While most agree that discrimination is a bad thing, what constitutes discrimination is unclear.
Some actions are clearly discriminatory and prohibited by legislation and laws that include the Ontario Human Rights Act. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act, intended to prevent and eliminate barriers faced by individuals with disabilities, also identifies actions deemed discriminatory.
Condo boards are expected to be proactive in addressing harassment of residents. To do so requires an understanding of what constitutes discrimination.
Some of the most significant discrimination issues in condo communities are cultural, racial and religious in nature. Some of this discrimination is motivated by prejudice and clearly identified. Other times it is subtle and causes conflict without malicious intent.
The evolving family structure can create discrimination issues. At one time family was defined as a married man and woman plus their children. Today it may consist of two men or two women plus children. Some are not accepting of this and can act in ways that are rude or discriminatory.
It can be hard deciding when a condo corporation should assume any responsibility or get involved in a dispute. Imagine a confrontation between a Caucasian and African-Canadian over what many would consider a trivial matter. The Caucasian individual makes racial slurs overheard by a condo board member who chooses not to intervene. Soon after the African-Canadian complains about what was said to him and overheard by the board member. The board responds that it was a dispute between neighbours and chooses not get involved.
Was doing nothing the proper action for the board? Were they abiding by their fiduciary duty or facilitating a hostile environment?
Religious practices can create potentially discriminatory situations. Is it acceptable for a Jewish resident to hang a mezuzah on their door? Should Muslims be allowed to conduct prayers in common areas or wear different clothing in the swimming pool?
So long as safety or sanitation is not being compromised, some argue these are matters that do not involve the board or condo corporation. On the other hand, allowing racial slurs to continue could constitute a harmful environment that should not be encouraged by condo board action or inaction.
Condo living encompasses people of diverse cultures and backgrounds. Living together peacefully, and with minimal conflict, is in everyone’s interest. Occasional conflicts are unavoidable. They should be managed with care and good judgement.