I experienced harassment
Can you tell us about the harassment you experienced?
Yes, in 2010, we bought a triplex. We moved into one of the units and rented out the others. We had good relations with our tenants until one particular couple moved in. The problems began within a few weeks. First, they asked us if they could pay their rent two weeks late. I said they could. I waited a whole month, and then contacted them about it. The woman came to me and shouted, “You bloody immigrants! We would not steal! You don’t understand anything about Québec. Go back where you came from!” She threw the rent cheque at me and left.
Was that the end of it?
No, that was only the beginning. The trouble never stopped after that. The woman was always after us. Then, one day I saw workers doing construction on their balcony. The tenants had not asked for my permission for this. When I went over and asked for an explanation, the woman was vehement. She started hurling insults, saying, “You old sourpuss, , go back where you came from! This is our home, not yours!” She continued to attack us verbally, and then one day, she physically shoved me. She was arrested.
What did you do?
Well, the couple eventually moved out, but even then, the problems continued. The woman kept coming back to our area to harass us. She made posters containing insults and lies about us, and put them up around our neighbourhood! The situation had become intolerable for us. It eventually drove us to sell the triplex and move to another city. Ever since then, we feel more on guard, even in our new neighbourhood. We’re afraid that something like that could happen again.
What was the hardest part?
I came to Québec with my husband and daughter 40 years ago. We are Quebecers. I couldn’t understand how someone could treat us like that. It affected me deeply. I cried every day. I stopped leaving the house for fear of running into those people. My husband and daughter stopped going out in the yard for fear of being verbally or physically assaulted. My health suffered; I developed an anxiety disorder because of the experience.
Did you file a complaint?
Yes, we took our friends’ and neighbours’ advice and filed a complaint with the Commission. The case went to the Human Rights Tribunal. It was important for us to go through with this. The harassment left us with deep scars. We felt humiliated, sad, powerless. People need to know that this kind of language is illegal in Québec, and cannot be tolerated. The court ruled in our favour. The woman was ordered to pay us punitive damages and moral damages because of her xenophobic speech and discriminatory harassment.
What can you do in cases of harassment?
Do you think you have had repeated insulting behaviour directed at you because of your personal characteristics?
The Commission can help you recognize discriminatory harassment and take action to prevent or put an end to it.