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 ordered Mohan 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

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.

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

Surrey

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

Just Posted

Surrey brewery distilling hand sanitizer in effort to fight pandemic

Central City Brewers is producing it in bulk and ‘more convenient’ sizes

Claiming she has COVID-19, stranger coughs in Cloverdale woman’s face

Clayton Heights woman will now self-isolate for the next two weeks

Surrey hospital staff fed by Delta restaurant with opening date delayed due to COVID-19

Happy Singh Eats will be ‘an Indian McDonald’s in terms of the price points,’ rep says

COVID-19: Daily update on the pandemic in Surrey, White Rock and beyond

APRIL 2: Help announced for those on income & disability assistance

‘We don’t need this right now’: B.C. man breaks up road rage incident

Two men were throwing punches on Tillicum Road in Saanich on Vancouver Island

B.C. schools Zoom to online education amid COVID-19

K-12 educators will receive access this month, up to individual districts whether they use it or not

UFV student nurses offering respite to frontline nurses, care aides

Website helping to match volunteers with those who need help with daily errands

B.C. adding $300 to monthly income and disability assistance payments

‘Crisis supplement’ for COVID-19 for April, May and June

‘A matter of human decency’: Truckers’ union calls on gas stations, rest stops to fully re-open

Teamsters Canada wants feds, provinces to put pressure on facilities to re-open for transport workers

Migrant worker advocates blame feds, employers for COVID-19 outbreak at B.C. garden store

Migrant farm worker group calls on government for adequate health and safety requirements

Fraser Valley care home has two confirmed cases of COVID-19

Two residents at Mission’s Chartwell Cedarbrooke Retirement Residence have been diagnosed

‘There can be no ambiguity’: Travellers brought home to B.C. must self-isolate

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the mandatory isolation must be abided by

Most Read