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Montreal woman files complaint against Rental Board judge for discrimination

Intersectionality: Gender and race discrimination affect Tomee Sojourner's right to a fair trial

by Lillian Boctor

Picture taken by Anne de Haas at Sojourner's Embracing Intersectional Diversity Project photo shoot.
Picture taken by Anne de Haas at Sojourner's Embracing Intersectional Diversity Project photo shoot.


Tomee Sojourner, a Black lesbian Management Consultant, has filed a complaint of judicial bias with the Conseil de la justice administrative (the Administrative Judicial Council) against a Rental Board judge for the judge’s conduct during Sojourner’s June 11, 2013 hearing.  

Tomee Sojourner was at the Montreal Rental Board in a case against her former landlord for toxic mold. She expected a fight with the landlord – notorious for poor building management and tenant harassment. Instead the judge started the hearing by calling Sojourner Monsieur and Mister and refused to stop addressing her by male pronouns, even after Sojourner and the landlord representative corrected the judge.

Sojourner says the judge’s bias battered her dignity and humanity and stole her right to fair and impartial trial. She wants a new hearing with another judge, and the judge to be held accountable, receiving mandatory training about bias, gender, race and class.  Sojourner hopes her case will confront judicial bias throughout Quebec, saying that most people who lose their civil rights through multiple levels of discrimination in the legal system do not have the resources or support to bring forth a case.  

Fo Niemi, executive director of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations, the organization working with Sojourner on the complaint, says the case is precedent setting in bringing forth the intersectional nature of race, class and gender. Gender-identity discrimination is not included in the Quebec and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom, and Bill C-279, an act to include gender as a grounds for discrimination in Canadian human rights legislation and the criminal code, is stuck in Senate. 

I spoke to Tomee Soujourner before she filed her case against the Rental Board judge, and after her press conference in June 2013.

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