Although most human rights cases arise in the context of employment, according to the Ontario Human Rights Code (the “Code”), people also have the right to equal treatment when buying, selling, renting or being evicted from an apartment, house, condominium or commercial property. A recent case from the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (the “Tribunal”) should serve as a cautionary tale to housing providers of what may happen if they ignore their obligations under the Code.
Welykyi et al v Rouge Valley Co-operative
In this case, over the course of 6 months, anonymous messages were posted and mailed to 10 co-op members. The messages were harassing and discriminatory in nature, and were described by the Tribunal as “truly heinous.” Although the messages were reported to the Co-op’s Board of Directors, the Board did not take action until four months after the messages first appeared, when they posted a notice to the Co-op members advising that they would not tolerate such conduct and that they intended to take serious measures against the perpetrator.
Other examples of the Board’s actions included, relocating existing security cameras, installing additional cameras (which were found not have recorded footage), consulting with members of the police, holding a board meeting and offering to hold a mediation. None of these actions were successful, and unfortunately, the perpetrator was never identified.
The issue before the Tribunal was whether the Board’s efforts were adequate.
The Tribunal made note that at the time of these events, the Board did not have an anti-discrimination/anti-harassment policy in place. Despite their finding that the Co-op was run by a volunteer board that lacked the sophistication of a larger employer, the Tribunal concluded the Co-op did not meet its obligation to its members. The Tribunal was particularly critical of the Co-op’s lack of communication with the victims and the delay in denouncing the harassing messages.
Although the Board members were not directly responsible for the messages, their failure to address the messages adequately exacerbated the impact of the harassment. The Tribunal therefore awarded $3,000 to each of the ten members targeted by the harassment.
Lessons to be Learned
- Human rights cases can arise in varied contexts.
- Boards composed of volunteers may be found legally liable for their actions (or omissions).
- If you believe your real estate agent or landlord is in violation of their obligations under the Human Rights Code, you should contact a lawyer
If you have any questions about your legal rights in the workplace or home, one of our lawyers would be happy to meet with you. Please call 647-204-8107 or email [email protected].
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