Is that weed or sage? Smudging smokes tenant out of B.C. rental home

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Smudging is a sacred ceremony among indigenous peoples.

The practice is regarded to purify one’s body and soul, and cleanse a place.

Sage, sweetgrass, cedar, and tobacco are usually burned to produce smoke that is washed over a person or object during the ritual. 

Crystal Smith, who is Tsimshian and Haisla, uses sage for smudging, which she does together with her children.

However, her landlord doesn’t believe Smith is doing it for cultural or spiritual reasons.

Parminder Mohan thinks it’s just a cover for his tenant to smoke weed.

Smith and Mohan have different versions of circumstances that led to the tenant leaving the rental home she and her children lived in.

The only way to find out is to have a hearing, and this is what the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has ordered.

Tribunal member Catherine McCreary rejected Mohan’s application to dismiss Smith’s complaint that she was discriminated against in her tenancy because of her ancestry, race, place of origin, and religion.

McCreary will hear Smith’s complaint, unless the two parties are able to come up with a settlement.

“Mr. Mohan claims that he attempted to accommodate Ms. Smith’s smudging practices but Ms. Smith claims that he required her to sign a document promising to cease the practice,” McCreary wrote in her decision to not dismiss the complaint without a hearing. “These may be different versions of the same events or, in fact, both may be true.”

Moreover, “For his part, Mr. Mohan urges me to find that he evicted Ms. Smith because of the tenancy agreement and his bona fide and legitimate view of its provisions with respect to smoking, drugs, marijuana, odour and nuisance, and his belief that Ms. Smith smoked marijuana.

“For her part, Ms. Smith claims that due to her Indigenous race/origin/ancestry/colour/religion she has an unfettered right to smudge and says that it has never been a problem at previous residences,” McCreary wrote.

Citing from the submissions she received, the tribunal member recounted that Mohan claimed that he suggested the use of Febreeze, an air freshener, but Smith supposed did not respond.

“Mr. Mohan believes Ms. Smith was burning marijuana and says that he has witnesses that agree the smell came from marijuana,” McCreary wrote.

Smith, an on‐call teacher and a graduate student focusing on indigenous leadership, told the tribunal that she wants her children to be connected with their culture.