POLITICS

Municipal spat resolved as Quebec father moves snow fort back from the street

01/24/2015 02:27 EST | Updated 03/26/2015 05:59 EDT
MONTREAL - Yann Lefebvre's four children can play in their family's snow fort again — and this time, without a municipal squabble distracting them from the winter fun.

After a spat over the fort's safety pitted Lefebvre against the city of Beaconsfield, Que., a suburb west of Montreal, the Lefebvre family got some help from neighbours and city officials Saturday afternoon to move the fort back from the street.

"The fort is actually going to end up being cooler than ever," said Vanessa Rice, Lefebvre's wife.

First built on the edge of the family's front lawn, the open-air fort was walled-in by snow bricks, and snow couches were sculpted inside.

City officials said the fort was on municipal land and earlier this month, they instructed Lefebvre to move it back at least 1.8 metres from the road.

Beaconsfield Mayor Georges Bourelle said the city was concerned with being held liable for a potential accident, but that its primary goal was to ensure the safety of neighbourhood children.

"The concern is very simple: safety," Bourelle said. "The fort was built essentially right on the edge of the street. It's very, very dangerous for snow plows to go by and clean the street."

After city officials delivered a letter ordering him to remove the fort Thursday, Lefebvre said he relented, and invited family and friends to a "rebuilding party" Saturday.

Rice said about 25 people were on hand to rebuild the fort, including Bourelle and two city councillors.

"I'm not an irresponsible parent," Lefebvre said in a telephone interview before the rebuilding began. "An accident can happen, I agree to that. But if I go with that attitude, I'm never going to let my kids ride a bike, I'm never going to let them go outside."

He said he was amazed by all the attention his family's snow fort has received.

"If you live in Canada, you build snow forts, you skate in the winter, and you do some skiing," Lefebvre said. "It's such a sanitized society where everybody's so afraid of everything, and my kids can't even be kids, you know. I'm so amazed that it's garnered so much interest."

Beaconsfield Coun. Karen Messier said the city wasn't against snow forts, but that the structures must be built in safe areas.

"I think this gentleman, his intentions were excellent, of course," she said. "He wanted to do this for his children, and everybody appreciates that. The location of it was not well conceived."

She added that finally, though, that the story has a happy ending.

"The end result is the kids are going to have their fort," Messier said.