Ontario Couple Argues Constitutional Right to Keep Wildlife-Friendly Naturalized Lawn

The town of Smith Falls Ontario, south of Ottawa, rescinded an order for residents Beth and Craig Sinclair to uproot their naturalized lawn. The Smith Falls “property standards” bylaw states that “[y]ards must be maintained in a neat and tidy condition” and be free of “growth of grass or weeds in excess of 20 cm.” However, many property-owning environmentalists are choosing to “naturalize” their lawns by planting and growing a variety of plant species that promote biodiversity and support insect and wild animal populations. Neighbours began to complain about the Sinclair’s lawn, and the Town Council ordered them to comply with the bylaw. The couple sought the help of environmental lawyer David Donnelly, who cited past litigation which established that for an environmentalist, a naturalized lawn is constitutionally protected, including by the Charter s. 2(b) right to freedom of expression). The Town rescinded their order once the Sinclairs brought their case to the Ontario Superior Court. The Town is now considering amending the bylaw with provisions addressing naturalized yards. Read more here.