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Montreal, August 17, 2010--- A civil rights complaint filed by CRARR last year on behalf of an Anglophone Black woman and her children, may expand the rights of all public housing tenants in Quebec, only if the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission investigates the complaint more rapidly and diligently.

The family have been long-time tenants with the Montreal Housing Authority/Office municipal d’habitation de Montreal (OMHM), the largest provider of social housing in Montreal. For over a decade, the woman in question had been living in Cote des Neiges district with her three children in a two-bedroom OMHM apartment. The crowded housing that this family was forced to endure was in conflict with the OMHM’s own housing standards bylaws, and in part contributed to two of the children being in care at Batshaw, a youth protection agency.

When a suitable and adequate housing unit was finally offered to the family almost twelve years after such a unit should have been made available, the scheduled move was abruptly canceled by the OMHM the day before the move was to take place. The OMHM cited allegations (made after a 5-minute inspection visit by an OMHM inspector) that the family’s current apartment wasn’t in “proper condition” resulting from “abuse and neglect” as a reason for the abrupt and untimely cancellation of the move.

The family was subsequently left with an apartment full of belongings in boxes, and was told that their names would be removed from the waiting list for a larger unit until they made the necessary repairs to their current unit. The OMHM stated they would send an inspector within the 60 day period that followed to verify that the repairs had been carried out; however no inspector visited the family within the specified time period.

The family was arbitrarily removed from the waiting list for several months afterwards without any information as to the reason why, and without being given information about their right to appeal the decision. Once the situation was addressed, a second move was initiated by the OMHM without giving the required amount of notice as stipulated in provincial legislation. In addition to the under-housed situation in which the family lived, the female head of the household also experienced racial discrimination by an OMHM staff person. The family is now relocated in the Little Burgundy district, in a social housing project where there are no garbage disposal facilities.

The treatment of the family by the OMHM is presently the subject of a civil rights complaint, filed by CRARR on the mother’s and oldest daughter’s behalf, before the Commission des droits de la personne and des droits de la jeunesse (CDPDJ). Almost one year after the filing of the complaint, the Commission's investigation is proceeding at a snail's pace. Two weeks away from the first anniversary of the date of filing (September 2009), the Commission's investigator has not even met with the victims, especially the children, whose lives were disrupted by the way the family was treated (despite the fact that the Commission's mandate includes youth rights and development needs).

Unfortunately, this case is just one of many instances of discrimination and core housing need problems confronted by low-income racialized households in Montreal and beyond. In 2003, CRARR already challenged the OMHM for allowing housing conditions in its St-Michel public housing project that exposed its racialized tenants to regular police harassment and profiling as well as health risks. CRARR presently has two other civil rights complaints against the OMHM, one involving racial disparity in service and resource allocations in Cote des Neiges and the other, harassment and discrimination based on disability and age in the Plateau Mont-Royal district.

In 2007, the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal emphasized in a ruling on homophobic harassment in OMHM-administered housing that civil rights education for tenants and staff should be developed. Since then, the OMHM still does not have a civil rights policy posted on its website.


There are currently over 37,000 individuals residing in more than 20,000 low-rent housing units with the OMHM. Over 40% of tenants in these units are comprised of immigrants, and the percentage of single parent households is higher than that found in Montreal as a whole. Although there is information on the OMHM’s website about how tenants can submit a complaint to the housing authority, there is no information regarding anti-discrimination, and in particular anti-racist, policies and practices in place at the OMHM. (

The City of Montreal On January 1, 2006, the Montréal Charter of Rights and Responsibilities came into effect. The Montréal Charter includes the following:

Chapter 1 Democracy
ARTICLE 16 / Commitments
To foster participation by citizens in municipal affairs, Montréal is committed to:

  • i) Combatting discrimination, xenophobia, racism, sexism and homophobia,poverty and social exclusion, all of which serve to erode the foundations of a free and democratic society;
  • Chapter 2 Economic and Social Life
    ARTICLE 18 / Commitments
    To foster the economic and social rights of citizens, Montréal is committed to:

  • d) Maintaining, with the support of its governmental partners, assistance measures for vulnerable persons that foster their access to appropriate and affordable housing;