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Canada Orléans man stung with $700 fine for letting his autistic son play in empty field

01:40  07 april  2020
01:40  07 april  2020 Source:   ottawacitizen.com

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Orléans’ David Martinek says he’s in favour of the city’s restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He even has sympathy for the bylaw officer who ticketed him for letting his autistic four-year-old son kick a soccer ball around an empty playing field.

But the $700 fine he got? That stings.

“I’m absolutely in favour of all the restrictions in place,” Martinek said in an email. “I firmly believe that we all need to do our part to protect each other and our community at large. Especially those most vulnerable.”

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Martinek says his “rambunctious” son “has more energy than needed to power the city of Ottawa” and keeping him occupied has been a challenge living, as they do, in a small town home with no backyard. The two had been kicking a ball around the parking lot for a few days, but each time his son “being a bit clumsy” would fall, scraping his knees and elbows.

“When he asked me to go kick the ball around again, I cringed,” Martinek wrote. “And then thought that I knew of a little patch of grass, a short drive away, not connected to a park and not on a field. It would be a safe, soft place, far away from people, that we could enjoy the warm sun and play a little ball.”

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The field was 500 metres away from any public park or play structure, he said.

“There’s no pathway from the park to the patch, no signage and no indication, visible or otherwise, to say that we could not go there. Now, I do appreciate that all public areas are off-limits to play, but I wasn’t even sure if this was to be considered a park or not.”

The two had been playing for about 15 minutes, when Martinek saw the bylaw officer’s vehicle pull up beside his. By the time he’d walked over, the officer had already recorded his licence plate number.

“When I arrived, I asked if this was considered a public park, given that it wasn’t attached to the actual park and that there was no clear way to go from one to the other. He quite abruptly said ‘It’s a $700 fine.’ Then he turned around, without even making contact with me, got back in his car and drove away.

“Reflecting upon this, I just wondered if he was just getting the short end of the stick on all this. If he had been having many bad encounters with other individuals and simply didn’t want to spend any time discussing it with me. And I wouldn’t blame them, if that were the case. You just never know.”

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Martinek made a mildly worded Facebook post about the incident.

“It prompted a very important conversation with my community, that I do believe will be helpful for others. Now everyone knows, if they didn’t already.”

Martinek wasn’t physically given a ticket so he’s waiting to see what will arrive in his mailbox. He says he may go to court, if necessary, and hope for leniency. But, he added “I’ll let the chips fall where they may.”

“I do wish everyone well. And I will continue to do my part to help the community heal and return to some new normal.”

bcrawford@postmedia.com

Twitter: @GetBAC

 

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