Founded in 1983 - United for Diversity and Racial Equality


Montreal, February 28, 2018 - An English-speaking biracial family living in one of Montreal's largest co-ops, the Milton Parc Co-op, will file complaints against it after being denied a larger housing unit due to discrimination based on race and social condition.

Sascha Astles is a Métis woman, with heritage from the Gaspésie. She lives with her husband James who is Black. They have five children (3 of whom are adults) and one grandchild living in a 8 1/2 unit in the Milton Parc Co-op, which is one of 16 housing Co-ops of the Milton Parc Community (MPC). They are the largest family in the Co-op where they have lived since 2009.

The situation of overcrowding is increasingly difficult for the family; their home has 3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom. Ms. Astles and her husband are a low-income couple; two of her children in their early twenties work part-time and contribute to the household.

Since October 2017, Ms. Astles also participates actively in Co-op matters, by sitting on its Board of Directors and representing the Leisure Committee.

In the past, they have experienced racially discriminatory acts. For example, a Jamaican flag was found placed at the bottom of their staircase, and dog feces were found on their doorsteps. In board meeting minutes, Astles' family name was sometimes spelled “Antiles” and “Caribbean.” Ms. Astles and her husband reported these incidents to the General Assembly, but no action was taken to address racial harassment. After another incident of a racial nature, name-calling and harassment was reported to the Board, but the Board told her to find a lawyer herself to get help.

In December 2017, Ms. Astles and her husband found out that a larger 9 1/2 unit would be available in the Co-op, which would be better suited for their family needs. They applied to the Co-op's Selection Committee. After an evaluation of their files, the Committee recommended the rejection of their application due to the couple's financial status. According to the Selection Committee, their household does not have the financial means to afford what would amount to a net $100 monthly rent increase for the larger unit.

On January 29, 2018, the General Assembly upheld, in a secret 17-15 vote, the Selection Committee's recommendation to reject their application, despite the fact that under Co-op by-laws, internal applications should be assessed on the basis of applicants' payment history and the “complete payments of any amounts due for the 2 previous years.” Ms. Astles and her family have a solid payment history and no arrears.

According to the Jan. 29, 2018 meeting minutes, “The second member in favor of their application argues that the selection committee procedure should be limited to examining their payment history and the existence of arrears. The Committee went beyond it's [sic] mandate in asking for proof of future income. The presumption that they will not pay the rent because of their modest means could constitute discrimination based on their social status.”

She was later informed by a Co-op official that her family's application was treated as if they were new external applicants or as actual residents who wished to relocate to another housing Co-op or a non-profit housing unit. In these cases, the assessment criteria of gross income of all adult members of the household and population density would apply.

“My family and I are astounded by the Co-op deliberately and explicitly skirting legally-binding by laws and criteria for housing application evaluation. Assessing our application on the basis of our monthly income amounts to discrimination based on social condition,” said Ms. Astles.

“They did not take into account my family's payment record and needs, or my children's ability to contribute to the rent,” Ms. Astles noted, citing the fact that her two older daughters' financial contributions can even surpass the $100 monthly increase.

“We believe that some people use all kinds of technical excuse and our family's income as a proxy to deny us the larger unit,” said Zhikayla, the oldest daughter whose son is 2 years old.

“For the Co-op to do this during Black History Month is nothing but a grossly unfair and shameful act of discrimination. It's clear that some people don't want a large English-speaking Black biracial family to enjoy basic housing quality and benefits in this Co-op,” she added.

Ms. Astles and her family members have given CRARR the mandate to file a complaint against the Co-op and members of the Selection Committee with Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission. The complaint will be filed in March.

Some systemic issues will be raised, including the methods of recruitment and selection of co-op members and its adverse effects (if any) on people of color; and policies and procedures to address racial incidents and different forms of discrimination.

CRARR will also examine issues of compliance with funding conditions of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, especially where fair treatment and discriminatory practices are concerned.