Choosing a condominium means living in a community in close proximity to hundreds of people. In Canada’s multicultural society, this condominium community will likely be ethnically, culturally, religiously and politically diverse. While this diversity is an opportunity to expand one’s horizons and embrace the numerous benefits of multiculturalism, it can also pose numerous governance problems for condominium corporations.
Potential issues include affixing holiday decorations and religious symbols & structures outside one’s unit or on balconies (see http://www.condoreporter.com/?p=970 and http://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/2161/index.do); lively holiday reunions or strong scented cultural cuisine causing neighbouring units to complain; common element areas being utilized for religious/cultural services; and cultural communication differences leading to havoc at annual general meetings (for example, in some cultures it is fairly standard for one to express him/herself in a loud and animated fashion whereas other cultures would deem such conduct to be overly aggressive and threatening).
We strongly encourage residents, board members and managers of condominium corporations to take the time to learn about the residents of the building and its diversity. Options can include monthly meetings and presentations on upcoming days of significance and interest, creating a subcommittee to keep management and the board apprised of cultural happenings or creating a social committee whose mandate includes respectfully celebrating the diversity within the community. Provided these activities are conducted in a respectful and non-discriminatory (open to any ethnicity, culture, religion, belief system, race, sex and viewpoint), avoiding any denigration or proselytization, many of the potential governance issues could be avoided and the condominium community will be enhanced.
This approach will hopefully assist the board and management by enabling the focus to be placed on the general operation of the condominium corporation rather than on these governance issues. Furthermore, given the plethora of resale condominiums available to purchase, a harmonious and proactively inclusive condominium may get noticed, potentially increasing the market value of those condominium units.
As we know, issues surrounding ethnic and religious diversity are not only manifested within condominium buildings. These issues can be found in numerous areas in our society – outside our condo bubble – and can impact life and death matters.
A stark reminder of these issues is found in the Supreme Court of Canada’s fairly recent decision, Cuthbertson v. Rasouli, 2013 SCC 53,  3 S.C.R. This case dealt with Hassan Rasouli, unconscious and on life support since October 2010, and the physicians responsible for his care.
The physicians believed that Mr. Rasouli had no realistic hope of medical recovery as all appropriate treatments for his condition had allegedly been exhausted. The physicians determined that continuing life support would not provide any medical benefit and sought to remove Mr. Rasouli’s life support. Mr. Rasouli’s substitute decision‑maker and spouse refused to provide her consent on the basis that, as Shia Muslims, their faith required that a person be kept alive until all signs of life were gone, and brought a court application for an order restraining the physicians from removing the life support without her consent.
The court’s majority found that consent is required, and if the physicians believe that the substitute decision maker is not acting in the patient’s best interest, their recourse is to apply to the Consent and Capacity Board for a determination of, amongst other issues, whether the refusal to provide consent to the life support withdrawal is in the patient’s best interest. The court was clear that the physicians cannot unilaterally withdraw life support, despite their medical determination that it was futile and possibly harmful.
Given the importance of this case and its possible implications, we are publicizing a seminar on June 2, 2014 entitled “Rasouli – Doctors’ Powers & Patients’ Rights”. Click here for more information. Presenters include the lawyer for Mr. Rasouli and legal counsel for some of the intervening parties.
Regarding multiculturalism within a condominium community and the creation of subcommittees, we recommend that Boards and Management obtain legal guidance with respect to the creation of a board resolution, statement of principles or a by-law aimed at creating an environment of inclusivity, respect and multiculturalism.
The advertised seminar is not affiliated or connected with our Condominium Group or Aird & Berlis LLP, but we believe that many of our readers and subscribers may be interested in attending.