Council Attempts to bring Ugandan High Commission into Line after Unauthorized Demolition of Heritage Property 

Ottawa City Council’s short meeting today was centred around the construction of the Ugandan High Commission’s new diplomatic residence at 235 Mariposa Drive in Ottawa’s Rockcliffe neighbourhood. 

The previous home was a heritage property, as are most in the Rockcliffe area, but it sat derelict and unused in an uninhabitable condition. The Ugandan High Commission demolished the building without permission earlier in the month. 

Evidently, the move was made knowingly to avoid City of Ottawa regulations. In 2018, the Ugandan High Commission applied for a permit to demolish another heritage property in Sandy Hill, but City Council rejected the application. As a result of diplomatic status, management of disputes with embassies in Ottawa must be handled by Global Affairs Canada.

Councillors Ariel Troster and Rawlson King brought forward a motion to have the proposed new residence set as far back “as the deepest part of the south elevation of 216 Manor Avenue.” The motion further stipulated that the construction materials for the home’s exterior should be in line with the aesthetic approved by Heritage staff and inspections by city staff would occur at “predetermined milestones.”

King spoke to the motion, saying it came about after community concerns surrounding “setbacks” in expectations to meet Heritage Act requirements. 

Councillor Riley Brockington stated he supports the motion but asked what recourse, if any, the city would have if the Ugandan High Commission did not follow building code regulations stipulated in the motion, saying, “They haven’t played ball to date.”  

City staff stated that there would be enhanced inspections, and they requested a construction schedule. Still, there was no definitive answer on possible recourse for future violations by the Ugandan High Commission except to say that there is a process for enforcement under the Heritage Act. 

Brockington reiterated asking how anything could be enforced when the Ugandan High Commission could claim diplomatic immunity from any enforcement. City of Ottawa legal staff responded, stating that diplomats are bound by local law unless there is an assertion of diplomatic immunity.

The Troster-King motion was passed. However, given the previous actions of the Ugandan High Commission, the motion will likely have little impact. The city cannot enforce laws unless the diplomatic community acts as good neighbours.