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‘It’s absolutely about principle’: Calgary man seeks compassion, clarity after parking violation

A grocery run in mid-January left Calgarian Erik Freiburger with an unwelcomed ticket from the Calgary Police.

Two months and several back-and-forth conversations later, he’s still in the dark over the situation.

Freiburger was ticketed by a Calgary Police Service officer at a Safeway parking lot at 130 Ave SE for violating parking laws.

His van was angled in a way that took up two handicap parking stalls. It’s something Freiburger said he needs to do to provide more space to exit and enter the vehicle.

The van has a side entry lift that extends out. If anyone parks beside him, he’s unable to enter or exit the van.

“Just because there’s government policies that say you need this much space, does not mean that it’s an accurate description of what some people’s needs are for space and safety for their accessibility,” said Freiburger.

After calling the Calgary Parking Authority (CPA) to clarify the situation after he was issued the violation, he was redirected to the CPS.

“I still had not heard anything until just yesterday,” said Freiburger.

“I received the letter from the CPA telling me that they were rejecting my appeal on compassionate grounds.”

Erik Freiburger exiting his van using a lift. Because the lift extends out, he said he needs more space to park. (COURTESY ERIK FREIBURGER)

Calgary police response

Freiburger was contacted by an officer on March 2 about the ticket.

In response to a request from LiveWire Calgary that same day, Constable Kristy Braun said that she’s looking into the situation.

“I can tell you that I am in the process of communicating with Mr. Freiburger and hope to assist in resolving this matter,” wrote Cst. Braun.

In a statement sent to LiveWire Calgary, CPS said that Freiburger was parked in a way that would have prevented another person with disabilities from using the next stall.

“The officer who issued the ticket is currently off duty but having received information relative to how the individual enters and exits the vehicle from the side, we will be discussing this with them when they are next on shift,” the statement read.

“At the time the ticket was issued, it was unlikely that the officer would have known about the side door entry and exit.”

Continuing to advocate

On Tuesday, Freiburger was given seven days to pay the ticket, something he says he’s not sure he will do.

He said it has nothing to do with money.

“It’s absolutely about principle and advocacy, we need to recognize that,” said Freiburger.

“For advocacy purposes, I really am ready and would like to go in front of a judge. I haven’t fully decided.”

Freiburger has long been an advocate for educating the public on the needs of persons living with disabilities.

He said he’s often faced with discrimination and confrontation because he’s in a wheelchair.

In the past, his van has been vandalized. He said he was once followed out of his office by a man who was confronting him due to a situation similar to this.

“My fear is that if we pay this ticket, now we’re not only under the threat of, you know, vandalism and public confrontation,” said Freiburger.

“Every time we every time we go out we’re under the threat of having another ticket from the police officer.”

He said more education, empathy, and compassion is vital, especially during the times we are living through.

“Let’s try and be a little more kind to one another, a little more empathetic and a little more graceful,” said Freiburger.