Black Press Media file photo.

Surrey landlord must pay Indigenous former tenant $23,300 for not letting her smudge

So ordered the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal

A Surrey landlord has been ordered to pay an Indigenous former tenant $23,300 for not letting her smudge in the basement suite she rented from him, with $20,000 of that in compensation for “injury to her dignity, feelings and self-respect.”

Crystal Smith, of the Tsimshian and Haisla First Nations, lodged a human rights complaint against her landlord Parminder Mohan, claiming in 2017 he discriminated against her based on her ancestry, race, place of origin and ancestry.

British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal member Pamela Murray, in finding the complaint “justified,” also orderedMohan to pay Smith an additional $1,500 to cover lost wages for time she missed from work for having to move, “because of stress from the situation,” and $1,800 for expenses “incurred as a result of the contravention,” namely obtaining “expert evidence,” for a total penalty of $23,300.

“Overall, I find the nature of the discrimination serious and favours a fairly significant reward,” Murray concluded.

She also ordered Mohan to pay interest on the amounts until they are “paid in full, based on the rates in the Court Order Interest Act.”

READ ALSO: Tenant claims landlord discriminated against her for smudging

“In my view, a policy that prohibits an Indigenous tenant from smudging entirely due to concerns about ‘nuisance’ or ‘property damage’ unless they can persuade their landlord the smudging would not create a risk of nuisance or property damage would adversely impact Ms. Smith and persons with her protected characteristics in and of itself,” Murray wrote in her Feb, 28, 2020 reasons for decision.

Smith had sought $30,000 in compensation for injury to her “dignity, feelings and self-respect,” $1,870.23 for lost wages and $1,800 for expenses, for a total of $33,740.23.

Murray heard from nine witnesses over four days.

Smith is a teacher with a master’s degree in educational administration and leadership, specializing in Indigenous leadership, and is a single mother with two children.

Mohan is a realtor who owns several rental properties, including the duplex Smith was staying at. He denied any discrimination.

“I think is is fair to say that we all hope for a home and for it to be a respite from the larger world, a place to restore ourselves, and a place where we can expect to be left alone, whether under the Residential Tenancy Act’s right to ‘quiet enjoyment’ or simply as a human right in the general sense,” Murray remarked.

Smith testified that she smudges by lighting sage in an abalone shell and fanning it with an eagle feather to make smoke, and that smudging cleanses one of negative energy.

At an earlier hearing, Smith told the tribunal she regularly smudges and had been doing so for more than 13 years in keeping with her family’s culture and spiritual beliefs. She said she smudged in other residences without incident. Following that hearing, B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Catherine McCreary decided her complaint should proceed to a hearing.

“Mr. Mohan seems to be taking the position that the smudging was not genuine but used to cover the use of marijuana,” McCreary noted in her Sept. 5th, 2018 reasons for decision.

“Ms. Smith denies that this is the case.”

McCreary heard the tenant and landlord had signed a residential tenancy agreement on Dec. 4, 2016 for a basement suite that is one of four rental units in a duplex Mohan owns. Among the terms listed were no smoking or drugs in the building, including medical marijuana, that “smelly foods must be cooked outside” and that the “tenant will not disturb other tenants with noise or nuisance.”

Mohan told the tribunal that the smell was “really strong” in the upstairs unit, that it made him feel sick, and that he told Smith as much. He claims she told him: “Well I’m sorry that is making you sick but sage is used for cultural purposes and I will be using it often.”

McCreary noted that Mohan “concluded that Ms. Smith did not care for his health or well-being. He said that he is not going to compromise his health.”

The tribunal heard Smith moved out on June 15, 2017 after Mohan served her with three eviction notices — the third being a two-month notice that the basement suite would need to be vacated for renovation — and refused to take any more rent cheques from her.



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter

IndigenousSurrey

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

“We have to make a call out to address this now so our people don’t have to feel fearful,” said Tribal Chief Mina Holmes. (Carrier Sekani Tribal Council Facebook photo)
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council seeks Indigenous-led task force in northern B.C. hospitals

Request made in an open letter to federal minister Carolyn Bennett

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

Jennifer Rice BC NDP North Coast Incumbent was re-elected for a third according to the preliminary results on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Jennifer Rice is North Coast MLA for third term

Preliminary election results show NDP Majority government

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to win the baseball World Series in Game 6 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
L.A. Dodgers beat Rays 3-1 to win 1st World Series title since 1988

National League champs claim crown in six games

Seven-year-old Aaliyah Rosa was found dead in an apartment in Langley in July. (Langley Advance Times files)
Child’s body cold, no pulse: Off-duty cop testifies in Langley mother’s murder trial

The seven-year-old girl’s mother faces a first-degree murder charge

Tyrell Giroux was arrested by Williams Lake RCMP on Sunday, Oct. 25. (Facebook video screenshot)
Tsilhqot’in leaders call for suspension of officers seen in controversial Williams Lake arrest

Disturbing video demands an immediate, independent investigation, says TNG

People march during a climate strike in Montreal, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Judge rejects 15 youths’ climate change lawsuit against Canadian government

Justice Michael Manson has granted the government’s motion to strike the plaintiffs’ claim

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A woman walks through check in at WestJet at Pearson International airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Strong support for pre-flight COVID testing ahead of upcoming WestJet trial: YVR

Airport is partnering with UBC, which is helping choose the method of pre-flight testing

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau says pandemic ‘really sucks,’ and that Christmas gatherings are up in the air

The prime minister encouraged residents to continue to follow the advice of local health authorities

The Williams Lake Indian Band is stipulating no-go zones for mushroom picking in areas burned by last summer’s wildfires. 100 Mile Free Press photo
Who controls mushroom harvesting on Indigenous lands?

‘We don’t necessarily know where the mushrooms grow, how old the stands need to be, those types of things.’

Most Read