'It's my house': N.S. woman fights to live off the grid
Emily Chan, CTVNews.ca
Published Saturday, August 1, 2015 10:30AM EDT
Cheryl Smith planned to move "off the grid" and into a small house near Clark's Harbour, N.S., a year ago.
But thanks to Canadian building regulations, the four-by-six metre structure remains half-built and empty. Beside the door are two signs on neon paper. One says "Freedom of Rights Denied!" and the other reads "Work stopped."
The signs went up when Smith was forced to put her moving plans on hold. The homebuilder says she was denied an occupancy permit because her dream house plans don't include electricity.
Canadian laws require living spaces to have access to power to run smoke detectors and air exchange systems.
But Smith said the point of moving into her tiny home was to disconnect from the power grid.
"I just don't want to leave a big footprint on the earth," she told CTV Atlantic.
"If what we're trying to do is move the world into a greener place and make it more environmentally friendly so there's something still left for our children, then why am I being forced to rely on electricity or fossil fuels?"
Smith is part of a growing movement of tiny-house enthusiasts in North America and around the world. Proponents of the housing trend preach minimalism, environmentalism and simple design with creative storage options.
Smith's father, Don, tried to help her install wiring in her home, but he said she was firm that she wanted her house to be electricity-free – even if that meant a battle with building regulators.
"She wants to live the way her grandparents did back then," Smith's father said. "It's a decision a lot of people may not agree with, but, I mean, it's not a decision that's going to hurt somebody."
Clark's Harbour's Mayor, Leigh Stoddart, said he admires and empathizes with Smith's desire to go green.
However, local officials are unable to change the laws to accommodate her house, he said. The regulations requiring electricity apply Canada-wide, Stoddart said, and the city can't make an exception.
"Rules are rules, unfortunately," he said. "But I know what she's trying to do and I applaud her effort because she wants to get off the grid, get back to nature."
Left to wait for Canada-wide change, Smith said she doesn't plan to back down in her fight for the right to live an electricity-free life.
She's hoping that, as tiny houses and off-the-grid lifestyles continue to gain popularity, Canadian regulations will catch up to the trend.
"Somebody has to say 'Enough, that's enough,'" she said. "It's my right. It's my house. You didn't contribute to it financially. You don't get to tell me what to do."
With files from CTV Atlantic