Trigger Waring: this blog contains content about sexual harassment and violence
Rental housing and accommodation is a protected social area under the Human Rights Code in Ontario. That means that you should not be subjected to sexual harassment or discrimination by the owner, superintendent, or landlord of your rental housing.
However, in a recent decision the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario heard about disturbing sexual harassment and gender discrimination that one woman endured.
In this decision, the applicant’s landlord, Jacques Andriano, engaged in three years of harassment, gender-based slurs, and reprisal.
Mr. Andriano became upset when the applicant disclosed to potential renters that there may be bugs in the apartment building. Following this, Mr. Andriano repeatedly harassed the applicant.
His behaviour included:
- telling her all she owns “is what’s between your legs!” and thrusting his hand at her genitals;
- calling her slurs such as “trash”, “dirty cunt whore”, and “fucking bitch”;
- making threats that his paralegal would get her, that she would be on the street, and that she was lucky witnesses were around or something would happen to her;
- stating that all “women are crazy”; and
- vandalizing her bike while her proceeding occurred at the HRTO.
Without surprise, the applicant found this behaviour extremely demeaning and frightening.
The Tribunal found that Jacques Andriano had engaged in a course of vexatious comments and conduct based on sex and that he had abused his position as a landlord to make the applicant’s life a misery. It further found he had regularly made offensive gender-based comments and sexually demeaning gestures that denigrated her as a woman, and women in general.
Despite these strong findings, the Tribunal only awarded the applicant $20,000 in general damages.
Ontario’s legislation cannot prevent all sexual harassment at home. However, where a person in a position of power in accommodation engages in gender-based discrimination and harassment there are consequences. Such behaviour is not acceptable in our communities and will be punished by the Tribunal.
However, this decision also demonstrates the ongoing need for the Tribunal to re-evaluate its remedies. As I have said before, low damage awards for serious breaches of the Code, can do more harm than good. Ongoing repeated sexualized threats and harassment must be compensated with more than $20,000 if human rights in Ontario are to have any meaning.
If you have experienced sexual harassment or discrimination in rental housing, you should speak to a lawyer. You can reach us at [email protected] or 647-204-8107.
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