Instilling a Fervent Wish for Smoke-free Housing - Part XXV
August 10th BC's Human Rights Tribunal accepted another claim about secondhand smoke. August 12th newspapers across Canada picked up on the decision and shone the spotlight on Kathryn Arndt and Maureen Puffer.
The spotlight belongs elsewhere, on the real players in this story.
Read the first page of the decision, which lists the players.
Immediately recognizable to me, lawyer Shawn Smith with Cleveland Doan, Surrey, BC.
Smith represents strata complex, Chelsea Gardens. He wrote about smoking and the strata corporation for local newspapers and strata association newsletters. He outlined the reasons for strata corporations to, proactively, draft a smoking bylaw. I posted his article under Legal Opinions.
Also recognizable to me, lawyer Gerhard Pyper, of Surrey, BC, representing Kathryn Arndt. He, too, is as well versed and well written of the topic of Nuisance, Human Rights, and secondhand smoke.
Last, but certainly not least, is Chelsea Gardens Property Manager, Gerry Blanchard, lead of Crossroads Management, Surrey, BC.
Crossroads acts as property manager for multiple strata complexes, and have additional claims against them on secondhand smoke. Their clients wait for the outcome of these claims. Shawn Smith is busy being on the defensive to limit liability.
The strata Chelsea Gardens, through Property Manager Gerry Blanchard, represented by Shawn Smith, applied for a dismissal to the Human Rights application submitted by the Arndts.
Their affidavit states that Ms. Arndt, “never demonstrated any connection between her health condition(s) and the smoke,” and “no medical evidence to support Katherine's assertion that she is highly allergic to smoke has never been provided to the Strata Corporation.” The affidavit states, “the first reference she makes to her asthma is in an email dated July 12, 2010.” (my emphasis)
The Tribunal approved Arndt's application based on a string of emails from Kathryn Arndt to and from Gerry Blanchard of Crossroads:
- July 22, 2009 – Ms Arndt: “While the smoking has been going on, my asthma (which is usually well controlled by the use of an inhaler) has become worse.” “I have chronic asthma and cannot be breathing in secondhand smoke...it is a hazard to my health.”
- September 24, 2009 and October 4, 2009 – Ms Arndt informs Blanchard and the council of the continuing and ongoing problem of secondhand smoke, and that there was a hospitalization over secondhand smoke.“I am once again having trouble breathing from my chronic asthma problem...This situation needs to be addressed and as soon as possible. I do not plan on ending up in the hospital again because of this.”
- May 15, 2010 – Ms Arndt emails Blanchard:“I thought this problem had been solved last year but obviously, it has started again. I believe they smoke outside to their townhouse does not have smoke in it but why should my townhouse have to be filled with smoke. Why can’t I open my windows and not have to be subjected to this attack on my health[?]” “… My health is more important than allowing these people to smoke right below our windows. Surely something can be done to have this stopped.”
- On June 23, 2010 – Mr. Blanchard wrote to Ms. Puffer, copied to the strata council:“We have received a number of complaints once again this year of guests or residents of your unit who are smoking outside and near your unit and the smoke … rising into the unit above. The Owners above are extremely sensitive to smoke, in fact allergic to second-hand smoke. You are in contravention of both the bylaws of Chelsea Gardens and the City of Surrey smoking bylaw.”
- July 8, 2010 – Ms. Arndt wrote to Mr. Blanchard, copied to the strata council:“I am writing this letter with respect to the ongoing smoking situation with Ms. Maureen Puffer in Townhouse #267...This problem began in early July of 2009. I sent you a very detailed letter via email on July 22, 2009 and have had numerous email and telephone correspondence with you since that time. This entire situation is a matter of a serious health hazard to me. I again emphasize to you that I have chronic asthma and currently take two medications daily to keep it under control”
- July 2010 – The strata, subsequently, fined Ms Puffer $25.
The Tribunal decided the strata's and Mr. Blanchard's statements, that they did not know of Ms Arndt's disability or request for accommodation until July 12, 2010, “cannot stand” in the face of this string of emails.
Chelsea Gardens strata pays Gerry Blanchard, lead of Crossroads Property Management and lawyer Shawn Smith to write, swear, and submit an affidavit that reveals a string of lies! And Chelsea Gardens isn't the only strata complex involved with Crossroads.
Secondhand smoke drifts into apartments, and $$$$$$ are floating out!
The Tribunal member might have written the decision and not revealed, so explicitly, this string of untruths. He could have used his discretion and authoring skills differently. He did not.
The Tribunal member states in the decision, “I exercise my discretion pursuant to s. 27.3(2)(h) and (3) of the Code to require the parties to engage in mediation....” under the heading “Mandatory Mediation.”
Make no mistake in reading or interpretation. The spotlight is not on Ms Arndt, nor how Ms Puffer “questions whether the smoke affect the Arndts to the degree they allege.” This kind of dismissive harassment remains too small to matter in the face of more serious ethical issues in focus.
The Tribunal member instructs the key players, Gerry Blanchard, Shawn Smith, and Gerhard Pyper to engage mediation. There are other, less pointed, ways of writing about settlement meetings and using the volunteer-nudge approach. His instruction serves as a public admonishment to Blanchard, and Smith.
The Tribunal's decision reveals, yet, another example of how the hazards of smoking and secondhand smoke are not an issue. The issue of whether smoke-free housing is legal, is not at issue. They illustrate how council and management and their lawyer trivialized and dismissed the health hazards.
Lies$ Lies$$ and more Lies$$$
If this doesn't move the BC Government into the voluntarily nudge toward legislation, what might?
This is Kathryn's story! This is Kathryn and Douglas Arndt's story!
Debacle –> fiasco, disaster, calamity, catastrophe