Toronto

How 1 Rosedale apartment building became a hotbed for tenant tension and racism accusations

For years, residents of 1 Rosedale Road have been accusing each other of racism, theft, and making threats — and a Chinese couple at the heart of the dispute says they're the targets of "hate" because they're the only non-white tenants in the building.

Finger-pointing, confrontations, and calls to police abound at 1 Rosedale Road

Dot and Paul Pang, a couple living at 1 Rosedale Road, say they're the targets of 'hate' because they're the only Asian tenants in the building. (Lauren Pelley/CBC News)

Tenants cursing and screaming at each other.

Human rights posters torn down and defaced.

Accusations of racism and theft — and multiple calls to police.

That's life at an apartment building in one of Toronto's most prestigious neighbourhoods, according to a mediator's investigation report on the state of affairs at 1 Rosedale Road.

Nestled among stately homes and lush greenery, the four-floor, 24-unit building has been the backdrop to ongoing tension between tenants for years, amid reports of neighbours peering into windows, filming each other, and confronting each other in the hallways. But the source of the conflict depends on who you ask.

Dot and Paul Pang, who moved into the building in the fall of 2010, say they're the targets of racism as the only non-white tenants in a building filled with university professors and government employees.

After the couple put up signs in the communal laundry room reminding people of their scheduled laundry time, they claim the signs were torn down, then later defaced with the hand-scrawled message, "CRAZY CHINESE."

"We're dealing with this kind of living environment where everyone is aiming hate at you," said Dot Pang in an emotional interview with CBC Toronto.

She shared various documents — including a timeline of events, copies of emails from other tenants, and a redacted copy of the mediator investigation with the addition of her own notes — to back up her assertions that "nearly everyone in the building" is involved in targeting the Pangs.

The Pangs' unit is on the main floor, leading out to the communal backyard, where they allege they've seen other tenants stealing their produce and peering in their windows. (Lauren Pelley/CBC News)

'You aren't fitting in'

Some of these forms of targeting, she alleged, include a tenant knocking on the Pangs' door in 2012 yelling, "You aren't fitting in," and that same tenant complaining about the "terrible cooking smell" of their Chinese soup a year later.

In another alleged instance in 2014, the Pangs say their cleaning lady found an upturned tack in their doorway, which they believe was meant to hurt their beloved dog Ginger. (Ginger has since passed away.)

The couple's lawyer, Caryma Sa'd, said the issues have escalated over time and have now led to an eviction notice against the Pangs. "The basis of the complaint seems to be [that] my clients speak Chinese in common areas of the building," she said.

The N5 notice given to the Pangs by landlord One Rosedale Inc. states it's for behaviour that interferes with other tenants' "reasonable enjoyment of the residential complex, and/or lawful rights, privileges, or interests."

And on Tuesday, the Pangs are fighting it through a hearing with the Landlord and Tenant Board, which will bring them face-to-face with other tenants.

CBC Toronto attempted to contact several other tenants in the building. Only one responded — the tenant the Pangs say complained about their soup — and said they are "familiar with the claims" made against them by the Pangs and would not be commenting until after the eviction hearing, where they will be testifying.

CBC Toronto also contacted landlord Les Steiner, who owns One Rosedale Road Inc., and has owned the 1 Rosedale Road building for the last 15 years.

He painted a different picture of the goings-on within the building, based on what other tenants have told him.

"It's really between 23 people and the 24th," he said. "We can't evict 24 tenants."

Steiner said he has received complaints from residents about "being harassed," and said he has security footage of Dot Pang "stalking other tenants with her camera repeatedly."

"We've done every possible thing we could," he said. "I've been in this business 40 years and I've never seen anything like this."

As seen on Monday, a human rights poster hangs in the lobby of 1 Rosedale Road. (Craig Chivers/CBC News)

Investigation found 'no evidence' of racism

In 2016, Steiner said he paid $45,000 for the third-party mediation investigation in hopes of resolving the ongoing issues.

That investigation, from Ottawa-based lawyer and mediator David Bennett, took place in May 2016 and involved interviews with the property managers, the Pangs, and 21 other tenants.

It led to Bennett's 52-page report, which highlighted the Pangs' complaints about certain tenants "stalking and harassing" them, swearing at them, and accusations from the Pangs against another tenant who they claim was stealing produce from planters in the communal backyard that's right behind the Pangs' ground-floor unit.

In several instances, Bennett's report notes that the Pangs called the police about other tenants. It also documents what other tenants felt was aggressive behaviour from the Pangs, and a petition circulated within the building that was intended for a community relations officer with the Toronto police.

The officer, it reads, had been "attempting to arrange a meeting" that would include the Pangs, "to enable a reasonable discussion to take place concerning various complaints and disagreements."

"We have either had our own difficulties, or know of difficulties our neighbours have had, with Mr. and Mrs. Pang," it reads.

At the time, the Pangs believed there was a second petition circulating that asked for the couple to be evicted, Bennett writes — but he found "absolutely no evidence" of this.

Bennett also documented an instance where human rights posters were put up by the building's management and later torn down and defaced by residents, which may have been done because some tenants felt they were "heavy-handed or posted in response to unfounded complaints."

Based on the investigation, Bennett found other tenants "did not violate the Pangs' human rights aside from tearing down the human rights postings at 1 Rosedale Road."

As for allegations of racism, the report said there was "no evidence of racial discrimination in the building," stressed Steiner.

Bennett concluded the Pangs "have not been victims of racial discrimination and harassment," but that the negative interactions between them and other tenants were based on misunderstandings.

Dot Pang doesn't see it that way, and hopes to fight against the eviction notice on Tuesday, saying it's definitely "racially-motivated."

"We're the only non-white people in this building," she said. "What else is it?"

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