Tenants’ religious rights violated by Brampton landlord who refused to remove shoes

Common courtesy should have avoided this having to go to the Human Rights Tribunal:

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario has awarded $12,000 to a Muslim couple, who claimed their landlord failed to accommodate their prayer times and notify the wife when she was home alone before bringing in prospective new tenants for apartment viewings.

“The respondent discriminated against the applicants by failing to accommodate their religious practices relating to prayer times by providing advance notice shortly before showing the apartment,” tribunal panel vice-chair Jo-Anne Pickel wrote in a recent 38-page decision.

“He also failed to accommodate their religious practices by refusing to remove his shoes when entering their apartment and especially their prayer space. Finally, he also harassed them, at least in part, because of their religiously-based accommodation requests.”

The decision is believed to be the first of its kind from the tribunal with respect to discrimination based on creed and housing.

The overall intake of human rights cases based on creed has been on the rise, up by 13 per cent to 837 last year compared to 741 in 2015. During the same period the number of inquiries specifically about Muslim identity went up by 39 per cent to 196 cases from 141, said the Human Rights Legal Support Centre.

Pickel rejected the landlord’s argument that the tenants were attempting to “impose their way of life” on others, ruling that there’s no evidence to support the claim.

“This claim by the respondent echoes arguments that have become common within public discourse. Unfortunately, attempts by Muslims to practice their faith have increasingly been interpreted as an attempt to impose their way of life on others,” wrote Pickel.

“Far from seeking to impose their way of life on anyone, the applicants were merely making simple requests for the accommodation of their religious practices.”

According to the tribunal, Walid Madkour and Heba Ismail, who immigrated to Canada from Egypt, moved into their Brampton apartment in December 2014 and agreed a month later to move out of the unit by Feb. 28, 2015 due to issues with the temperature of the apartment, the use of the internet and the request for a quiet environment at night.

The human rights complaint was based on the events and correspondence between the couple and the landlord when the landlord started planning viewings of the apartment to prospective tenants in late February 2015.

Despite repeated requests by Madkour for an additional five-minute warning so his wife had time to put on modest attire before the viewings, the landlord John Alabi — a Christian, according to the ruling — would only provide blocks of time that prospective tenants would be coming, with 24 hours’ notice.

The tribunal found Alabi discriminated against the couple when he failed to comply with their request that he remove his shoes when he entered their apartment and especially when he entered the prayer space in the bedroom, which must be kept “free of any contamination, including any discharge from humans or animals.”

Source: Tenants’ religious rights violated by Brampton landlord who refused to remove shoes | Toronto Star

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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