Aboriginal Montrealers slam housing discrimination

A new video posted to social media is a re-enactment of an allegedly common thing: an aboriginal person checks out an apartment, only for the landlord reject them because of who they are.

Social media campaign says indigenous people often denied housing by landlords

Wayne Robinson, human relations officer for Native Montreal, says many aboriginal youth feel landlords reject them as tenants because of their identity. (Shaun Malley/CBC)

A campaign to raise awareness of discrimination faced by aboriginal youth is ramping up on social media, with a video showing how hard it is for some to find a place to live.

The video, entitled "Locataire recherché" (tenant sought), shows an indigenous man touring a vacant apartment with a landlord. The landlord rejects the man as a tenant, saying he does not rent to aboriginal people.

Though a re-enactment with actors, the organization behind the video told CBC this happens a lot in real life.

"It's so prevalent in our society, we don't even look at it," said Wayne Robinson, a member of the Anishinaabe nation and the human relations officer for Native Montreal. "We're almost not seen as people, more so as relics."

It started when the organization asked native youth what rights they most wanted to learn about. At the top of their list was how to deal with landlords who reject them because of who they are.

Phillippe Meilleur, executive director of Native Montreal, said the campaign is driven by the youth.

Philippe Meilleur, executive director of Native Montreal, says the youth took the lead on the #JustBecauseImNative campaign. (Shaun Malley/CBC)
"They chose discrimination," he told CBC. "That's what really they connect with: the fact that their identity is such a difficult one to communicate. And they go through discrimination on a weekly basis."

Though only online for less than 48 hours, the video has received many comments on Native Montreal's Facebook Page confirming similar treatment. One woman said she's been rejected five times based on race.

Quebec's human rights commission was not available for comment, but told CBC News that anyone feeling discriminated against should lodge a complaint.

Wayne Robinson said this campaign is about taking things a step further and starting a wider conversation about race, discrimination and the future of aboriginal Montrealers.

"We can see the youth feel empowered enough that they want to go and tackle this issue for themselves," said Robinson. "That's the really exciting thing about this campaign."

Native Montreal's poster for the "Just Because I'm Native" campaign (Native Montreal)