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    When Fences Are Not Mended: The High Costs of a Neighbour Dispute

    High Costs of a Neighbour Dispute

    In November 2023, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice decided Khan v Bujold (2023 ONSC 6618), which chronicles the years-long legal saga between two Ottawa neighbours. Although their relationship began amicably, the neighbours soon began trading barbs and then entered open conflict with each other. At a certain point, they simply could not resolve their grievances and turned to the court system.

    The Parties

    Omur Khan (“Mr. Khan”) and Sylvie and Serge Bujold (“the Bujolds”), were neighbours for eight years. Mr. Khan worked as a police officer and suffered from PTSD. Sylvie Bujold (“Mrs. Bujold”) managed an LCBO store for several years before working as a medical office administrator until 2015, at which time she left the workforce. Serge Bujold (“Mr. Bujold”) worked as a stationary engineer and building operator.

    The Hostilities

    Upon becoming neighbours in the summer of 2015, the parties were initially pleasant toward each other. However, what the court described as a “series of petty disputes” soon unfolded. For example, in late 2016, Mr. Khan noticed Mr. Bujold filling two buckets with river stones that had been delivered for installation in a shared walkway, and he accused the Bujolds of stealing the stones. As another example, Mrs. Bujold alleged that Mr. Khan’s dog was on the Bujold property without permission.[1]

    Soon, the parties’ behaviour escalated. Mr. Khan installed three exterior security cameras as well as no trespassing signs on his property.[2] The Bujolds phoned local by-law officers to complain about the cameras, confronted Mr. Khan outside his home, and then Mr. Bujold filed a complaint against Mr. Khan to the latter’s employer, the Ottawa Police Services (“OPS”). He claimed that Mr. Khan used his power as a police officer to interfere with the Bujolds’ privacy and that he threatened them. 

    Mrs. Bujold also filed a complaint with the OPS.[3] 

    Mr. Khan complained to the Ottawa by-law department about work the Bujolds were doing on their driveway that was causing dirt to accumulate on his property. He also phoned the police to report his unpleasant interaction with a contractor the Bujolds had hired.[4]

    Shortly thereafter, in August 2018, the Bujolds installed a security camera on their property that pointed directly at the hot tub in Mr. Khan’s backyard. Upon calling the OPS, Mr. Khan discovered that this camera was fake. However, he remained shaken and unnerved by its presence and felt as if the Bujolds were watching his movements.[5]

    The parties continued to call by-law and police officers throughout 2018 and 2019 and, in January 2019, Mrs. Bujold served Mr. Khan with a peace bond application on the basis that she feared he would cause personal injury to her. Although this application was dismissed, according to Mr. Khan it devastated and humiliated him.[6]

    Later in 2019, local Ottawa newspapers reported on the outcome of charges that had been laid against Mr. Khan for impaired and dangerous driving. In the comments section of one such online report, Mrs. Bujold posted about Mr. Khan. She described him as a “power dirty cop,” identified him as her neighbour who “has put our life through hell,” and indicated that he was unfit to “protect our community.”[7]

    From 2020 to 2022, the Bujolds, and especially Mrs. Bujold, routinely videotaped Mr. Khan’s movements on his property, including in his hot tub. Mrs. Bujold sometimes went to extreme lengths to record him, including climbing on top of a play structure in her yard and leaning far out a second-story window.[8]

    The Litigation

    On November 5, 2018, Mr. Khan commenced civil litigation against the Bujolds. He claimed their behaviour was not merely rude but tortious. In his view, the Bujolds knew he suffered from PTSD, and they tried to deprive him of enjoyment of his property, derail his career, ruin his reputation, and cause a criminal proceeding to be initiated against him (the peace bond application).

    The court found that Mrs. Bujold’s online comment about Mr. Khan was defamatory, and she committed the tort of malicious prosecution when she filed the peace bond application.[9] 

    Further, the court held the Bujolds liable for intentional infliction of mental distress upon Mr. Khan. By early 2019, they knew he suffered from PTSD and that he would be upset by being recorded. Their consistent conduct of recording and surveilling Mr. Khan while knowing of his mental health history led the court to conclude that they subjectively intended to injure Mr. Khan’s mental health. Indeed, Mr. Khan’s testimony and evidence from his physicians pointed to such injury having occurred.[10]

    The court awarded Mr. Khan a total of $25,000 in general damages, allocated as: $10,000 for defamation, $5,000 for malicious prosecution, and $10,000 for intentional infliction of mental distress.[11]

    The Takeaway 

    Khan v Bujold illustrates how the court system may assist parties who are embroiled in neighbour disputes. Simultaneously, this decision serves as a cautionary tale to neighbours who cannot, or will not, make reasonable concessions, take steps to de-escalate tensions, or otherwise act in good faith. Where neighbours cannot be cordial, they may find themselves facing years of stress and legal fees, culminating in a ten-day trial. 

      [1] Khan v Bujold, 2023 ONSC 6618 at paras 15-17. 

    [2] Ibid at para 19. 

    [3] Ibid at paras 25-33. 

    [4] Ibid at para 34. 

    [5] Ibid at paras 35-37

    [6] Ibid at paras 45-47. 

    [7] Ibid at para 50. 

    [8] Ibid at paras 61-66. 

    [9] Ibid at paras 69, 73, and 77.  

    [10] Ibid at paras 87-88, 92-97, 104-105. 

    [11] Ibid at para 124. 

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    Posted By: Caroline Bedard of Merovitz Potechin LLP


    Caroline is a litigation associate at Merovitz Potechin, with a practice supporting clients in a range of commercial and civil litigation matters.

    To advise and advocate for clients, Caroline leverages her ability to quickly understand the crux of a legal issue, conduct efficient yet thorough research, and identify the key facts and core legal principles that will buttress a client’s position.

    Caroline completed a Bachelor of Arts degree from McGill University with First Class Honours in History. She then completed a Master of Studies degree in British and European history at the University of Oxford, focusing on modern British history. During her time as a law student at the University of Toronto, Caroline held editorial positions on two of the law school’s academic journals. Before joining Merovitz Potechin, she practiced at a leading firm in Southeastern Ontario.

    When not in the office, Caroline enjoys reading, hiking, and spending time with family and friends.