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Tofino restaurant worker fighting ticket for sleeping in van

The man says the medication he takes for bipolar disorder makes him drowsy
Nicolas Picq, with his dog Jazz, holds the ticket he was issued on April 25 for using his van as accommodation in Tofino. (Nora O’Malley photo)

A Tofino restaurant worker ticketed for sleeping in his van in downtown Tofino is fighting the charge, claiming he couldn’t drive due to medical reasons.

Nicolas Picq clocked out of an eight hour shift as a dishwasher at around 11 p.m. on April 24. Picq said he takes medication that makes him drowsy, and that when he is overtired, it is dangerous for him to drive. With that in mind, he made the decision to sleep in his vehicle rather than driving back to Ucluelet.

“I almost had an accident returning to Ucluelet on Friday night, so I decided to sleep outside my work Saturday and Sunday night,” said Picq.

At 7 a.m. on April 25, Picq was woken by a Tofino bylaw officer. Picq explained his medical situation, but the officer had already issued him a ticket for $200 for using his vehicle as accommodation.

“You can’t sleep in your car in the downtown core of Tofino. The ticket was issued based on complaints from the neighbourhood,” said Nikki Best, District of Tofino’s Manager of Corporate Services.

When Picq disputed the ticket to the District of Tofino, showing them his prescriptions for Citalopram and Lithium Carbonate (one side effect of the latter is drowsiness), the district told him his case lacked proof and that the ticket was justified. Instead of paying the fine, Picq decided to escalate the ticket to a third party adjudication process.

“If you fight, you might not win, but if you don’t fight, you are sure to lose. I don’t want to come off as a victim. I’m just standing up for myself,” Picq told the Westerly News.

“I totally understand the parking issue in Tofino with mobile campers, seasonal affluence and all the disagreements this situation creates, but my specific case is completely different,” he said.

Picq has bipolar disorder and uses his medication to stabilize his mood. He said he fell into a depression after he received the ticket.

“Considering driving under the influence is a crime in British Columbia, I believe to have been punished by a municipal rule for having respected a federal law justified by a situation that could have put my community and myself in danger,” said Picq.

Due to privacy considerations and to respect the adjudication process, the district said it was unable to discuss specifics about Picq’s file. According to Best, it has been years since the municipality has had to undergo adjudication.

Picq, who made his way to the West Coast in mid-March from Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, says navigating the adjudication process has been a challenge, especially since he is not bilingual. He has requested the adjudication be done in French, and plans to fight the ticket in writing.

Best said the district provided Picq with details for a translation service and have yet to receive any formal adjudication paperwork.

“Because the district (has) not yet received the adjudication paperwork, staff are still reviewing the file and the decision on whether the ticket should be waived or upheld has now been escalated to the Manager of Protective Services, who will following up with the individual directly,” Best wrote in an email.

Since the incident, Picq says he now only works three nights a week to prevent himself from getting overtired.

RELATED: Local leaders prepare to crack down on illegal campers around Tofino and Ucluelet

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