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Newfoundland court refuses to reverse fisherman’s banishment from wharf

A judge denied the request of a Newfoundland fisherman, who wants to return to a wharf he was banned from as his absence has damaged his social life.

In 2018, a local harbour authority in Placentia, NL barred Wayne Fulford and his boat from its wharf after a feud with its board of directors. Fulford’s boat was damaged in a collision with a vessel owned by the authority’s vice president, and he subsequently let it be known he was not happy with how the wharf was being managed, according to a court decision issued Friday.

As the centre of Fulford’s social life, the wharf was where he would come to talk with other local fishermen.

After he was formally banned, Fulford applied for an injunction of the harbour authority’s decision, arguing that his exclusion from the wharf had caused irreparable harm to his mental and physical health. Fulford’s wife, Geraldine, said in an affidavit that he had become “confused and forgetful,” and had “withdrawn from everyone.”

Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court Justice David Orsborn dismissed Fulford’s application, finding the time he spent with friends at the wharf was “an important part of his daily life,” but there were other opportunities to socialize.

“Having considered Geraldine Fulford’s evidence carefully, I am not satisfied that the loss of the opportunity to interact socially at a single site—the wharf—has caused or contributed to the type and degree of irreparable harm that would support a request for interlocutory relief,” the judge wrote in his decision.

In court proceedings, Geraldine testified that her husband is suffering from the embarrassment of being “treated as a town reject,” but also acknowledged nothing stops him from seeing friends in other places.

Fulford’s banishment from the wharf is expected to last at least three years until a new board of directors takes over. The authority’s vice president argued in the proceedings that the authority’s board members would lose face if they let Fulford back on the wharf.

Following the court proceedings, the judge told Fulford and the harbour authority that he would delay writing his decision in the hope that they would come to a “reasonable accommodation” without a court judgment. Orsborn issued his decision when the two parties couldn’t reach an agreement.

“It seems to me that this situation has now deteriorated to the point where any substantive issues have been taken over by a clash of personalities, all leading to a refusal to talk through any differences as rational and reasonable people,” Orsborn wrote. “Were the issue of balance of convenience to have been a controlling factor in this decision, I would find it difficult to conclude that a loss of face is more important than the opportunity to continue a time-honoured practice of persons meeting to socialize on the local wharf facility.”