Peel rejects proposal to ban smoking in tenants’ homes
Oct 23 2009
The demand for smoke-free apartments and condominiums is gathering momentum in Ontario, according to the Non-Smokers’ Rights Association.
Thursday, Peel Region’s general committee rejected the idea of passing a bylaw banning smoking in such buildings because officials said restricting tenants’ rights to do what they wish in their own homes wouldn’t stand up in court. But the committee will ask the province for legislation that would protect residents of multi-unit buildings from second-hand smoke through various measures such as changes to the Ontario Building Code.
Where there’s smoke
By MICHELE MANDEL
Last Updated: 12th January 2009, 3:50am
All Paul Rodrigues wants is a safe workplace. Why can’t he get it?
All Paul Rodriques wants to do is go back to work.
It’s not so much to ask for — he’s been a loyal, hard working custodian for Toronto Community Housing Corp. for two decades, an employee who was once shot at but still returned to work, a maintenance man who rarely took a sick day because he loved his job so much and didn’t want to let his company down.
Yet they’ve thought nothing of doing the same to him.
Rodriques is a tall 49-year-old with the heavy lilt of his Jamaican birthplace and an old-world gentlemanly manner, a proud man who is struggling to understand how daring to complain about a superintendent continually smoking where he worked at Empringham Mews has meant more than a year of hell.
In October, 2007, after his doctor insisted he take off a few months to be tested and treated for symptoms of his exposure to second-hand smoke, Rodriques was cleared to return to a non-smoking environment — which didn’t seem to be an onerous request since all workplaces have to be, by law.
Incredibly, he’s been waiting ever since for TCHC to find him a position.
That’s 15 long months without a paycheque. He refuses to go on disability because, as he insists, “I’m not disabled. I want to work.”
So as he fights with his u nion and company to give him back a job, and waits for a human rights complaint to be heard, he’s used up all his sick days and vacation time and now has no money coming in at all, leaving him terrified that after a life of hard work, he and his wife may lose their Scarborough home.
Meanwhile, the smoker who started it all has been working all along.
“I get really emotional,” Rodriques says with apology. “But why am I the one who’s being punished?”
After years of working around industrial cleaners and solvents, Rodriques had become particularly sensitive to environmental exposure. That condition didn’t seem to be a problem in the past. When his doctors told TCHC in 2006 that he could no longer be exposed to chemicals, such as cleaning products, he was immediately transferred to Empringham Mews in Scarborough where he could work outdoors.
Everything was fine about the job, he says, except that when he went inside to eat lunch or change in the locker room, he was overcome by cigarette smoke. He complained several times to his superiors and was assured that the superintendent who was known to smoke had agreed to butt out. As well he should. It’s against the law.
But Rodriques says the puffing continued. Finally, his wife, Carmen, had enough of her husband coming home with a hacking cough and sore throat and she called Toronto bylaw enforcement. Sure enough, the super was found smoking at his desk on April 19, 2007 and warned to stop.
Yet Rodriques says the smoking continued while he was coughing up mucus and being treated with hostility by his co-workers for daring to complain. The company’s solution was that he should eat his lunch in the garage.
In August 2007, he finally went off work to be tested and treated. By October, his respirologist said he was ready to work “as long as there is no exposure to chemical fumes and cigarette smoke.”
He’s been waiting ever since.
TCHC has seemed to go back in time and become fixated on his sensitivity to chemicals — an issue they had resolved back in May, 2006 when they quickly agreed to transfer him to outside work at the Empringham townhouse complex. Now, reinventing the wheel, their experts insist they can’t put him back to work until they are clear on which chemicals he needs to avoid.
When it’s really all about second-hand smoke.
“Everyone seems to run from the issue of my not being at work: It is due to the smoking only and not because of exposure to chemicals,” Rodriques wrote in a frustrated e-mail to his u nion back in March. “How the heck long does it take for you guys to find me an outdoor location for me to go back to work?”
After endless meetings, letters and doctors appointments, TCHC insisted Rodriques be assessed at the environmental health clinic at Women’s College Hospital. In September, 2008, Dr. Riina Bray confirmed he is “chemically sensitive, especially to environmental tobacco smoke which causes him debilitating symptoms even with very small brief exposures. He is otherwise healthy.
“He can return to work with accommodation, meaning that he should continue working in an outdoor environment and be guaranteed no exposure to cigarette smoke indoors or outdoors.”
It seems pretty simple.
A spokesman for Toronto Community Housing said privacy laws prevent him from discussing Rodriques’ case. “I can understand being off work would be frustrating for someone who wants to work,” said Kyle Rooks, “Toronto Community Housing is committed to providing a safe and healthy workplace for all 1,500 employees and this includes accommodating our injured/ill employees with modified or alternative work where required.”
That PR speak sounds wonderful. So what the heck is taking them so long?
Truro council: Butts out -NS
Jan 13, 2009
By CATHY VON KINTZEL Truro Bureau
‘Very intelligent and forward-thinking’ move makes retail area smoke-free
TRURO — Truro town council banned smoking on one downtown stret Monday amid calls to expand the policy to include playgrounds, parks and outdoor recre?ational facilities. The new bylaw bans smoking in public areas of Inglis Place, a busy, narrow, one?way street of shops and restaurants. Council approved the bylaw unanimously and it takes effect next week.
“This is a very intelligent and forward?thinking bylaw,” said Mike DeRosenroll, cancer control advocacy co-ordinator for the Canadian Cancer Society.
He urged councillors during their monthly meeting to consider targeting areas frequented by children.
“Bridgewater is a good model that Truro might like to consider,” he said.
That South Shore town approved a bylaw last March prohibiting smoking on town-owned property, including play?grounds, outdoor recreational facilities, parks, cemeteries and streets within designated school zones.
Mr. DeRosenroll said the society doesn’t recommend that municipalities ban smoking in all outdoor areas but supports targeting outdoor recreation sites and areas of high pedestrian traffic.
Town councillors will examine whether to expand the bylaw.
Krista McMullin, tobacco reduction strategy co-ordinator for the Colchester East Hants Health Authority, told council she’s already working with town staff and employees from surrounding municipal?ities on the idea of banning smoking in recreation areas.
“This is an excellent first step,” she said of the bylaw.
Coun. Charles Cox said he supported the bylaw because the town needs to protect citizens from second-hand smoke, particularly in high traffic areas.
Mayor Bill Mills said last month that the health of business people and shop?pers on Inglis Place was the main reason for the bylaw, another being controlling the number of smokers who loiter on the street.
The Downtown Truro Partnership, a group representing businesses, has re?ceived complaints that smoke from linger?ing puffers drifts through open doorways and windows, especially in summer.
People who light up on Inglis Place could face a fine ranging from $100 to $1,000.
Council considers public-housing smoking ban -ON
November 25, 2008
Emma Reilly The Hamilton Spectator
A proposal to ban smoking in Hamilton’s public housing is stirring debate about the right to smoke in the privacy of your home versus the right to clean air.
The city is preparing a report on banning smoking in all public housing buildings, as well as beaches and parks.
The report is expected in June 2009.
The proposed ban has raised questions about whether prohibiting smoking in private homes could be a violation of human rights.
John Fraser, a program director at the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation in Toronto, said because people with lower incomes are overrepresented in the smoking population, imposing the ban could be construed as discrimination against low-income families.
“Social tenants don’t have a choice to be there,” he said.
“They’re living there because they don’t have a lot of other options.”
But several tenants in public housing say they would support a city-sanctioned ban on smoking in their homes.
Tracy Woods, a longtime smoker who has lived in public housing with her two children for 13 years, said she agrees with the move. She says she currently smokes in her home, but only away from her kids.
“Yes, it’s my right, but at the same time, it’s not your right when you’re polluting your kids and the people around you.”
Woods also has a personal stake in the issue.
Her husband, John, who also smoked, died from lung cancer in February. He was 37.
Maria Rose, who has lived in a city-owned house on the Mountain for the past three years, said she also supports the ban. Rose is also a smoker, though she already abides by a strict “no smoking in the house” policy.
“It is our own home in one way, but in another, it’s not,” Rose said.
Councillor Brian McHattie, president of CityHousing Hamilton Corp., said he’s of two minds about the smoking ban. On a personal level, he said, he knows the dangers of smoking after watching his mother and sister die of smoking-related illnesses.
But McHattie said he also understands the habit is highly addictive and that the city would need to offer a cessation program before implementing a ban.
“I know a lot (of CityHousing tenants) do smoke and it would be a challenge for them to stop,” he said. “It can’t just be a turn-off-the-lights thing.”
Ontario Human Rights Commission spokesperson Afroze Edwards says if the city were to go ahead with the ban, it could be challenged on the basis that smoking is a disability “because of the addictive nature of it.”
Currently, there is no provincial legislation that dictates whether landlords can forbid smoking in their properties.
— With files from Rachel DeLazzer and Nicole MacIntyre
All Puffed Out? -NL
July 29, 2008
City-owned apartment buildings will be going smoke free, on a go-forward basis.? City staff undertook a review of the issue of imposing a smoking ban at Riverhead Towers as a result of a petition from a number of residents.? Councillor Art Puddister says the city owns and operates more than 4 hundred residential units and all five buildings will be going smoke free. Puddister says as units become vacant, new tenants will be informed the buildings are now smoke free.
No butts about it: St. John’s enacts no-smoking housing rule -NL
July 29, 2008
The City of St. John’s has adopted new non-smoking rules for its non-profit housing, but not after a debate about the city’s role in enforcing lifestyle choices.
Final bell sounds in smoking battle
JAN RAVENSBERGEN, The Gazette
Published: Sunday, April 20
Tenant vs. Landlord A dispute over residential rights has ended with a victory for the anti-smokers
In one corner, Olesia Koretski. A 29-year-old emergency-room nurse at the Jewish General Hospital, she’s been living on a tight budget with husband Matthew Newland, a Concordia University master’s student in philosophy, and their son Luka, who turned 10 months yesterday.
In the other corner, Koretski’s tenant, Sandra Fowler.
A pack-a-day smoker, Fowler wanted to keep lighting up in her flat directly above the asthmatic Koretski, as Fowler had been doing ever since she moved in Aug. 1, 2006.
Judge Normand Amyot of Quebec Court ruled Thursday that Fowler, a sales representative in her early 30s, had been out of line all along.
He ordered her to butt out, effective immediately, any time she’s home.
A key element of Fowler’s testimony before the Quebec Rental Board a year ago simply could not be believed, the judge ruled – Fowler’s repeated contention that she never saw the words “no smokers” on a form to list references that Fowler had filled out for Koretski before their lease-signing.
With that 28-page ruling from Amyot, a soft-spoken nurse with no big money behind her handed a stinging defeat to an industry that reported to Health Canada it sold 40.5 billion cigarettes across the country in 2005.
Now, Koretski simply wants to get out of the spotlight and get on with her life:
“I don’t really want this to go any further. I would … be happy if this was all over.”
The same, it appears, seems true for Fowler and her backers, at least for now.
They haven’t been available for interviews following the ruling, despite repeated attempts to reach them.
That marks quite a change from before Judge Amyot’s ruling.
Backed by $2.5 million provided by the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers’ Council, for the past year the lobby group MyChoice.ca, known in French as MonChoix.ca, had been promoting Fowler as a poster child for freedom of choice for smokers.
That’s been part of a wider campaign largely conducted through Internet sites in English and French.
Fowler and Big Tobacco had won their first round at the rental board, in a decision issued July 4. The lobby group then issued an invitation, over Fowler’s name, for media to visit her suddenly-famous smoking flat for interviews with both the then-victorious tenant and Arminda Mota, then vice-president of MyChoice.ca.
Since Thursday’s decision, neither Fowler nor Mota, who was promoted to president of MonChoix last January, returned repeated phone calls and, in Mota’s case, e-mails from The Gazette asking for:
-comment on the ruling;
-whether Fowler is following Judge Amyot’s order;
-any indications whether an appeal can be expected.
Fowler was represented before the court by Montreal lawyer Alfredo Mancini.
All along, MyChoice has refused to confirm or deny that it has been paying Fowler’s legal fees, understood to be about $300 an hour.
Likewise, Mancini refused to say. He cited “solicitor-client privilege.”
Fowler delivered a non-verbal answer last fall outside Quebec Court. Asked face-to-face by The Gazette who was picking up the tab, she pivoted 180 degrees and walked away.
Koretski said this week that she’d personally bankrolled her side of the case:
“There was nobody who gave me money for this.”
As for legal fees charged by Anna Klisko, the lawyer who won at Quebec Court, “it was a really friendly agreement,” Koretski said. She refused to peg a dollar amount: “it won’t be fair to Anna.”
There were other costs as well. “I did have to pay for the transcript” of testimony in front of the rental board a year ago, court filing fees, “all the photocopies, this and that,” Koretski said. “It was almost $600.
“It’s not cheap – especially when you were on maternity leave, and your husband was a student.”
On that front, the family has another reason to celebrate this weekend: Newland successfully defended his master’s thesis in philosophy at Concordia University Friday.
“It went very well. They accepted it,” Koretski said.
Before the ruling came down, Fowler had already agreed to move out of the flat when her current lease – at $710 a month, unheated – expires at the end of June.
“I’ve found somebody” to move in, Koretski said.
Somebody, she added, “who’s a non-smoker.”
Mar 08, 2008
A decision of the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board last month underscores the right of a landlord to insert a non-smoking clause in a residential lease, and that the clauses are enforceable in the event of breach by a tenant.
November 27, 2007
Phil Couvrette , CanWest News Service
In a case that is rallying smoker’s rights groups one year after Quebec banned smoking in public places, a Montreal landlord is going to court to overturn a July rental board’s ruling in favour of a smoking tenant.?
This summer the Regie du logement ruled pack-a-day smoker Sandra Fowler could keep puffing away on the second-floor of her building despite complaints by owner Olesia Koretski. She lives below Fowler and said that smoke was entering her apartment and aggravating her asthma.
Koretski was also worried about the effect the second-hand smoke could have on the unborn child she was carrying.
Central to Fowler’s success in the ruling was that a non-smoking clause was not included in her lease.
The board ruled that Koretski’s argument that the initial application form that Fowler filled out – stating that smokers and people with pets were not welcome to apply – was not enough to oblige Fowler to butt out when inside. Fowler was also allowed to keep pets.
The case returns to court Friday a year after Fowler received a letter advising her the landlord had lodged a complaint with the rental board.
Koretski could not have picked a tougher opponent to square off against on the matter of smoking rights.
Fowler is a member of the smoking rights group MonChoix.ca, whose spokeswoman Arminda Mota said she was confident the July ruling would not be overturned.
“Imagine they win this case and the tenant is forced to leave,” Mota said. “Anyone who is tenant right now can be booted out by their landlords?”
She says the case is being watched closely by smokers groups at a time communities are starting to prevent smoking in private areas, such as vehicles.
Last week Wolfville, N.S. became the first town in the country to ban smoking in vehicles if there’s a child on board.
Bridgewater, N.S., councillor Kevin Marlin said he was inspired by the ruling to consider a more dramatic smoking bylaw in his community.
“My concept is that this bylaw includes not just children in cars but driving and smoking because you’re in a public space,” he said about plans for a more far-reaching smoking ban. “We’re talking the sidewalks, the streets, town-owned parking spaces, recreational facilities – the whole gamut,” he said.
“Anti-smokers groups are on an offensive to prohibit smoking in homes,” Mota said. “They don’t want us to smoke anywhere!”
Mota notes the landlords renewed the lease twice since Fowler moved in and failed to include a non-smoking clause. Mota also blamed shoddy repairs for letting the smoke into the apartment below.
Housing groups were also following the case. Francois Saillant, coordinator for group FRAPRU, said he doubted the landlord would win the case.
“You can’t just change the terms of a lease,” he said.
Fowler said she was confident the court case would settle the longstanding dispute.
“It’s been going on since I moved in but I think it’s going to settle it once and for all,” she said.
She said she would fight any eviction bearing in mind others faced the same predicament.
“It’s easier to just move out, but you have to think of all the other people that are going to be in the same situation,” Fowler said.
Matthew Newland, Koretski’s husband and father of a five-month-old child, said he was reserving comments for after the court date.
“There’s nothing here to say, we’re just going to wait and see what happens,” he said.
The spokesman for a landlord group says the grievance doesn’t oppose landlord against tenant but smoker against non-smoker, and landlords can have valid reasons for denying smokers the right to light up.
“Some landlords have found places in bad shape because a smoker lived there for years and left behind burns appearing on carpets, counters and a lingering smell that scares away future tenants,” said Hans Brouillette.
With files from the Montreal Gazette and Global News
Read More:? Canada Smokers Apartments Page 2