British Columbia

Condo language dispute to be heard by B.C. Human Rights Tribunal after dismissal attempt fails

A dispute over the language used at a Richmond condo's strata meetings is heading to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal once again, the tribunal said in a decision.

'We have our constitutional rights at stake here,' says man of long-running dispute at Richmond condo

Wellington Court condo owners were embroiled in a language debate that divided residents after the strata switched to Mandarin-only meetings. The move sparked a human rights complaint, which has now been settled without hearings. (CBC)

Two years after it was filed, the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal once again says it will hear a man's complaint about language used at his former condo building's strata meetings.

In 2015, Andreas Kargut filed a complaint, claiming the Wellington Court strata council's switch to Mandarin-only meetings violated the rights of the owners who did not speak Mandarin.

Those not fluent in Mandarin may be a minority in the building, according to a tribunal decision from Dec. 13.

"We have two official languages in Canada: English and French … and in Western Canada, it's predominantly English," he said. "You know, we have our constitutional rights at stake here."

Owners of nine other units in the building have joined the complaint, according to the decision.

Since the initial complaint, the two sides have unsuccessfully tried to find a solution, the decision read.

The complaint was accepted by the tribunal in 2016, but the strata tried to have it thrown out. The tribunal largely dismissed that application in its Dec. 13 decision, setting the stage for a hearing at a to-be-determined date.

Kargut believes it could be late 2018 when that hearing does happen.

In its most recent decision to accept the complaint, the tribunal once again urged the two sides to find a solution to accommodate both English and Mandarin speakers.

Andreas Kargut said the decision to switch to Mandarin-only meetings was a constitutional issue because Canada's official languages are English and French. (CBC)

"Wellington Court is not, and cannot be, a closed community open only to people of one ethnic group," the decision read.

"For people of good faith, there may be a solution here that does not require the time and expense of a full tribunal hearing with the potential for a deterioration in relationships between neighbours afterwards, regardless of the outcome.

"It is important to remember that the owners will remain neighbours after this is all over."

Calls to building management at Wellington Court and the lawyer representing the strata council were not returned by deadline.

Since filing his complaint to the tribunal, Kargut and his family have moved out of Wellington Court.