By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: April 20, 2012
It was a cold, wet morning of January 2010 when Guncha Singh learned two unforgettable lessons about Squamish.
Lesson number one: Infrastructure in our town is crumbling.
Lesson number two: If you are on the receiving end of this decay, then you are in for some hassle.
Guncha Singh woke up that morning to hear a commotion outside his house, followed quickly by a phone call from a neighbour asking him to look outside.
He drew the curtain and found a water fountain gushing from the street outside his house.
In his driveway, he noticed water bubbling through min-craters that seem to widen every passing minute.
By the time he backed out his cars on the other side of the street, his driveway looked like a sheet of metal that had been hammered all night long.
The culprit turned out to be a 40-year-old pipe that had burst open on Westway Ave., flooding basements on homes across the street and making mini-craters in the driveway of Guncha Singh.
The flooded street and ripped open driveway on that morning marked a beginning of a journey for Guncha Singh, one that would make him do the rounds in small-claim courts in Vancouver, and one that would see him return empty handed, tired and angry.
The very first thing he did that day was to ask the district staff to take responsibility for the pipe burst and rebuild his driveway, just like the road they had built promptly. His insurance had refused to pay for the driveway, saying it’s not covered by them. They suggested he approach the city.
“I also wanted the city to realise it wasn’t my fault that the old pipe had burst and destroyed my driveway,” he said.
Guncha Singh, who was working at a Whistler hotel at the time, said he was supporting a family of five at the time, and had no money to fix the driveway.
When the district refused to rebuild the driveway, he approached council members, one of whom suggested he should take the district to court.
A few months later, Guncha Singh filed a claim with the small claims court.
It reads: “I talked several times with the district employees over the phone. They keep saying it’s not the district fault.”
The district’s response: It’s your fault.
This is the district reply to the claim filed by Guncha Singh for $11,000:
“The claimant has failed to take reasonable step to ensure the property described was protected from risk of flooding,”
Guncha Singh says those words were like adding salt to his wounds.
“I wake up one day and find an old pipe has destroyed my driveway, and then I’m being asked to take the blame for it. How is that fair?”
That is a question still hanging in the air.
Last year, at the suggestion of the arbiter, he decided to withdraw his claim, after it became clear the district won’t take responsibility for the burst pipe.
He had also been missing too many days at work, wasting too much time and energy travelling to Vancouver.
“I just wanted to get out of there,” he said.
After he dropped his claim, he said the arbiter suggested he still had a legal course.
He could sue the district, but he would need to hire a lawyer, and a translator.
“I was losing money from missing work and here they were asking me to pay for a translator and a lawyer.”
Guncha Singh said he left the court, hoping he would never have to go there again.
Since, then he has borrowed $5,000 from his line of credit to fix his driveway, but he says he would want every citizen to know our infrastructure is crumbling.
“I hope no one is on its receiving end again,” he said.