Sunday, September 4, 2016

Richmond townhouse strata meetings revert to Chinese-language-only amid human rights dispute


Richmond townhouse strata meetings revert to Chinese-language-only amid human rights dispute


A Richmond homeowner who launched a human rights complaint over the controversial Mandarin-only strata meetings held at his townhouse complex says council has reverted to Chinese after a brief stint with a translator.
Andreas Kargut also claims he is being harassed by members of council, and feels like he is being pressured to leave his home. 
Kargut and six other residents filed a class-action complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal in December because they couldn’t participate in a 90-minute meeting where only Mandarin was spoken at their 54-unit townhouse complex. They are being discriminated against by the new strata council elected in the summer of 2015.
Lawyers and residents held a pre-settlement meeting in July, and although Kargut said he cannot disclose details of that meeting, he believed the matter had been resolved.  
Three subsequent meetings were held in English with a Mandarin translator, he said, following the human rights complaint and intervention from local MLA Linda Reid.  
Then, Kargut claims that a notice was posted in the mailroom on July 27 saying that a settlement had been reached before any members of the human rights complaint had signed.
“The language (in the notice) was highly inflammatory,” he said, adding that it informed residents that while the dispute was settled it was going to cost everyone money.
At the strata’s AGM last month, Kargut said members voted to overturn the use of a translator and revert to Chinese-language-only meetings.
Since then, Kargut claims he has been harassed in a message posted to his Go Fund Me site, which he started to help raise funds for his legal defence. In one message, the person claims Kargut and the other residents bullied the non-English speaking owners. 
Kargut said he was vice-president during his last year on the council but was ousted by a group that wanted to conduct meetings only in the Chinese language.
With the human rights complaint, he is hoping to have laws changed so that only French or English can be spoken at council meetings to prevent similar problems elsewhere.
Mary Zhang, president of the Strata council, declined an interview but issued a press statement Friday. She said at the AGM six owners held 25 proxies, and all voted independently. She said the majority of owners in the building speak Mandarin as a first language.
“Some members have basic English skills, but that does not mean they understand complex English or feel comfortable with language at the speed of a typical conversation,” she said, in the statement.
When the new council took over last year, she said they were more comfortable speaking in Mandarin. In an e-mail, she said the council voted to use a translator in instances where non-Mandarin speakers were present at meetings, but that council had voted down using a translator at meetings where all in attendance spoke Mandarin.
Zhang said the council had not voted down using a translator in future meetings.
She said the previous councils conducted meetings solely in English for more than a decade without any accommodation for the owners who do not speak English, and that Mandarin-speaking owners were excluded from understanding how the previous council was managing the Strata.
She said Kargut wants to have all meetings in English even when there are no English-speaking observers present at the meetings, which “is completely unrealistic and would ignore the identity of this community.”.....Canadian?