Fondé en 1983 --Unis pour la diversité et l'égalité raciale


Montreal, January 22, 2014 ---Ms. Tomee Sojourner has filed for judicial review of the Quebec Administration Judicial Council’s decision to dismiss her complaint despite specific allegations of biased conduct on the part of a Rental Board judge, who repeatedly called her “him” and “Mister” during the hearing.

Ms. Sojourner, CEO of Tomee Sojourner Consulting, Inc and a Black lesbian, had filed a complaint of judicial bias with the Conseil de la justice administrative (the Administrative Judicial Council) against a member of the Rental Board for the latter’s conduct during a hearing held in June 2013. The complaint, filed on June 25, 2013, alleged intersectional discrimination based on race, language, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

On June 11, 2013, Ms. Sojourner appeared before the Rental Board in a case against her former landlord for improper maintenance of her apartment, and inappropriate conduct by the landlord’s representatives. The landlord had filed a claim against Ms. Sojourner for breaking her lease. Ms. Sojourner was accompanied by a friend, also a former tenant in the same building; her friend is also a Black professional woman.

According to her complaint with the Council, the presiding judge, Luce De Palma, repeatedly referred to her as a man (by calling her “il”, “lui” et “monsieur Sojourner”), despite being reminded by Ms. Sojourner and the landlord's representative that she is a woman. At one point, when Ms. Sojourner corrected the judge by telling her that she should be addressed as “Madame Sojourner”, not “Monsieur”, Judge De Palma said, “it's probably your hair ...” (Ms Sojourner’s hair is close cropped) and proceeded to call her “Mr. Mrs.”

In addition to these biased remarks, Judge De Palma showed a distinctively hostile, dismissive, and unprofessional attitude towards Ms. Sojourner, compared to the way she addressed the landlord's representative. She often cut off Ms. Sojourner, made minimal eye contact with her when she spoke to her and appeared visibly annoyed by Ms. Sojourner's explanations. She also spoke to the landlord's representative in French, leaving Ms. Sojourner completely in the dark as to what was being exchanged between the two. The hearing concluded after 15 minutes, without a decision being rendered.

On October 4, 2013, the Council issued its decision regarding Ms. Sojourner’s complaint. The Council found that the complaint is indeed of a deontological nature, as it concerns an alleged breach of provisions enshrined in the Code of Ethics of the Commissioners of the Rental Board.

However, despite finding, upon listening to the audio recording, that the administrative judge did in fact repeatedly refer to Ms. Sojourner as a man, the Council stated that this was due to the administrative judge not hearing Ms. Sojourner’s correction. It also found the situation to be a misunderstanding on the part of the judge and that she did not “intend to denigrate the complainant.” In addition, the Council noted the judge’s apology and use of a polite tone throughout the hearing.

The Council dismissed the complaint, making no references to Ms. Sojourner’s claim of discrimination and judicial bias based on her characteristics. The Council did not interview either Ms. Sojourner or any other witness during the examination of the complaint.

With CRARR’s assistance, Ms. Sojourner has filed for judicial review of the Council’s decision before the Superior Court of Quebec, as it contains several errors of both fact and law, such as the fact that the Council:

❐ Failed to address all aspects of the complaint. For instance, the gender and gender identity aspect was completely ignored.

❐ Erred in its assessment of the audio recording, as any reasonable person in listening to it would find that Ms. Sojourner’s corrections of Judge De Palma were clearly audible.

❐ Failed to assess crucial and pertinent evidence regarding the allegations presented in the complaint, such as: 1) the numerous times Ms. Sojourner was interrupted by Judge De Palma while in the process of responding to her questions and 2) the offensive comment (“it’s probably your hair…”) that Judge De Palma made when Ms. Sojourner corrected her regarding to her gender.

More importantly, the Council omitted the fact that aside from the recording, there was another fact that should have been taken into account: Ms. Sojourner appeared in person before the judge and it was evident that she is a woman, unless the judge’s inability to see gender due to Ms. Sojourner’s race and appearance made her constantly mistake the latter for a man.

Other errors include the Council’s failure to properly deal with the concept of discrimination properly by speculating the Judge’s intentions. In the last 30 years of Canadian and Quebec jurisprudence on discrimination, the applicable norm is not intention, but the effect or consequence on the person discriminated against.

Ms. Sojourner is seeking to have the Council’s decision quashed and the case sent back to the Council so that a new and proper decision may be rendered.