Do you need a development permit?

Land is zoned to regulate development, ensure public health and safety, and promote the general welfare of the community. The Planning and Development Act (the “PDA”) gives local governing bodies the authority to oversee the planning process. Zoning bylaws dictate the allowable usage of land and often outline the permitted and discretionary uses of the land. These bylaws are essential in managing development and future growth within a community by coordinating local development including the separation of incompatible land uses.

Many zoning bylaws define “development” as the carrying out of any building, engineering, mining, or other operations in, on or over land or the making of any material change in the use or intensity of the use of any building or land.  As such, to construct, erect, place, alter, repair, renovate, or reconstruct a building/structure, a Development Permit is required in almost all cases.

The Saskatchewan Municipal Board’s Planning Appeals Committee (the “Appeals Committee”) recently dealt with the question of what constitutes a “development” under the PDA in the case of Ryan Martin, Leanne Martin, Jason Brittner and Tamara Brittner v Mervin (Rural Municipality), 2020 SKMB 42 [“Mervin”].

In Mervin, two recreational vehicles (“RVs”) were placed on a property without obtaining a development permit, resulting in an “Order to Remedy Development” being issued against the landowners by the Municipality. The landowners appealed the decision, and the Appeals Committee had to determine whether the placement of the two RVs on the land constituted a development that would require a development permit.  

The Appeals Committee found that placing two RVs on the property was a change of use and constituted a development that required a permit. At paragraph 14 of the Mervin ruling, the Appeals Committee found:

[14] Upon consideration, our decision turns on whether the Applicants’ establishment of the two RVs on the subject property constitutes a “development ” as defined under the Bylaw and the Act. We agree with the RMs assertion that placing two RVs on the subject property is a change in use and constitutes a “development’.  We have confirmed with the Appellants that the RVs were brought onto the subject property after purchasing the land. This action resulted in a “change of use” of the subject property as defined in the Bylaw.

As part of their analysis, the Appeals Committee determined that had the landowners been allowed to retain the RVs on the land without a permit, it would have constituted a special privilege inconsistent with the restrictions placed on the neighbouring properties in the Zoning District.

If you start the development process without acquiring the necessary approvals, an Order of Compliance or other enforcement measures may be imposed against you. If you are planning to develop land or are uncertain about whether or not you may require a Development Permit, please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our lawyers. We would be more than happy to assist you.

Contacting a Lawyer on this Subject

Sarah is an associate lawyer with Robertson Stromberg and was called to the bar in 2023. While at law school, Sarah worked for the Ministry of Justice as a traffic prosecutor. She went on to complete her articles with the Ministry and worked as a Crown Prosecutor before joining Roberston Stromberg. 

Contact Sarah at 1-306-933-1388 or [email protected]. The above is for general information only, and not legal advice. Parties should always seek legal advice before taking action in specific situations.

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To Post or Not to Post: Social Media, Informal Communication and Professional Obligations

When I started practicing law, a partner at my firm warned me that “you’re never not a lawyer”. He explained that there is no clear distinction between your personal and professional life. As a lawyer, regardless of whether you were “off duty” or not, your professional reputation can be negatively impacted by what you say and do.

This wisdom holds true more now than ever in a social media world. Having the ability to instantaneously transmit comments, pictures and videos to an unlimited audience can lead to dangerous results for professionals. We have seen this in a number of recent regulatory and court decisions.

Strom v Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association

One of the early decisions highlighting the dangers of social media is Strom v Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association, 2020 SKCA 112. Ms. Strom is a registered nurse. Her grandfather passed away at St. Joseph’s Health Center in Macklin, Saskatchewan. Ms. Strom posted comments on her personal Facebook page about the care her grandfather had received in his last days at St. Joseph’s. She also tweeted those comments to the Saskatchewan’s Minister of Health and the Saskatchewan opposition leader. Some of the employees at St. Joseph’s took exception to the posts and reported them to Ms. Strom’s professional regulator (the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses’ Association). Ms. Strom was charged with professional misconduct because the SRNA indicated that she was bound to follow proper channels, not negatively impact the reputation of the facility and staff, obtain all of the facts before making statements on social media, and not use her status as a registered nurse for personal purposes. Initially, Ms. Strom was found guilty of professional misconduct, which decision was upheld by the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench. The decision was though later overturned by the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal, in overturning the determination of professional misconduct, provided some clarification on when off-duty conduct can amount to professional misconduct. The general question is whether there is a sufficient nexus between the off-duty conduct and the profession. There was little evidence to suggest that Ms. Strom’s communications would have any impact on the profession or the public. Further, the discipline panel did not properly consider Ms. Strom’s right to freedom of expression. While freedom of expression is not absolute and can be abrogated to some extent based on the demands of the profession, the full contextual factors were not considered by the discipline committee.

The takeaways from Strom for professionals are that (1) off-duty communications can amount to professional misconduct if there is a sufficient nexus between the communications and the profession; (2) professionals should be free to engage in debate and dialogue, but professionals would be wise to consider tone, audience, and whether to identify as a professional.

Peterson v College of Psychologists of Ontario

Another well-publicized decision regarding off-duty, social media communication is Peterson v College of Psychologists of Ontario, 2023 ONSC 4685. This case involves the well-known author, Jordan Peterson. Dr. Peterson published several tweets and made remarks on the Joe Rogan podcast that were considered by individuals to be offensive. The decision outlines the remarks made in greater detail, but they include:

  1. Two tweets appearing to invite social media posters to kill themselves;
  2. Several insults directed at various individuals, including an indication that a doctor who had performed breast removal on the actor Elliot Page was a criminal; and
  3. Demeaning language regarding the appearance of a plus-sized model.

In his Twitter bio, Dr. Peterson referenced to his standing as a psychologist.

The investigation committee of the College of Psychologists of Ontario reviewed the complaint and tweets (along with Dr. Peterson’s responses) and concluded that the communications constituted professional misconduct. They found that the communications posed risk of harm to the public and could undermine public trust in the profession of psychology. The investigators required that Dr. Peterson enter a coaching program on professionalism in public statements.

The decision of the investigation committee was appealed by Dr. Peterson. That appeal was dismissed. The Court noted that Dr. Peterson’s remarks were not conversations with friends or colleagues, but public statements to broad audiences with a vast following. Further, the Court thought it was notable that Dr. Peterson was referring to himself as a clinical psychologist when making the statements. Dr. Peterson sought leave to appeal the decision to the Ontario Court of Appeal, but the leave request was denied.

The takeaways from the Peterson decision include: (1) identifying your profession while making off-duty statements is a consideration as to whether you have committed “professional” misconduct; (2) intemperate statements made to a broad audience are more likely to amount to professional misconduct; (3) the connection between the profession and the statements is a relevant consideration (eg. a psychologist, whose profession counsels those contemplating suicide, inferring that individuals kill themselves may impact the reputation of the profession).

Pitter v College of Nurses of Ontario

In Pitter v College of Nurses of Ontario, 2022 ONSC 5513, two nurses who spoke out on social media and at a public gathering against masks and vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic were charged with professional misconduct. Both identified themselves as registered nurses. One nurse’s comments included allegations that vaccines had the ability to track and manipulate thoughts and movement and were part of a conspiracy. The other nurse suggested that vaccines cause cancer and will impact fertility (in an effort to decrease the global population).

The nurses were cautioned for their statements (made during their “off-duty” time), which decision was upheld on appeal to the Court.

The takeaway from Pitter is that a professional can be cautioned for spreading misinformation, particularly if that misinformation is connected to the profession itself (eg. a health professional spreading misinformation about health-related matters).

Chaban v Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario

A more recent case is Chaban v Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario, 2024 ONSC 1075. This case involved a dentist making short Tiktok videos containing sexual innuendo. In one video, the dentist pulls down his mask and, smiling, licks his upper teeth while the music accompanying the video states “Would you like me to seduce you?”. The second video had a caption saying “when you give your patient an oral exam and see a circle pattern at the back of their throat.” Five seconds into the video, the dentist cocks his eyebrows and smiles.

The dental college found that these postings were inappropriate and required him to attend for an oral caution and complete a remedial program. He appealed that determination, which appeal was dismissed by the Court.

The takeaway from the Chaban case is that the reputation of the profession can be negatively impacted by making public, unprofessional communications.

Conclusion

Professionals must consider their reputations and the impact of the profession before publishing materials, particularly when they are identifying as professionals. There is no bright line between personal and professional lives when it comes to social media postings. So, a professional is wise to err on the side of caution.

Contacting a Lawyer on this Subject

Sean Sinclair is a partner with Robertson Stromberg LLP. His main areas of practice are Media Law / Defamation, Family Law, Estate Litigation, and Administrative Law. Contact Sean at 1-306-933-1367 or [email protected]. The above is for general information only, and not legal advice. Parties should always seek legal advice before taking action in specific situations.

Protecting Estate Inheritances from Family Law Claims

Most parents intend to leave at least a portion of their estates to their children. What some parents may not realize is that the inheritance they leave their children could turn into “divisible family property” down the road in the event a child’s spousal relationship ends. That reality means that if your child goes through a divorce, their ex-spouse may have a legal entitlement to some of the inheritance. This may produce a result that you never intended.

The intention of this article is to provide practical tips to try and avoid this result.

Firstly, the timing of the inheritance is an important factor.

If your child receives their inheritance prior to marriage or entering a common-law relationship, then they can claim an exemption for the inheritance pursuant to section 23 of The Family Property Act (Saskatchewan). What this means is that if your child later separates from their spouse they can claim that the value of their inheritance at the start of the spousal relationship should not be shared since they received it prior to the relationship.

However, if the inheritance is received after your child’s spousal relationship commenced they cannot claim an exemption for the inheritance i.e. they cannot claim that it should not be divided at all with their spouse in the event of separation. However, they can claim an unequal division of the inheritance under section 21 of The Family Property Act (Saskatchewan), which can help ensure that they keep more than half of the inheritance.

Secondly, it matters what your child does with their inheritance.

Homes and household good are treated specially under the law. For example, if they invest the inheritance into a house for their family to live in, they would lose the ability to claim an exemption even if the inheritance was received prior to the start of the relationship. The home would be, presumptively, equally divided between the parties. As another example, if your child uses their inheritance to purchase furniture (which is technically considered a household good under the legislation) they will not be able to claim that portion of the inheritance as exempt.

As a result, it’s a good idea to explain to your children that they should be careful how they spend their inheritance, and potentially seek legal advice before making any large purchases.

Because of how these items are treated differently, in general the best thing your child can do with their inheritance is keep it in a separate bank or investment account and not use the funds for family spending or purchases. This is, understandably, not practical in many cases. However, ideally if they have another source of funds to use for these purchases then those funds should be used rather than their inheritance, where possible.

Thirdly, your intention matters.

If there are ever disputes in the future over how much of an inheritance your child’s estranged spouse may be entitled to, one factor the court examines is what your intention in leaving the gift to your child was. This is why it becomes very important that you have a specific clause in your Will indicating that you only intend for your child’s inheritance to benefit your child, and not their spouse. We recommend you seek legal advice in drafting your Will to ensure the proper wording is included in this clause.

Read more on our blog.

The Saskatchewan Estate Law blog is dedicated to providing practical, real-world information on Estate Law issues that affect Saskatchewan residents. The blog is written by RS lawyer, James Steele, whose practice focuses on estate litigation.

Reference Re an Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children Youth and Families 2024 SCC 5

What does the Supreme Court decision mean for Métis government and citizens in Saskatchewan?

Recently, the Supreme Court of Canada released its decision in [Translated] Reference Re an Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children Youth and Families 2024 SCC 5 (“the Decision”). The Court was tasked with answering the question: “is the Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, Youth and Families (the “Act”) ultra vires (beyond the power of) the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Canada under the Constitution of Canada?

Departing from the conclusion of the Quebec Court of Appeal, which held that the reference question was constitutional, except for ss. 21 and 22(3), which were not, the Supreme Court concluded that the Act as a whole fall within Parliament’s exclusive legislative authority for First Nations, Inuit and Métis under section 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867.

Further, the Court found that the Act codified Parliament’s affirmation that section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 includes a right of self-government in relation to child, youth and family services setting out Parliament’s understanding of specific section 35 rights. While the affirmations are not final determinations on the scope of section 35, they do have legal effect and bind the Crown’s future conduct. The Crown can no longer deny the existence of this right.

What does that mean for Canada?

The outcome of the Decision is an affirmation of what Canada committed to in 2016 when its government made a commitment internationally to support and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (“UNDRIP”) “without qualification”. The Court provided its most substantive discussion on UNDRIP to date, which bodes well for future judicial consideration of UNDRIP to inform the interpretation of section 35 and the implementation of its Articles.

The Court strongly endorsed the Act as a form of “legislative reconciliation”, referring to how the Act weaves the affirmation of inherent rights, mechanisms for the exercise of FIRST Nations, Inuit and Métis legislative authority, federal minimum national standards, and international minimum standards together. Importantly, the Decision also identified the Act does not purport to be the source of these rights but proceeds on the premise that these rights exist independently.

What does the Decision mean for the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan (“MN-S”)?

Saskatchewan will be impacted largely the same as every province or territory in the country. The federal government has recognized the MN-S as the Indigenous Governing Body (“IGB”) for the purposes of the Act for Saskatchewan. MN-S and its citizens will determine what their child welfare law, governance structure, policy and service systems will be – including how they will be developed and implemented. This includes what the pace, scope, and implementation of services will be over time.

In sum, the Decision will assist in providing agency to Indigenous, Inuit, and Métis people to control Child and Family Services for their communities. For Saskatchewan, MN-S assumes jurisdiction over their registered citizens and may seek to expand their role into other areas of justice in the future.

Contacting a Lawyer on this Subject

The above is for general information only, and not legal advice. Parties should always seek legal advice prior to taking action in specific situations.

 

About the Author

Kristian St. Onge is a Student at Law at Robertson Stromberg LLP. He received his Juris Doctor in 2023 and holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Finance with distinction from Edward’s School of Business at the University of Saskatchewan.

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Whether it’s personal or business, we handle cases ranging from wills to overseeing complex business deals, and everything in between. Our success comes as a result of our collective effort. Combining the experience of your lawyer together with the resources of our team, you can put your trust in us to handle your case with confidence.

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