stores are adjacent to one another.

The plaintiff alleges the defendant intentionally tried to pass off his store as hers by altering the look of the store’s exterior to make them appear contiguous. She further accused him of posting articles about her store in his own windows, presumably to confuse potential shoppers.

The defendant claims his store has been there longer, and says the plaintiff left an inappropriate message on his storefront window written in lipstick. He also accused the plaintiff of having sexual relations with the landlord, in the store and during store hours.

An age-old mystery solved at last

Wonder no longer, late-night television watchers, for a major conundrum has been laid to rest.

Shift-workers and insomniacs across Canada and the United States are familiar with the Snuggie, even if they’ve never seen one in person. However, the jury has always been out on whether it is a blanket with sleeves, or a bathrobe worn backwards. The jury, or a judge, anyway, has finally returned with a decision.

According to a U.S. trade court ruling, the Snuggie is a blanket, and not clothing. Other than satisfying the need-to-know of consumers everywhere, what is the point of the ruling? Apparently, it’s all about tariffs.

Every consumer good that enters the United States is subject to a tariff based on the nature of the product. A blanket garners a tariff of 8.5 percent. Clothing, specifically “pullover apparel,” comes in at a rate of 14.9 percent. Multiplied by thousands of units, the disparity in rates makes a significant difference to the bottom line.

The manufacturer, a New York-based company, took the U.S. government to court to have the matter resolved. For its part, the government classified the Snuggie as a garment, similar to what a priest might wear. The judge disagreed and ruled in the manufacturers favour.

No doubt Snuggie owners everywhere celebrated the victory by reaching for the television remote control without having to uncover first.
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