80% of People Living in MUDs Want to Live SMoke-free Affair with Smoke-free Housing Alice: Narrating the personal Anna I am not going away not by a long shot. The smoke-free housing saga continues Answers to Frequently Asked Questions including Grandfathering Anti-smoking champ honoured for PUSH Any defensive discussion indefensible April Lifting the Veil off of Quiet Enjoyment Arabian COUGHING Poster At the Core of Smoke-Free Housing Workplace violence and bullying ATTRIBUTE REQUIRED TO SUCCESSFULLY ACCOMPLISH BEING SMOKE-FREE AUTHORITIES for Smoke-free Housing BC HUMAN RIGHTS TRIBUNAL Decides Crescent Housing Societys Application To Dismiss Lacking in Substance Concreteness and Good Faith (Another Debacle) BC HUMAN RIGHTS TRIBUNAL hears first case on SHS in MUDs Monday April 2 – Wednesday April 4 2012 BREAKTHROUGH DECISION Smoke-Free Housing Cancer in non-smoker sparks legal action Australia CLEANING UP TOXIC ENVIRONMENTS COMMUNITY DISCUSSION FORM Comparing “big” and “too small to matter” crises and catastrophes Demand for non-smoking apartments next to impossible Do you struggle with the problem of drifting second-hand smoke in your home? What you can do looks like 2011 DO YOU STRUGGLE WITH THE PROBLEM OF SECONDHAND SMOKE DRIFT What Struggle Looks like Drewlo Holdings Building More Smoke-free Apartments DROs Ways to Strengthen a Bid for Smoke-free Housing Ethical Dilemma of Smoke-free Housing EX-SMOKERS ARE UNSTOPPABLE flash mob dance Fervent Wish for Smoke-free Housing Governance by Dysfunctional Boards How the Smoke-free Housing Initiative inadvertently opened up governance for public scrutiny Grandfathering How does it apply to smokers Grandfathering Smoke freely Grandfathering Smokes License to Smoke License for Abuse GROUNDHOG DAY PUSHing the Drift to Smoke-free Housing GROUNDHOG DAY 2012: Secondhand smoke from grandfathered smokers takes a wee hit How Provincial and Municipal Bylaws Apply for MUDs in BC HR DECISION ORDERS “METRO ONE” TO CEASE ITS DISCRIMINATION AND REFRAIN FROM COMMITTING A SIMILAR CONTRAVENTION IN THE FUTURE INJUNCTIVE RELIEF A court order to Do this and Stop doing that Inspiring story behind SMOKE-FREE CARS ACT 2007 knowledge exchange Krossa from Maple Ridge Dare Extend Ideation For Smoke-free Housing Lung cancer kills non-smoker McDaniels thank supporters Measuring second-hand smoke drift in non-smokers: Prove it Medical Marijuana NEWS ~ NEWS ~ NEWS London ON New Apartment Building Opts for Smoke-free and Utilizing Grants to Encourage Smoke-free Housing NICOTINE REPLACEMENT THERAPY YOUR TIME HAS COME NSRAs rebuttal of Harpers Gut of Federal Tobacco Control Program People imagining a smoke-free world Picture Worth a Thousand Words Premier Christy Clark announces Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRT) Sense and scent-ability: Do you smell second-hand smoke in your home? SHS Is Not Simply An Issue Between Neighbours Slaying the Myth of Right-To-Smoke and In-My-Home SMOKE DAMAGE - Voices from the Front Lines of Tobacco Wars Smoke-free at Last Smoke-free housing Litany of motivations and obstructions Smoke-free Housing: An award winning direction Standardize your letters and claims: Make them all the same Steps to Designating Smoking Area in Common Areas and Avoiding Misrepresentation STORIES: Heart of the Matter Strata concedes failure to accommodate McDaniels TENANTS' FUME IN SMOKE-FEST ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS COMPLAINT COSTING THOUSANDS The 'In-Perpetuity' of National Non-Smoking Week Thinking Petition? Draft a report instead. Trials Against Big Tobacco Reveal Internal Documents Stating Lethal Hazard Of Smoking And Environmental Tobacco Smoke TRIBUNAL GRANTS COMPLAINANTS' APPLICATION TO AMEND THEIR COMPLAINT Tribunal's Decision Reveals DEBACLE Urging Political Will VEN TI-LA-TION – exchanging stale noxious air with clean fresh air Weitzels and Willow Park Estates What has California's new smoke-free housing law to do with us Canadians? What makes normal sensible people become dysfunctional when they join a board and what turns CEOs or EDs into mini-dictators? Why Isn't Vancouver's OLYMPIC VILLAGE A Flagship for Smoke-free Housing? Why there is a PUSH for Sf Housing WOW You've come a long way baby Yukon Housing Corp’s smoke-free housing leaves smokers fuming YUKON NORTH OF ORDINARY™ TRUMPS NATURALLY BEAUTIFUL BC AGAIN Yukon's smoke-free housing comes into effect Jan 1 2012

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

STORIES: Heart of the Matter

Instilling a Fervent Wish for Smoke-free Housing – XXX

Stuart's Story
Stuart Kriesman is an endocronologist, a clinical assistant professor in the Division of Endocrinology at St. Paul’s Hospital and the University of British Columbia. He sees, first-hand, tobacco related diseases in his patients on a regular basis.
Dr. Kriesman and his wife also experience involuntary exposure to secondhand smoke in their apartment. He hosted a community discussion forum at St. Paul's in January 2011, where I was guest speaker. Dr. Kriesman related how secondhand smoke had always been an issue since he moved to Vancouver, beginning with the balcony and not being able to open the windows. Then, they began smelling smoke inside their apartments, and it became intolerable and unacceptable.
Dr. Kriesman stated, “Outside of work, we spend the most time in our homes, and it is the setting that remains virtually unprotected from involuntary exposure to second-hand smoke.”
Dr. Kriesman and his wife searched for a solution thoroughly, and discovered that although they were willing to pay considerably more for a non-smoking building, there was nothing available in Vancouver at any price. Familiar with the scope of the problem, Dr. Kriesman and his realtor wrote about it in the Vancouver Courier.
Dr. Kriesman has now written in the British Columbia Medical Journal, urging his colleagues “to ask your patients living in multi-unit dwellings whether they are being exposed to unwanted secondhand smoke and, if so, educate them on what steps they may take toward a remedy. They should no longer remain among the many currently suffering in silence.”

Lou's Story
At the end of April, 2011, Lou moved for the fourth time in the same building because of smoking tenants, some who were in non-smoking units. No smoker has been asked to stop, take it outside, or been moved. The landlord did not rely on Residential Tenancy Act, and failed to invoke it's authority under Section 28 or 32.
The deciding factor in Lou being moved for the fourth time came about as a result of a powerful external factor.
Lou had diligently tried to find alternative and affordable housing. It became clear she was unable to, and that her health was affected to the point of being unable to work her part-time job. Friends, who were also a past employer, stepped in. They allowed her to stay at their place, and when their student suite became available April 20, she was to stay in the suite for the upcoming four months free, and continue her search for alternative accommodation.
This friend (and past employer) happens to be a fireman, well connected in the community.
By the end of April, Lou moved for the fourth time. Previous to this, her complaints were dismissed, under personal sensitivity and hysteria.
Moral of the story: Having a fireman as your trump card rules. Deciding factors and defining moments!
Shortly thereafter, the suite next to Lou's new home became vacant. The suite next to the vacant suite housed a smoker, and sustained water damage. Management decided to move the smoker into the vacated suite beside Lou. Oh, No!
The smoker thought she could continue smoking. Lou explained to the smoker tenant she could not smoke in the unit, and reported the matter to management. Management apologized: they did not know that this tenant smoked. Management maps of smokers showed this to false. The person was flagged as smoker.
Management, then, shifted the smoker to the non-smoking guest suite, and eventually placed a non-smoker beside Lou.

Kathleen's Story
Imagine, I've lived in my suite for almost a decade, smoke free. Smoke-free housing is not something I have ever given much thought to. Then, a new neighbour moves in beside me - a smoker - and the smell and smoke infiltrates all of my living space.
I knock on their door, and tell them that their secondhand smoke contaminates the hallway, and all of your suite. It's unacceptable and intolerable. “Please,” I plead, “smoke outside away from the building.” “So sorry,” they respond, “OK, sure, I'll smoke outside.” Nothing changes. Nothing happens.
I went to the office, and explained to them what was happening, and how it was making me sick, and likely others too. We never had this problem.
The manager said, “There's nothing that can be done. If it bothers you so much, you will have to move.” I was shocked. I don't want to move. This is my home. I'm seventy year's old.
My daughter comes to visit for holidays. She says, “Mom, there is so much smoke in here, I cannot tolerate it. How can you? You must do something.” I explain to her how I have tried. She goes over to the smoking neighbour, and knocks on the door. No answer. She writes a note explaining the situation, and that it must stop. We hear nothing. We go to the office, and my daughter complains of the smoke and that nothing is being done. Management tells her that the building is not no-smoking. There is nothing in the lease. I never complained before. Nothing can be done. Tenants are not complaining, and so if it is a problem for me, I should move. We went to the community seniors' centre, and was told that we must file a claim against the owner.
My family does not live close enough to help me with this. I don't know how to do this on my own. I have bronchitis now, and my doctor tells me I should move. So I am doing my best to move. Everything is so much more expensive. I'm afraid I will not be able to move.

Christine's Story
I live with my three children, who are under ten, and in low income housing. I received help to escape domestic violence, but there is no help to escape second-hand smoke. We did not choose to be here, and it's been a shock.
My neighbors are aware that their smoke is entering our unit, but refuse to compromise in any way. I have put forth a very workable solution, and feel that this issue can be resolved amicably. Still the smoking tenants insist that it is their right to smoke where ever, when ever, and as much as they would like, regardless of the fact that they are negatively impacting the health of my children.
I have contacted the Lung Association, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Non-smokers Rights Association, the BC Clean Air Coalition, and my local tobacco enforcement officer, to just name a few. They can do nothing but give me the same information and advice. But there is no help from them.
I sent my first letter to the board outlining how the smoke is entering my unit, which is seeping in though the cracks in the front door, bathroom vent(fan), baseboard heaters, and somehow from the bottom floor into my son's bedroom. There must be cracks in the floor. I stated that our clothes smell like smoke, as well as my car, and that the infiltration of smoke is ongoing. I enclosed, with my letter, articles that tell of the effects of secondhand smoke on children, as well as general information.
My mother visited this past summer, and emailed a letter concerning the smoke in the unit.
My landlord made it very clear that I am to accept the situation or move, and has gone so far as to call my written complaints harassment, and has threatened eviction as a result.
My children rely on me to protect their health, and keep them safe and I take this responsibility very seriously. I am prepared to follow through on this issue to the farthest extent.
Matt's Story
I emailed the Ministry of Health. I told them my parents smoked since I was born. I didn't know it was bad, so I always played around it, till now. I try to stay away from it.
My little brother and I are pretty much sick every time we smell smoke. My parents don't seem to care. I'm very hurt every time I have friends over, and they can't breathe, or they feel sick later. I always smell like smoke when I go to school. I'm only 13. My brother is 10. We hide in our room because our parents are smoking all the time. We can't breathe in our own house, because we're dying inside. What can I do?
The Ministry responded with a link to a guide on smoke-free housing and the effects of secondhand smoke. They mentioned that it looked like I may know of this information, and that I should discuss this Health File with my parents.
They were very angry.

Anthony's Story
I own a small three-story apartment complex, and do the majority of my own building maintenance.
I hate, just absolutely hate, walking into the building, because it smells stale and dirty from tobaccos. Something had to be done. Something just had to be done. I couldn't stand it. It was making me mean.
I felt it reflected on me, on my building, on my sweat. Nothing I did had any lasting effect on cleaning it up. The answer didn't seem to be in shampooing carpets, painting walls, or setting up a smoking area outside. Advertising “no smoking” didn't seem to help in the long run, since non-smokers who once smoked often returned to smoking, and quitting.
I decided to investigate the idea of a ventilation system that would move the air through the building rapidly, or a higher setting than recommended or required, without the noise. Once the installation began, I posted an announcement to the tenants that the new and improved air flow would ensure that the lobby and hallways would smell fresher consistently, as would their apartments.
Then I began to slowly and purposefully slow, to do cleaning and redecorating in the building common areas and suites. First, I began to wash the ceilings. Now nobody washes ceilings and walls these days. But I wanted to show it was being done. Then, I painted.
This activity created a stir and led to rumors of rent increases. Some people moved out. Mostly the one's I'd rather see move along. I pointed out rents increase yearly. I joked, “My mother wants me to do spring cleaning.”
My real goal was to walk into the building and not smell the disgusting smell of tobacco, not have the litter of butts. And to keep it that way. If home is man's castle, then I want my castle to be treated like a castle, no matter how humble it is.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Instilling a Fervent Wish for Smoke-free Housing – XXIX

         From those who have been advocating, pushing for cessation support in the form of “Nicotine Replacement (NR),” a sign of relief, a jubilant yell, an enthusiastic "Thank you" in response to Premier Christie Clark's announcement of May 9, 2011 for free support to help smokers quit. An idea from 2004, whose time had finally arrived - today!

          Had it been included as part of the smoke-free housing initiative as recommended, the introduction to smoke-free housing and transition to smoke-free housing would have progressed differently. Cessation support in the form of NR had always been a key element, one that stymied efforts of smoke-free housing organizations working with landlords. Imagining going forth with a program, but having two key components not funded: NR and mass media advertising.

          However, during the introduction to smoke-free housing, if you worked for the BC Public Service Agency, you would have had your very own “Quittin'Time” program, complete with funded NR.   NR has been trialed by government employees, and helped smokers become smoke-free.

          The reason cited by Dr. William Lake, Medical Director of Workplace Health and Safety, for the BC Public Service Agency,
smoking prevalence in the public service is lower than in the general population (16-20%) in BC.”

          Of course, by extension, smoking prevalence is much lower in the public service sector (9.9%) than multi-unit dwellings, and much lower than in subsidized housing (30-50%). Higher education and income remain key indicators of not smoking, and cessation.

           Dr. Lake explained that,

the smokers we have in the Public Service are much more interested in quitting than those in the general population in BC. So it is an interesting time for us to deploy a program that helps employees quit because we have an interest out there. Many of the current smokers have tried to quit before. We're trying to align them with the right components to help them with a quit effort.”

Our program is more comprehensive than things we have offered before. We're offering drug plan support and Nicotine Replacement Therapy, as well as, one-on-one counselling with trained quit counsellors to help them through their quit effort and after their quit date.”

We believe that if employees are going to succeed at quitting, they could very easily need to have somebody at home also want to quit smoking. So the program “Quittin'Time” is targeted at both employees and their families.”

By having this broader support, we think we help remove a barrier for people successfully quitting in the long term. It's not new telling smokers that they would benefit from quitting smoking. We'd like smokers to try the full scope of our program because we think we have established the right support pieces, in addition to drugs and counselling, that will help them succeed this time in quitting and this can be the last time they have to quit smoking.”

          Dr Lake missed mentioning, if you quit, you also had a chance to win an iPad.

          With Premier Christie Clark's free NRT to help smokers quit, now the organizations working with landlords to implement smoke-free housing have an additional tool to promote, and there just might be some renewed vigor in the smoke-free housing initiative, even if no one is announcing anything.

          But, there hasn't been renewed funding for these organizations. They, too, are in limbo. Smoke-free housing ideation remains parked.

          Non-smokers in multi-unit dwellings continue to be surrounded by smokers who need to show theyare much more interested” in quitting for the health of their neighbours, if not themselves, and if not for their families. It remains a health matter, but of individual interest, of individual good neighbour, good tenant interest.

          If research shows a non-smoker asking, begging, pleading, persuading, influencing, convincing a family member smoker to quit for the benefit of their family doesn't work, how far down a scale of influence would a non-smoker neighbour be? How do you sort out such a conundrum?

         The defining factor, the panacea now, is Nicotine Replacement Therapy, and whether it will bring the relief non-smoking tenants have been asking for. 
          Will smokers show theyare much more interested” in quitting for the health of their neighbours? and for themselves? and put their families first!

            Will there be a discernible difference by December 31, 2011?

         In the meantime, another push works towards smoke-free housing, coming from the rush of California.

        California announced that Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB 332, the new law specifically allowing landlords to prohibit smoking in multi-unit dwellings.   The law goes into effect January 1, 2012.

        The standard has been set.  Governor Jerry Brown made the historical, landmark decision.  It reminds me of when slavery was abolished, of women being able to vote.

        Now, how quickly will other US states, and Canadian provinces follow?  Also in the running, Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, England, Ireland, Russia.  The race is on!

Monday, September 26, 2011

What has California's new smoke-free housing law to do with us Canadians?

Instilling a Fervent Wish for Smoke-free Housing – XXVIII

After six months of work, on September 7, 2011, California announced Governor Jerry Brown signed a new law explicitly extending to landlords the authority to ban smoking in multi-unit dwellings: SB 332.
After a decade of promoting smoke-free housing to landlords, and that they had the legal authority under existing legislation to go smoke-free, and many, many have, the approach was, finally, acknowledged as piecemeal.
There existed a heavy element of complaint driven, unevenly applied, and unequally enforced. We know the problems. We could not leave matters the way they existed, and not do anything about it.
California's needed this piece to make clear that smokers are not protected from smoking restrictions in their homes, and explicitly permit landlords to prohibit smoking in housing, and references landlords' responsibility to do so.
The law, SB 332, begins January 1, 2012, and specifically works to expedite the availability of smoke-free housing in California.
Among the first questions asked, referred to marijuana smoke, and the response stated the law applies to smoke of any kind, and marijuana is currently illegal, despite efforts to legalize it.
How does California's new non-smoking law affect the smoke-free housing movement around the nation and internationally?

  • It acknowledges the change that is needed.
  • It sets the stage, the standard, and offers up a template.
  • It permits others to follow and groom the pathway.
  • It responds to the high percentage of non-smokers, and the high-percentage of people living in multi-unit dwellings, and the high percentage of people with children living in multi-unit dwellings. Multi-unit dwellings make up forty to over 80 percent of cities.
  • It speaks to the health and safeguarding of children, and those less able to escape secondhand smoke on their own.
  • It promotes healthier choices.
  • Every city, health authority, and country faces the problems that smoking tobacco created. Everyone tried regulation, and now realize that regulation, though necessary, is insufficient.
  • Because of the internet, people are much more, and easier connected to each other. When a social problem threatens to explode the seams of one government authority or another, and they come up with best practices, the ideas spread. It then becomes, who is at the helm to initiate, invoke change.
Many, many, landlords have gone smoke-free. Many people were plugged in early on in the movement, and considered early adapters, and responded to the issues of fire danger, turnover expenses, and neighbor complaints.
Many landlords did not want to confront the angry backlash by smokers, and were unsure of whether they were discriminating against smokers. Many landlords needed to hear that smokers are not protected from smoking restrictions in their lives and in their homes.
Most tenancy agreements wouldn't have a no-smoking clause, because they are pre smoke-free housing ideation. The default notion became the agreement does not prohibit smoking in the unit. The notion emerged that where a lease is silent on smoking (in the absence of a no-smoking clause), then the tenant has a right to smoke. This left non-smokers with the task to overturn a false premise.
However, this “in the absence of” and “has a right to smoke” was never absolute. It is tempered through two other provisions of the tenancy agreement: Second-hand smoke harms health; and constitutes an interference with quiet enjoyment. Smoke-free housing initiated invoking these clauses. But the grandfathering notion became a license to smoke, a license for abuse, and interpreted as a right-to-smoke. This legislation makes it clear, that smokers are not protected in any absolute sense.
Owners and renters filed more and more claims against landlords attempting to enforce landlord's responsibility.
More and more shameful stories made it into the newspapers, and more flaming occurred. The flaming went from right-to-smoke in-my-own-home, to demonizing the non-smokers pursuing claims as Nazis, zealots, and suffering psychosis from buying into the literature on the hazards of secondhand smoke and smoke-free housing.
When a tenant complains about second-hand smoke, the landlord is obligated to investigate and issue a warning to the smoking neighbor to cease offending behavior, informing them of the relevant health and quiet enjoyment sections, as well as alternatives available. Perhaps the outcome will be that the smoker takes it outside for a week, maybe a month, perhaps three months, but then re-engages smoking in the suite. The tenant again reports the second-hand smoke, and the landlord is obligated to issue a second breach, and perhaps an eviction. The landlord then is required to submit an application to the Residential Tenancy Branch, and the reporting tenant must testify for the application to proceed.
However, searching residential tenancy decisions shows landlords are not initiating their authority and protecting non-smokers under health or quiet enjoyment. Therein, they become further liable for negligence.
However, searching decisions of quiet enjoyment and second-hand smoke under residential tenancy also shows that tenants are not pursuing this course of action either.
Each have inherent problems.
SB332 makes it clear. Smoke-free housing is needed, and we cannot wait until the smokers quit, or die off.
Hopefully others will pick up California's historic groundbreaking legislation gauntlet sooner, rather than later.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Anna: “I am not going away, not by a long shot.” The smoke-free housing saga continues...

Instilling a Fervent Wish for Smoke-free Housing – XXVII

After 18 months, my story typifies a scandal, one that just plods on; part of the smoke-free housing saga: much older than this particular blog.
You may think my story exaggerated or unbelievable or atypical. It doesn't matter. Remember, a paper trail testifies to the truth of the matter. All I (and you) have to do is record, report, and describe events. I let judges be the judge on the facts of the matter. We need not be, and should not have to be flailing away, this way, because of second-hand smoke, for smoke-free housing.
Our small strata complex houses seniors, ninety percent of them over eighty. As I review the news articles and stories collected, it appears the elder generation strata-sphere is pushing the smoke-free housing along.
I have learned about the problem of second-hand smoke first hand, and experienced the processes of both the Human Rights Tribunal and Small Claims Court, now.
As far as the BC Human Rights Tribunal goes, I gave up on the strata council honoring their agreements reached at the settlement meeting. And there continues to be a lot more nastiness directed our way by council members. The overall battle remains, and the rest - skirmishes around it.
So, I had to write a letter to the Human Rights Case Manager, asking that the complaint be resurrected due to breach of material terms of the settlement agreement. I expected it to go back into the process where the strata council must apply and defend an application to dismiss.
By the last council meeting, they had received the notification. They spent some considerable time talking about it, and how to break it to the rest of the owners. The council had told everyone (unofficially, of course) that I had lost the case, and it was all over. As part of that, the strata council presented to the owners a smoke-free policy, and it was passed almost unanimously, but exempted the smoking lady. The grandfathering notion remains misused.
It will be interesting to hear what the owners think now that the case is resurrected. And even more interesting to read the councils affidavit of dismissal.
My biggest "ace in the hole" is this smoker's notarized pledge to stop smoking in the building, which was presented as evidence in the BC Human Rights early settlement meeting. The smoker sent that, in lieu of coming. Bad move on her part, as I am able to present it for enforcement to Small Claims Court.
So, yes, I filed our “nuisance claim” against the smoker in Small Claims Court. I, then, complied with a Notice to Mediate, picked a mediator (as the court rules state), and went to mediation: Round two and a second chance for the smoker lady.
That was quite the circus, but I got some attention, and got information needed about the smoker lady and her boyfriend.
First, the mediator called back and forth, between me and the smoking lady. The smoking lady was told that she had better show and defend herself, otherwise she will be considered a “no-show”. I could then apply for a default judgment against her. I might not get it, but I can try. There will be a judge-led conference in about ten months time.
Then, the smoking lady phoned me, begging me to stop the lawsuit.
Why?” I asked.
You can't prove that my smoking caused you harm.” she said.
You have to prove that it didn't.” I said.
You no longer live in the building. You can't tell me what to do.” she said.
We still own the suite.” I said.
Then, she began to apologize and plead, to please stop the lawsuit.
I said, “I accept your apologies, but you must stop smoking in the building. Go outside to smoke, away from the building. Use a nicotine inhaler or nicotine gum or a nicotine patch while inside.”
She said, “Someone is at the door.” and hung up.
Then, the smoker lady tried to have the mediation quashed. She failed.
The smoker lady showed up, along with her drunk and high boyfriend in tow – for moral support at the mediation. I kid you not. I don't make this up. I couldn't. It's just way beyond my imagination.
I spent one hour at the mediation.
I spent the first half of the mediation with the smoker lady and her friend refusing to sign documents, being persuaded to stay and participate, and then they said their piece. Translation: they hurled insults and accusations.
When the mediator and I tried to ask questions, they stormed from the room, not to return. They told us that no one was going to stop their activities, and they would do anything they wanted in their suite. They said that if anyone else came into their suite, they would press charges for "illegal entry."
That was the mediation. They showed up, accused, yelled, and left.
In the space of one hour, the boyfriend went to the bathroom three times and had a smoke break.
I got what I wanted, and needed. The boyfriend had to tell us his name and sign the documents. The guy has been living with the smoking lady, on and off, for two years, and no one, not even the council has been able to get his last name.
The mediator suggested I search the court records. He said the guy knows the legal system and how to manipulate it, and usually only someone who has been through the system would be so adept.
Sure enough, there was a guy with his name, plus an alias, in the court records, with a l-o-n-g history of court appearances and probation orders, including currently on breach of probation.
Now, I need to confirm that this woman's boyfriend, and the guy with the record, are one and the same. The lady had another, even scruffier boyfriend, who was removed by police the day before the Human Rights meeting.
I also asked our lawyer, “What if the smoking lady claims at court that she is an addict, or mentally ill, or has a brain injury, and as such, cannot be held responsible for her behavior?”
The lawyer advised that while mental issues and addictions tend to reduce criminal culpability, they do not have the same impact on civil liability. In fact, should the smoking lady claim that she is an addict, it may well help prove our case that there was excessive smoke coming from her apartment into ours. I doubt she could successfully use an addiction or mental infirmity defense in this case, and she would be required to prove it with medical evidence in any event.
In conclusion, I speculated that some of the bizarre behavior from the strata council comes from being intimidated, even threatened, by this couple, or at least the smoking lady's boyfriends.
This is the furthest I have got in 18 months.
I never aspired to be a female Columbo: Agatha Christie's Miss Marple.
The smoking pair just ramped it up after the mediation. The level of smoke coming from their suite is just appalling. They smoke all night long.
So while I now live smoke-free, another owner receives mega amounts of second-hand smoke in her suite. She finally had had enough, couldn't sleep for a number of nights in a row due to coughing and the noise, and went to our common lounge and slept on the couch. One of the council members pulled the blanket off her, berated her, ordered her out, or else she would call the police for trespassing. The smoke is so bad that she moved out for a week, and is considering moving permanently, but cannot afford to go anywhere else until she sells. As you can imagine, this lady is traumatized.
If our strata councils over the years had put the same effort into maintaining our building, dealing with the scofflaws, and enforcing our bylaws, I can't help but think we would be further ahead.
Instead, the strata council spent many, many hours trying to shut us up, many, many attempts to cover up their deceits, incurred $6000 in legal fees thus far, and several thousand dollars in repairs to the smoker's suite. Repairs finally stopped when the council realized that the smoker's vandalized the repairs almost as soon as repairs were made. No one was going to tell them what to do in their own suite.
Why Small Claims Court? To go through Supreme Court would cost over $25,000 in legal fees alone, and would take almost 3 years to complete. I am not willing to put out that much money for a pair of dead-beats (sorry to be so cruel there), but that's what they are.
Small Claims takes about a year and is a do-it-yourself court. I am limited to $25,000, but I plan on claiming some of our expenses from these two, and the rest, claim from the strata corporation in the same manner.
I'm claiming all costs to live elsewhere, costs to put furniture in storage so it wouldn't be contaminated, and realtor fees to move and sell. Pain and suffer, you say? The courts don't recognize that, so I'll have to suck it up. After all, that's what everyone's been doing for the past 18 months, isn't it!
In the spring, when I attend a judge-led settlement conference, the smoking lady will have to attend and speak for herself. If her boyfriend shows up, and acts anywhere like he did at the mediation, he'll be silenced and/or removed entirely.
So, no one is going away. The sad, tragic truth remains. If you are in subsidized housing, you can't move. The system doesn't allow it. If you own a condo, you face a low-turn over market, one now additionally confronting the smoke-free housing issue. If your rent, and can afford to move, you likely do so.
Nothing has changed. Only legislation will change it.
Oh, but I'm so very glad I moved. But, I am not going away, not by a long shot! I've been in this game a good long time, and I want it to mean something!
Scary, isn't it.

Monday, September 5, 2011

“What makes normal, sensible people become dysfunctional when they join a board, and what turns CEO’s or ED’s into mini-dictators?”

Instilling a Fervent Wish for Smoke-free Housing - XXVI
Browsing through news alerts, three articles capture my attention. The BCNon-profit Housing Association scheduled their annual conference for November 21-23 at the Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel in Richmond, BC. “Uhm,” I wonder, “Anything on smoke-free housing? Ah, Rich Coleman serves as Plenary speaker, 9 AM on Monday, November 21.”
In Ontario, the Middlesex-London Health Unit prepares to launch it's Fall push in the smoke-free housing movement, and comes with Drewlo Holdings opening as the first smoke-free complex in London.
On Foster Street in White Rock, five senior women picket with their signs, publicly protesting for an end to city buses using their street as a supposedly temporary alternative route and for layovers. They cite health problems associated with diesel fumes, noise pollution, and sleep deprivation. The noise pollution from the buses at ten minute intervals for 18-hours each day beginning at 5:30 AM, and the nausea from diesel fumes, all of it, for seniors, for commuters, for people who work from home, “You are, quite literally, killing us.”
My thoughts went to:
  • we need a conference for tenants;
  • BC health authorities need to become active in the smoke-free housing movement at ground zero;
  • people experiencing health problems from the fumes and pollution of second and third-hand smoke need to, en masse, congregate in front of the Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel on Monday November 21 and silently walk back and forth on the street with their signs, “You are, quite literally, killing us.” and publicly request legislation to enforce smoke-free housing.
The BC Non-profit Housing Association (BCNPHA) is the research and information depot, and professional development association for non-profit housing.
Glancing through the BC Non-profit Housing Association's 2011 conference brochure, I stopped at “Governance or Shovernance – Is There Such a Thing as a Really Effective Board Governance Model?”
Someone coined a new word,” I thought. “They want it to capture and encapsulate something big. Did they intentionally, or by happenstance, invoke the word 'shove.' Verbal shoving could mean influencing, convincing, persuading by intimidation; the blustering, the yelling, slapping and/or pounding the table, the psychologizing-ad hominen attacks-name calling-character assassinations. The list becomes endless.” So I read on.
The workshop synopsis reads, “In this interactive session, participants will review the common board governance models currently in use in the non-profit sector and consider how to choose and tailor a specific model for their own organization.”
OK, so this has been going on for a couple of decades, no real news here.
Then, I read, “What makes normal, sensible people become dysfunctional when they join a board, and what turns CEO’s or ED’s into mini-dictators?”
I have a stun moment, and think, “Someone wrote this: period, exclamation mark, question mark.!?”
Then I say, “Eureka!” To me, “dysfunctional” and “mini-dictators” mark cues signaling contempt; contempt that comes from a place of being easily humiliated, and where shame no longer works. Outside intervention required!
The question signals another public acknowledgment of the debacle of governance in non-profits, co-ops, and stratas, and the reason smoke-free housing requires legislation - as I depicted in:

In the 90's, non-profit boards were in the public spotlight because of mismanaged finances, all of it public money of one sort or another.
In response, Volunteer Canada developed Boardwalk, professional development workshops that became tied to non-profit funding. Boardwalk covered topics on accounting, accountability, governance, leadership, liability, social responsibility, and interpersonal and group communication.
Funders (translation, businesses) introduced the notion of participating voluntarily and the phrase “mandatory volunteerism” emerged at about the same time as “mandatory mediation.” Unspoken, implied message: “Volunteer your participation and receive a certificate of attendance, or lose your funding.”
With the health-related non-profits and Enron-type tsunamis, the Conference Board of Canada spear-headed the designation “Chartered Director” and professional development programs at universities for for-profit boards.
However, the spotlight scrutinizing non-profits missed the non-profit housing sector. The smoke-free housing beam caught them.
Today, present evidence and concerns, and you can have the financial operations of a housing provider audited by an accountant.
Today, present evidence and concerns on management or the way a society is governed, and the Registrar of Companies has no ability to investigate or otherwise intervene. No one audits governance, management, and social responsibility, not even health authorities.
Organizations incorporated under the Strata, Co-op or Society Acts are intended to be democratic, and self-governing. 
The Registry encourages members who have concerns regarding the operation or governance of a society to raise those concerns directly with the society’s directors and other members.  If that is not successful, the Act sets out remedies that members may pursue, where the society is being operated or governed contrary to the Act or the society’s constitution and bylaws.
Translation, "rarely invoked.”
Unfortunately, while smoke-free housing exists as part of an international movement to establish the legal responsibility of the tobacco industry for tobacco-induced death, disease and disability, non-smokers are left to PUSH their way to smoke-free housing through market demand.
The current strategy of landlords voluntarily transitioning to smoke-free status only produces a random patchwork of smoke-free apartment complexes, with bids for enforcement to higher and higher levels of authority. Furthermore, landlords skitter around enforcement of health and quiet enjoyment.
Only legislation can level the playing field, and make it equitable for everyone at the same time.
Until smoke-free housing legislation happens, non-smokers suffer in sucking up second-hand smoke with fright; flee; or fight through Human Rights and Nuisance claims.
Housing providers implementing smoke-free polices explicitly mention that current smoking tenants/members will be “grandfathered” because existing leases cannot be amended. But, then, state that tenants have the right to complain about their smoking behavior should it substantially interfere with the reasonable enjoyment of a suite or residential complex.
This amounts to protective language for the housing provider, and not addressing the second-hand smoke hazard. Weasel and CYA words that frustrate non-smokers, who decide to try out the Small Claims, Provincial Court route and take smokers to account directly.
The new path developing as a result of the abundance of claims against councils and boards – taking smokers directly to Provincial Court under Nuisance and bypassing managers, councils, and boards.
More as this venue develops and judges publish decisions.