Tribunal Forces Landlord To Pay $12,000 To Muslim Couple

REUTERS/Mark Blinch

David Krayden Ottawa Bureau Chief
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A Canadian human rights tribunal is forcing a Toronto-area landlord to pay $12,000 to a Muslim couple who rented a part of his home, the Toronto Sun reports. Their grievance? Landlord John Alabi didn’t take off his shoes when he showed the area to other prospective tenants.

Not only that, despite providing the duo with the mandatory 24-hour notices that the room would be viewed, he didn’t always come by with a five-minute warning that a visit was imminent and this sometimes prevented the Muslim wife from being appropriately attired for the visit.

The Ontario human rights tribunal — often referred to as a kangaroo court by conservative pundits — ordered Alabi to pay the fine this week, saying that by failing to remove his shoes, Alabi was failing to accommodate the couple’s Muslim faith that mandates prayer on the floor.

The tribunal also chastised the landlord because he “harassed them and created a poisoned housing environment.”

The human rights inquisitors had no sympathy for Alabi.

“There was absolutely no evidence that the applicants’ requests for additional notice and for the removal of shoes in this case were an attempt by them to impose their way of life on the respondent or anyone else,” ruled vice chair Jo-Anne Pickel. “(They) were merely making simple requests for the accommodation of their religious practices … their requests easily could have been met without any hardship to the respondent, let alone any undue hardship as that term is used in human rights law.”

So ends a nightmare for the landlord that began in December 2014, when Alabi first offered his ground floor suite to  Walid Madkour and his wife Heba Ismail, who had moved from Montreal to the Toronto bedroom community of Brampton.

The conflict started when the Muslim couple allegedly demanded that that Alabi maintain silence after 10 p.m. The couple agreed to terminate the lease on Feb. 28, 2015.

For the last two years, he has been trying to find other tenants. Madkhour has insisted on being notified of any apartment viewings at last one hour prior to the potential tenants arriving. Alabi argued that by law only 24 hours was necessary.

Madkhour accused his landlord  of “racism and violation of our civil rights.”  Alabi knew Ismail was unemployed and home throughout he day and therefore, “he considered it harassment for (Alabi) to continue to say that he would enter the premises without permission.”

Alabi’s response was, “Welcome to Ontario, Canada.”

Although, the landlord told the human rights inquisitors that he was only referring to the difference between Ontario’s apartment viewing rules and those of Quebec, where his tenants had previously lived, the tribunal cited the comment as another example of discrimination.

The same night that he informed the couple about their geographic status, Ismail complained about loud pounding on the front steps. Alabi explained that he was removing the snow. She said it was invasive behaviour and her husband called the police.

When the police arrived, the couple was instructed that the landlord did have a right to show the apartment even if the current tenants were at home. Alabi thought he was doing everybody a favor when he offered to give the couple a five-minute warning as a “courtesy.”

The truce ended quickly when the shoes became an issue. Ismail videotaped Alabi entering the apartment with his shoes on.

She called it “disrespectful and an act of racism.”

Alabi says the subject of shoes had never arisen and accused the couple of trying to prevent him from renting out the suite to someone else. He also got to the bottom of his grievance with the entire episode, saying the Muslim couple was trying to impose their religion on him and that “the fact that someone belongs to a religion does not permit them to inconvenience others.”

Canadian human rights tribunals are notorious for siding with the complainant and this one didn’t disappoint: “When considered together, I find that the comment ‘welcome to Ontario, Canada,’ the making of loud pounding noises outside the applicants’ door shortly after making that comment, and (Alabi)’s refusal to remove his shoes when entering (their) prayer space amounted to harassment under the Code.”

To add insult to injury, Alabi not only has to cough up $12,000 for injury to the couple’s “dignity, feelings and self-respect,” he has been assigned a mandatory e-learning course on “Human Rights in Rental Housing.”

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