Indigenous Woman Evicted for Smudging, Files Complaint With B.C. Human Rights Tribunal

Indigenous woman evicted for smudging files rights complaint

By Black Powder | RPM Staff, June 15, 2017

An indigenous woman has filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal alleging her landlord tried to evict her for performing traditional smudging ceremonies indoors.

According to CTV News, Crystal Smith of the Tsimshian and Haisla First Nations has had problems with her landlord, ever since he noticed her smudging at her Burnaby home with her children in March.

The ceremony, which involves burning sage for prayer or cleansing is a traditional practice among many First Nations people.

“I’m being forced to move because my landlord is not allowing me to practice my spiritual ceremonies,” Smith, a single mother from Burnaby, told CTV Vancouver.

Smith says she’s filing a Human Rights complaint in hopes that this does not happen to others.

Burnaby NOW reports, Smith’s landlord, Parminder Mohan, has accused her of smoking marijuana and covering it up with sage. He has served Smith three eviction notices despite a Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) ruling in her favour and still wants her out.

Smith, who told CTV News she doesn’t smoke drugs or even cigarettes, assured Mohan that wasn’t the case, and even offered to demonstrate how smudging works. The landlord wasn’t satisfied, and allegedly told her to stop.

For Smith, smudging is a crucial part of keeping her son and daughter in tune with their heritage.

They have only been living in the apartment for a few months, and previously had a brief stay at a safe house where they moved after she left an abusive relationship.

“It’s frustrating,” Smith said. “We were supposed to be in this home until December at least, and I was even hoping to stay a little longer because me and my children have been through so much.”

She’s given up on remaining in their Burnaby home and intends to move out this week.

Burnaby, B.C. resident Crystal Smith demonstrates how to smudge using sage, a shell and a feather. June 13, 2017. CTV News

Mohan, who sees things differently spoke to CTV News by phone Wednesday, and said he’s actually an accommodating landlord who has become the victim of an unappreciative tenant.

Mohan said he reduced Smith’s rent and gave her a dishwasher when she moved in, but he’s concerned about how smudging might impact the property and her neighbours.

The first time Mohan realized Smith was smudging, he says he had to “stagger out” of the house.

Smith said the ceremony does create a smell, but it fades after a day or two.

Smith feels smudging is a religious right that shouldn’t open up indigenous people to evictions.

“I naively thought that, after the RTB decision, that he would abide by their decision, and he hasn’t,” Smith said.

Smith is now turning her attention to her human rights complaint.

“I’m moving, but that doesn’t mean I’m giving up,” she said.