A basement suite tenant claims her landlord discriminated against her for “smudging” and has lodged a human rights complaint against him.
Crystal Smith, of the Tsimshian and Haisla First Nations, alleges her landlord Parminder Mohan discriminated against her based on her ancestry, race, place of origin and ancestry.
But Mohan says otherwise.
“Mr. Mohan seems to be taking the position that the smudging was not genuine but used to cover the use of marijuana,” B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Catherine McCreary stated in her Sept. 5th reasons for decision.
“Ms. Smith denies that this is the case.”
Smith told the tribunal she regularly smudges, a practice observed by some Aboriginal people involving the burning of purifying herbs such as sweetgrass and sage, as well as cedar, designed to ward off negative energy. But Mohan believes his tenant was burning marijuana, which Smith says she doesn’t smoke. He denies Smith’s allegations of discrimination and applied to have her complaint dismissed.
McCreary stated that she made “no findings of fact” in the case but decided not to dismiss it. She decided that “the matter will proceed to a hearing to determine the facts and whether the facts as established amount to discrimination under the Code” and added that the tribunal “will schedule the hearing as soon as possible.”
None of the claims have been proven in a hearing before the board.
Smith is an on-call teacher working on a master’s degree in educational administration and leadership, specializing in Indigenous leadership. She told the tribunal she regularly smudges, and has 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.
McCreary heard the tenant and landlord 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.