December 19, 2017 2:44 am

Human rights complaint over Mandarin-only strata meetings can proceed: tribunal

A gate at Wellington Court, a complex at the centre of a battle over Mandarin-only strata meetings.

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The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has ruled that a complaint over a strata council that holds its meetings in Mandarin can proceed to a hearing, said a Dec. 13 decision.

The complaint was first launched by Andreas Kargut on behalf of himself and owners of nine units at Wellington Court, a housing complex near Granville Avenue and Garden City Road in Richmond.

WATCH: Strata owners battle over Mandarin-only meetings

At the heart of the complaint was an allegation that, by conducting strata meetings and issuing correspondence in Mandarin, the strata had discriminated against them on the basis of race, contrary to s. 8 of the B.C. Human Rights Code.

The strata applied to dismiss the complaint, denying that it discriminated against anyone.

But that application was shot down by tribunal member Walter Rilkoff.

He wrote, “A situation where owners who do not speak a foreign language, but speak one of Canada’s official languages and the lingua franca of this province, are precluded from full participation in the governance of their homes, is not likely to be found to eliminate barriers, but to erect them.”

Rilkoff went on to write that, “where that distinction is based on what may be appear to be racial or ethnic divisions, the situation may be found to violate the code.”

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He added that complaints of discrimination are “usually brought by or on behalf of minority or marginalized groups,” and that historical discrimination “may be relevant to the question of whether conduct amounts to discrimination.”

“However, where it occurs, discrimination by the minority against members of the majority group is no more acceptable just because that group has obtained a majority in a particular enclave. Within the universe of the strata, the Kargut group may well be a minority,” Rilkoff wrote.

READ MORE: Man fighting strata over Mandarin-only council meetings moves out of Richmond

Kargut and his wife moved into a townhouse at Wellington Court in 2004.

He later found himself among a group of owners who were upset to see meetings being conducted in Mandarin.

The group took a case to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, and for a time, it looked like the strata would compromise.

But Kargut later moved his family to Vernon, citing an unfriendly atmosphere within the complex.

“Whenever our kids would go outside, their kids would all go inside,” he said.

In his reasons for decision, Rilkoff noted the strata appeared to have taken steps to provide translation services at meetings, and that a hearing may determine that it had “appropriately and reasonably accommodated the non-Mandarin speakers.”

He also said the fact that the complaint can go to a hearing does not mean it will succeed, just that he’s “unable to determine that it has no reasonable prospect of success.”

Rilkoff “strongly urge[d] the parties to give serious consideration to resolving this matter through mediation.”

  • With files from John Hua and Jon Azpiri

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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