All artist Jerry Kaiser wants is to complete his monument to early pioneer women, but to do that, he needs the Court of Queen’s Bench to side with him.
Kaiser, 72, constructed the Monument to Women in 2016 to honour the women who contributed to the development of the Rural Municipality of Baildon in the early 1900s. One of their most significant accomplishments was to raise money to build a Presbyterian Church building, which later became a United Church building in the 1920s. That building still stands today, metres away from the monument.
The monument also acknowledges the struggles the women experienced — including isolation, deprivation, and abuse — and how they persevered.
Freedom of speech
“As an artist, I thought I had the right to express myself (particularly through freedom of speech),” Kaiser said recently. “But the RM said I did not get an application to build this. Their lawyer convinced a court that the monument had to be destroyed.”
The rural municipality allegedly told Kaiser that he had to destroy the monument — composed of limestone, field stones and bricks — since it was larger than 107 square feet in size; it’s 198 square feet. He offered to remove a piece — the lintel — to comply, which the RM said was OK.
The RM office declined to comment on the allegation, pointing out Kaiser was appealing this issue and it would be inappropriate to comment.
In 2019, Kaiser wanted to make the monument whole again, so he applied to make that happen. However, the RM turned down his application, so he appealed to the organization’s development appeals board (DAB), Gord Krismer and Associates Ltd. This is the same organization the City of Moose Jaw uses for its appeals.
In letters dated Feb. 24 and March 30 of this year, the DAB denied his request and said it would not give him a hearing. It suggested he appeal to the provincial Saskatchewan Municipal Board’s (SMB) planning appeals committee. That organization told him via a letter on May 11 that it had already heard this issue and wouldn’t give him a hearing either.
Kaiser believes the committee was confused in thinking this application is the same as a previous development permit application that the court of appeal rejected. He argues this is a new development permit for a new art project.
Ombudsman refuses to help
“The provincial appeals committee claims they do not overturn local bylaws, but the fact is they do make variances,” Kaiser said. “The most questionable claim is that the provincial appeals committee does not rule on questions of charter rights, but jurisprudence proves this type of tribunal is designed to make such rulings to avoid reference to the Supreme Court (of Canada).”
Kaiser attempted to have the Saskatchewan Ombudsman review the matter, but the ombudsman said she would not, while she also couldn’t give him legal advice. So, Kaiser submitted a statement of claim to the Court of Queen’s Bench against the SMB’s planning appeals committee. He hopes the court will grant his request for a hearing and allow him to make his case to the SMB about rebuilding his monument.
Monument is ‘artistically appropriate’
So what’s the problem with the lintel — a supporting piece that runs across the top of a door — being disconnected from the monument?
“It’s an abomination. These women should be celebrated,” said Kaiser. “When they asked me to do that (take it off) … it’s a symbolic decapitation of those women and disrespect of them. It deserves to be put back.”
The structure is not an eyesore, he argued. Even the Saskatchewan Arts Board has called the monument “artistically appropriate.”
United Church building
Kaiser purchased the former Baildon United Church building in 2012 and spent $30,000 to renovate it. He then moved into the building in 2016 and turned it into his residence.
The RM learned about this a year later, which triggered a change in property use to residential and required Kaiser to obtain the necessary permits. However, he did not, and the RM issued a stop-work order on April 20, 2017. Kaiser then appealed the order to the SMB, which dismissed his appeal.
While Kaiser claims the RM ordered him to demolish the church building, the rural municipality told the Express in 2018 that it never issued an eviction notice nor demolition order for the structure. The rural municipality did not seek to enforce the stop-work order.