Black Press Media file photo.

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

Just Posted

Plans to restore the ecology of Sidney Island include the eradication of fallow deer first introduced in the early 1900s. (Parks Canada/Submitted)
Parks Canada proposal calls for eradication of fallow deer on Sidney Island

Proposed eradication part of a larger plan to restore local ecology but obstacles remain ahead

Ryan Cootes, Erin Bremner-Mitchell, Bill Collins and Mike Williamson of Cascadia Seaweed Corporation are here seen holding up seaweed grown in Barkley Sound in July 2020. The Sidney-based company has organized the inaugural Seaweed Days Festival running May 17 to May 23. (Cascadia Seaweed Corporation/Submitted)
Let’s hear it for seaweed: slimy, unsexy and the world’s greatest untapped food source

Experts talks emerging industry’s challenges and potential at Sidney inaugural Seawood Days Festival

A forest of dance-protesters outside the BC Legislature on April 11. These participants were doing the Dance for the Ancient Forest in support of the Fairy Creek blockade and against old-growth logging. (Zoë Ducklow/News Staff)
Arrests begin at Fairy Creek blockade on Vancouver Island

Five protesters arrested as RCMP begin to enforce injunction

Saanich police are asking for the public’s help locating missing woman Christina Olsen, 41, who was last seen on May 15 in the 4500-block of Blenkinsop Road. (Photo via the Saanich Police Department)
MISSING: Police seek woman last seen at Saanich mental health facility

Christina Olsen, 41, left Seven Oaks Tertiary Mental Health Facility on May 15

A dramatic four-vehicle crash at the intersection of Government and Herald streets brings standstill in downtown Victoria on May 18. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
UPDATE: Downtown Victoria intersection reopens after 4 car crash injures passengers, slowed traffic

Traffic impacted after crash closes Government and Herald streets

A prowling coyote proved no match for a stray black cat who chased it out of a Port Moody parking lot Friday, May 14. (Twitter/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Little but fierce: Cat spotted chasing off coyote by Port Moody police

The black cat is seen jumping out from under a parked car and running the wild animal out of a vacant lot

A thunderstorm pictured in Fraser Valley in 2021. (Black Press Media/Jaimie Grafstrom)
Wildfire concerns sparked after 320+ lightning strikes blasted B.C. yesterday

Approximately one-quarter of the province is currently listed as being at moderate risk of fire

A restaurant server on White Rock’s Marine Drive serves customers on a roadside patio. Indoor dining and recreational travel bans have been in effect since late March in B.C. (Peace Arch News)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate falls to 411 cases Tuesday

360 people in hospital, up slightly, two more deaths

The Banff National Park entrance is shown in Banff, Alta., Tuesday, March 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Minister asks Canadians to camp carefully in national parks as season starts

Kitchen shelters in Banff National Park closed, trails on Vancouver Island will only be one-way

Names of those aboard the ship are seen at Komagata Maru monument in downtown Vancouver, on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. The City of Vancouver has issued an apology for its racist role in denying entry to 376 passengers aboard a ship that was forced to return to India over a century ago. Mayor Kennedy Stewart says discrimination by the city had “cruel effects” on the Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims aboard the Komagata Maru, which arrived in Burrard Inlet on May 23, 1914. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver mayor says sorry for city’s role in turning away South Asians in 1914

Kennedy Stewart has declared May 23 as the annual Komagata Maru Day of Remembrance

A crew of WestCoast WILD Adventures employees tackled an onslaught of litter left at the ‘Locks of Love’ fence at Wally Creek on May 2. (Anne-Marie Gosselin photo)
Litter woes consume popular ‘Locks of Love’ fence on B.C.’s Pacific Rim

Popular view spot near Tofino plagued by people hanging masks and other unwanted garbage

A game camera near the Klahoose reservation on Cortes Island caught this glimpse of a truck leaving the woodlot at around 2:30 on Sunday morning. Photo supplied by Klahoose First Nation
Indigenous cutblock vandalised on Cortes Island, anti-logging element suspected

Ribbons pulled down, gravel poured into gas tank at Klahoose First Nation site

Announced Tuesday, May 18 by Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, the province added gyms, dance and fitness studios to its list of places where face coverings are mandatory. (AP/Steven Senne)
Masks now required at all times inside B.C. gyms, including during workouts

Those who disobey could be subject to a $230 fine

Reinhard “Bud” Loewen of Abbotsford has now been charged with 21 counts of sexual assault related to his massage business. (Facebook photo)
Former Abbotsford masseur now faces 21 counts of sexual assault

Bud Loewen of Bud’s Massage Therapy initally faced three charges

Most Read