B.C. man files human rights complaint over Mandarin-only condo meetings

Andreas Kargut filed the complaint in his townhouse complex in Richmond, B.C.
Andreas Kargut filed the complaint in his townhouse complex in Richmond, B.C. Photo: istock

A British Columbia condominium owner has filed a complaint with the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal against his strata council. In B.C., condominium councils are known as strata councils.

Andreas Kargut filed the complaint on behalf of himself and three other owners in his 54-unit townhouse complex in Richmond, B.C.

He claims the all-Chinese council conducted meetings solely in the Mandarin language, and thus excluded English-speaking owners.

The question is: does the council have the right to conduct meetings in Mandarin only?

The British Columbia Strata Property Act states in s. 36 that documents and records must accessible to all owners, tenants or any person authorized by an owner of a strata unit. However, the act does not mention in which language access has to be made, just that information has to be accessible and requests by owners have to be accommodated.

Then there is the British Columbia Human Rights Code, which states that people, or a class of persons, must not be denied accommodation, service or facility customarily available to the public, nor can they be discriminated on the same, “because of the race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation or age of that person or class of persons.” Unfortunately, no mention is made of language.

However, we also have the federal Official Languages Act, which states in s. 2 (a) and (b) the purpose of the act is to make sure that English and French are respected and encouraged to be used as the official languages of Canada.

Strata board president Ed Mao told the National Post while it was true “proceedings were held in Mandarin”, all official documents, which include minutes of the meeting, are in English.

While it seems that complies in some ways with the B.C. Strata Act, is it enough? After all, the most recent strata meetings are not accommodating English-speaking owners, which would seem to contravene the B.C. Human Rights Act.

The earlier annual general meeting (AGM) was conducted in both English and Mandarin because English-speaking owners asked to be accommodated through a translator. However, the English-speaking owners later complained the translator wasn’t fully qualified.

After the AGM, it seems meetings were conducted in Mandarin only, prompting complaints from English-speaking owners that they were excluded from the decision making process at strata meetings, which is problematic, because every owner has a vote. How can you vote on issues if you don’t understand the language being spoken?

Even with the problems owners had with the translator, wouldn’t it still be a better idea to hold meetings in both Mandarin and English, and to hire a certified translator for the owners?

After all, accommodation goes both ways.

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