Henry and Vera Jones of Constance Bay, Ontario, were told early in July 2009 that by maintaining a pesticide-free garden they were in violation of bylaw 2005-208. The City of Ottawa issued the violation for failing to remove the heavy undergrowth, long grass, or weeds on their property, a natural garden with native plants that encouraged butterfly and bee activity. The notice instructed the Joneses to cut down their garden or risk having the city do the work and send them the bill.

Why was Ecojustice involved?

The Joneses approached Ecojustice in order to challenge the legality of the violation notice and the bylaw. Ecojustice made it clear that homeowners could not be forced into maintaining golf course-style lawns by threatening a court injunction if the City of Ottawa opted to mow the Jones’ garden.

The battle attracted province-wide media attention. On July 24, 2009, the City of Ottawa rescinded the notice of violation it had issued.

What does this victory mean?

The decision has widespread relevance for Ontario’s municipalities since the provincial ban on cosmetic pesticide use went into effect in April 2009.

That law offers greater protection to people’s health by banning the cosmetic use of 2,4-D and other pesticides that have been associated with neurological and reproductive disorders, as well as cancer.

The Joneses offer a successful alternative to chemically treated lawns and yards by working with native plants and encouraging pollinator insects.

What’s next?

The city announced that bylaws would be reformed to accommodate similar gardens in the future.

Ecojustice will now work alongside city officials and the city’s volunteer advisory committees to draft a new bylaw that works for all parties.

Once a new bylaw is in place, green thumbs in the nation’s capital will be able to maintain gardens that go beyond aesthetics to serve the environment as well as the senses.