Montreal

Quebec Superior Court rules complaint from black, lesbian woman should be reviewed

A Quebec Superior Court judge has ordered an ethics council to take a second look at a discrimination complaint from a woman who is black, lesbian and anglophone.

Tomee Sojourner's first complaint against rental board on basis of race, sexual orientation, language rejected

Tomee Sojourner says a commissioner with Quebec's housing board addressed her in a 'clearly discourteous, hostile, dismissive and differential manner," compared to the "courteous and friendly manner" with which she addressed the other party in the hearing. (Submitted by Tomee Sojourner)

A Quebec Superior Court judge has ordered an ethics council to take a second look at a discrimination complaint from a woman who is black, lesbian and anglophone. 

Tomee Sojourner, currently a law student at York University in Toronto, was living in Montreal when she appeared in front of Quebec's rental board in 2013 for a case involving her landlord.

Justice Chantal Massé wrote in her ruling that Sojourner, who had short hair, was repeatedly referred to as "Mister" by Luce De Palma, a Régie du logement commissioner.

"I just felt that she was not paying attention to who I was as an individual because she insisted on calling me 'Monsieur' when she was corrected several times," Sojourner said.

Sojourner says De Palma chalked up the repeated misidentification to her short hair, but De Palma contends she said "sorry for the error."

The commissioner also spoke to the other party in French without translating in English, making it difficult for her to fully participate in the hearing, Sojourner says.

In her complaint, she adds that De Palma addressed her in a "clearly discourteous, hostile, dismissive and differential manner," which she said was in stark contrast to the "courteous and friendly manner" with which the landlord was addressed.

Feeling that De Palma was not fair and objective, Sojourner decided to file a discrimination complaint on the basis of race, sexual orientation, gender identity and language.

Initial complaint rejected

The Council of Administrative Justice (CJA), which handles complaints against Régie commissioners, initially rejected Sojourner's case in October 2013.

On Aug. 8, 2016, following several judicial reviews, a Quebec Superior Court judge overturned the CJA's decision, saying the council's initial ruling ignored the basis of Sojourner's complaint.

Sojourner said, for her, the case is about making sure everyone has a fair chance to fight for their rights.

''They're now being asked to do the job of being fair and equitable, and ensuring that they consider my complaint in its totality, so I welcome that," Sojourner said.

"But I'm going to reserve comment until after they have actually done their job.''

With files from Antoni Nerestant