Ontario judge rejects appliance store's attempt to stay open during lockdown
Many retail store owners in Ontario regions currently under lockdown are outraged that they've been forced to shutter for in-person shopping while big box stores have been allowed to remain open, and some have even attempted to fight it — with little success thus far.
An Ontario judge ruled this week that store Canadian Appliance Source will have to keep following the rules like everyone else after the company claimed it should qualify as a hardware store and therefore an essential service.
Under the province's lockdown restrictions, only certain "essential" retail outlets can remain open for in-person shopping, including supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, hardware stores, other retailers selling groceries, beer/wine and liquor stores, pharmacies, safety supply stores and pet supply stores.
Big box stores such as Home Depot, which sell hardware products as well as appliances similar to those found at Canadian Appliance Source, are therefore legally allowed to serve customers in person, and many have called this unfair and said it gives large businesses that sell so-called essential products an advantage.
Canadian Appliance Store meanwhile operates five retail stores in Toronto and Peel Region, both of which are currently in lockdown, and three of these five locations were recently ordered to shut down by bylaw officers.
The company then challenged the orders, claiming they did in fact sell hardware items and should be allowed to stay open as an essential service, but Justice Paul Perell has ruled that Canadian Appliance Store was trying to inaccurately expand the definition of a hardware store.
In rejecting lockdown challenge, Court rules Canadian Appliance Source is not a hardware store, and quotes Mark Twain and Lewis Carrol. I was not aware of the Alice in Wonderland Theory of Statutory Interpretation!https://t.co/R8MrSstYSW— Richard Sinclair (@Rdsinclair) December 17, 2020
"Cdn Appliance sells refrigerators, freezers, ranges, cooktops, ovens, microwaves, kitchen ventilation appliances, dishwashers, washing machines, dryers, air conditioners, barbeque grills and other household appliances," reads the decision.
"Canadian Appliance does not sell building materials (lumber, masonry), construction hardware (nails, screws, etc.), fasteners, hand tools, power tools, plumbing supplies, electrical supplies, cleaning products, small housewares, utensils, and sanitation supplies."
And at the end of the day, the judge said Ontario did not provide a prescriptive definition of hardware stores, implying that "the Legislature meant a retail store that a person through common experience and observation would recognize as a retail hardware store."
This, Perell said, does not include Canadian Appliance Source.
"The Legislature intended the words 'hardware store' to be read, which is to say be understood, in their ordinary sense," wrote Perell.
"The Legislature did not prescribe a special meaning to the words 'hardware store' and just used those words in their conventional everyday sense."
According to the ruling, Canadian Appliance Source operates 29 locations in six provinces and receives 80 per cent of its business from walk-in customers, with an average of 30 customers visiting each showroom per day.
Foot traffic is also typically busier during the months of November and December when the company conducts its Black Friday and pre-Christmas sales, meaning the lockdown will have a substantial impact on Canadian Appliance Source sales this year.
"In criticizing Cdn Appliance's arguments this is not to say that I agree with Ontario's and Toronto's arguments that a hardware store and a supply chain business should because of the dire threat to public health be given a narrow and restricted meaning," reads Perell's ruling.
"The Legislature's intention simply was to give the words of the regulation their conventional and natural and expected meaning."
This ruling comes as Hudson's Bay also recently announced plans to fight back against lockdown restrictions by asking the provincial courts to formally review the current measures that prohibit in-person shopping at stores and malls.
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