Neighbour dispute descends into slurs

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CLARIFICATION: A story headlined Neighbour dispute descends into slurs and an editorial Just a little respect in the July 27 issue indicated neighbours of Matt Saade in a Maple Lake, Algonquin Highlands neighbourhood were caught on camera uttering a homophobic slur. The person who said the words is Roy Halstead, of Kitchener. He does not own property in the neighbourhood. He was visiting his mother-in-law, a neighbor of Saade, at the time of the July 8 incident. He, as well as his wife, Katrina Halstead, were subsequently charged with criminal harassment. The Halsteads have nothing to do with a dispute over the shore road allowance. The Highlander apologizes for any suggestion that neighbours in the community are homophobic, or have vandalized Saade’s property.

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A neighbourhood dispute on Maple Lake in Algonquin Highlands has escalated, with Matt Saade saying he and his family are victims of homophobic hate crime.

Saade, his partner, Filipe Santos, and their young son, moved to the Highlands in November 2020.

Saade concedes relations with some neighbours have been strained over work the two have done on their property. Those works have also attracted attention from the Township of Algonquin Highlands, the County of Haliburton, and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. Saade further admits he has been “reactive” to his neighbours’ complaints, but it’s now gone to a whole other level.

Saade installed security cameras, and shared a recent video clip with the paper. In it, an adult male, who appears to be carrying a can of alcohol, is wearing a sign on this chest partially reading, ‘hey asshole…go away now’ while extending his middle finger and saying ‘f* you, you faggot.’ An adult woman, also drinking, says ‘f* you.”

There are two, what appear to be, teenagers, and another woman in the frame as the couple proceed to sit on a bench across from Saade and Santos’ driveway.

Saade said it’s bad enough it’s homophobia, but the fact it appears it was witnessed by children, is “terrible. It’s a terrible message.”

Saade shows a text from Haliburton Highlands OPP Const. Matthew Taylor. It says a male and female had been arrested and charged for criminal harassment. It says the two were released on an undertaking not to communicate with Saade or Santos directly or indirectly, and not to attend within 200 metres of their address…”

OPP Const. Michael Melnychuk confirmed the text was from OPP following a July 8 complaint.

Danielsen says slur ‘crosses a line’

Saade added he is in the midst of seeking a restraining order against nine of his neighbours.

He further claims he and Santos’ property has been repeatedly vandalized over the past two-and-a-half years.

“They’re trying to intimidate us because they don’t want us here,” Saade said.

“They’ve told us numerous times ‘we don’t want your kind in this community’.”

‘Will not be tolerated’

The township has so far denied Saade’s request to purchase the shore road allowance in front of his property

On April 25, 2022, it e-mailed Saade referencing the ongoing matter of disputed property boundaries and structures on the township shore road allowance fronting his property. It added it was writing, “to bring to the attention of both property owners involved that there are major differences between what is considered an OPP, civil and township matter.

“A significant amount of staff time has been devoted to this escalating neighbour dispute for which a number of the events the township has no jurisdiction over and cannot resolve,” planner Sean O’Callaghan wrote.

The letter said allegations of threats to personal safety, trespassing and destruction of private property are police matters, while accusations of works being completed without permission on a person’s property, or the removal of survey stakes, are considered a civil matter.

The township said its only jurisdiction is shore road allowances. It added in past issues involving irregularly-shaped shore road allowances, council has encouraged those involved to come to an agreement. That has yet to happen.

The letter goes on to say, “the disturbing and escalating behaviour occurring on township property will not be tolerated.”

Line has been crossed’

Mayor Liz Danielsen said disputes between neighbouring property owners are always unfortunate and can become extremely challenging, particularly when police and bylaw enforcement are called in on a regular basis. “Strong emotions come into play and often result in inappropriate action being taken by the parties involved,” she said.

“However, when people decide to lower themselves to shouting cruel and homophobic taunts at their neighbours, a line has been crossed. In addition, it is certainly counterproductive to reaching any resolution to the initial dispute. The most recent incident is nothing short of disgraceful and the folks involved in this totally unacceptable behaviour should be ashamed of themselves.”

Minden Pride chair, Allan Guinan, said they were “saddened and sickened” by the video.

“We obviously condemn those kinds of actions. What we want to do is just lead our lives openly, truthfully and with happiness without any fear. It’s those kinds of incidents that reiterate the need for Pride and the need to be able to stand up and say, ‘we want to just be a respected and welcome part of the community’.”