September 2019

Contents Related Letters

Re: “Common Elements,” by John Lorinc

In reviewing Condo Conquest: Urban Governance, Law, and Condoization in New York City and Toronto, John Lorinc seems to endorse the author Randy Lippert’s conclusion that regulation-mad condo boards prevent the development of genuine community. But Lorinc, for whom I have the greatest respect, has mistaken a fantasy world conjured up by the sociologist Jürgen Habermas for reality.

I am currently serving my second sentence on a condo board. Yes, there are boards, especially those dominated by lawyers, with an excessive fondness for rules. It is possible that my own board did not really need to stipulate that birds kept as pets must be caged, on the off chance that someone might choose to harbour an ostrich or a rhea.

On the other hand, the pressure for regulation often comes from residents, not the boards. It was an owner, not a board member, who asked for a rule requiring residents to be dressed “at least at street level” before entering the hall to throw their garbage down the chute. (We declined his request.) Most boards — made up of unpaid and frequently harassed individuals — are simply trying to balance their owners’ conflicting rights and protect their property and peace.

A condo does not necessarily provide fertile ground for community. The interests of its residents clash in all sorts of areas: pet lovers versus the allergic and phobic; fixed-income owners versus investors; modernists versus traditionalists; party animals versus the noise-sensitive; smokers versus everyone else.

As one fellow director remarked after reading Lorinc’s review, there are times when the “more organic forms of community organization” favoured by Randy Lippert would probably include armed conflict.

Suanne Kelman

Re: “Citizenship Test,” by Kyle Wyatt

I enjoyed reading your editor’s note in the September issue, about who is “really” Canadian. In contrast to the experience you describe, I became a citizen not by choice but as a result of a 1949 referendum. I was born in Newfoundland and became Canadian at the age of fourteen, when we joined Confederation. Immediately, I became a citizen, like thousands of other Newfoundlanders. I didn’t take a test as you did, I didn’t wave a Canadian flag at a ceremony, and I didn’t know the words of the national anthem. I have never been asked, “Are you really a Canadian?” That said, whenever a form has asked “Where were you born?” I’ve only had the option of ticking off “Canada” or a host of other countries. There’s never an option to tick off “Newfoundland.”

Carl Abbott

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