News / Ottawa

City of Ottawa's hookah ban faces charter challenge

Complainants contend that the bylaw isn’t consistent with the city’s commitment to multiculturalism.

Taoufik Nour smokes from a hookah pipe at The Desert Rose Restaurant and Hookah Lounge, which serves non-tobacco shisha, in Toronto. May 25, 2015.

Melissa Renwick/Toronto Star

Taoufik Nour smokes from a hookah pipe at The Desert Rose Restaurant and Hookah Lounge, which serves non-tobacco shisha, in Toronto. May 25, 2015.

The city is facing a legal challenge over its hookah pipe ban, brought forward by two men who insist the new law violates the charter rights of Arab Canadians.

The applicants named in the legal challenge are Brian Mahmoud, owner of the Lebanese Palace at 919 Industrial Avenue, and Fadi Itaif, a frequent patron at the establishment.

In the suit, the restaurant is described as providing “a space for Middle Eastern individuals and groups to gather and enjoy ethnic food, conversation and to smoke traditional water pipes.”

The challenge includes an affidavit from an expert in Arabic Culture, and emphasizes that water pipes are “deeply rooted in tradition.”

Mahmoud and Itaif claim alleged that the new bylaw banning hookah isn’t consistent with the city’s multiculturalism policies and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They say it discriminates against Arab Canadians and would force the business to close.

The two applicants are being represented by lawyer Lawrence Greenspon, who has requested an injunction on enforcement of the new bylaw.

On Monday evening Medical Officer of Health Isra Levy said enforcement will continue and the city intends to defend itself against the lawsuit.

In a memo to councillors, city clerk Rick O’Connor notes that similar policies have been implemented in Toronto and Vancouver. The case against the bylaw in Toronto is currently being appealed to the Ontario Court of Appeal.

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