Specific Legal Issues
Violence and Harassment in Condominium Communities
From the CCI Review 2022/2023-3 March 2023 issue of the CCI London Chapter
Following the recent tragedy in Vaughan, we thought it would be prudent to discuss violence and harassment as our topic for February. We also discussed much of the content covered in this article alongside Laura Gurr of Cohen Highley at a sold out Lunch & Learn event hosted by the London and Area Chapter of the Canadian Condominium Institute (CCI) on January 24, 2022.
What Does the Legislation Say About Violence and Harassment?
We look to section 1(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (the “OHSA”) to define violence and harassment in the workplace:
- Workplace Harassment: a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome
- Workplace Violence: actual or attempted physical force against a worker that causes or could cause physical injury, or a statement or behaviour that it is reasonable for a worker to interpret as a threat to exercise physical force
Understanding these definitions can be helpful in recognizing workplace violence and harassment, and in creating policies and procedures to address it. All employers who are subject to the OHSA must prepare policies with respect to workplace violence and workplace harassment and review them at least once a year. If an employer has more than six employees, then these policies must be in writing. It is also important to note that for the purposes of the OHSA, condominium managers are considered “employees” and the condominium corporation is their “workplace”.
The Condominium Act, 1998 can also serve as a resource in managing problematic behaviours within a condominium community. Section 117 prohibits activities that are likely to damage property or cause harm to an individual. This includes the psychological harm that results from written or verbal harassment.
Your corporation’s Declaration should include provisions that address violent and/or harassing conduct. For example, there might be language referring to quiet enjoyment, noise, nuisance, and damage to property. There should also be provisions related to costs for enforcing these types of provisions. It is more common to find Rules that assist in addressing violence and harassment in a condominium; however, these typically address only noise and nuisance.
Ensure that your Corporation has policies and procedures to follow in the event that an employee or a board member experiences violence or harassment. As previously discussed, OHSA requires workplace violence and harassment policies for employers that have more than six employees.
Having a safety plan in place can reduce stress and improve the time and manner in which your staff and board members respond to a potential problem. Your plan should include policies and procedures that clearly define what should be done before, during, and after an incident involving violence and harassment, including procedures for reporting and documenting incidents.
In the event that an employee or board member experiences violence or threats of violence, contact police first. You can contact your local police service on their nonemergency line to report previous incidents or to seek advice, but you should always call 911 if there is an immediate or ongoing threat to the safety of staff, board members, or residents of your condominium community.
A peace bond is a court order issued under section 810 of the Criminal Code of Canada that requires a person to “keep the peace and be of good behavior” and to obey specific conditions, which may include not contacting a specific person or not attending at a specific location. Anyone can make an application for a peace bond if they fear that someone is a significant threat to their safety or their property.
A peace bond must be between specific individual persons, and therefore a peace bond cannot be issued to protect a corporation or condominium management service provider. This also means that the peace bond cannot be transferred between individuals to protect any person who holds a specific position within the corporation, such as a property manager or board president.
The process for acquiring a peace bond is outlined briefly in this flow chart and explained in detail on the Government of Ontario website.
How Can Your Legal Team Help?
Violence and harassment issues are often complex and require careful consideration of many unpredictable factors. Your legal team can help your Corporation create rules, policies, and procedures to manage the process of responding to, documenting, and reporting incidents of violence and harassment to create safer condominium communities for staff, board, and residents.
Kristi Sargeant-Kerr, LL.B., LCCI is a partner with Scott Petrie, specializes in all aspects of condominium and real estate law, including development, management and litigation and purchase, sale and mortgaging of condominiums. She has extensive experience working with managers and corporations in and around the region and prides herself on finding reasonable solutions to their complex issues. Kristi is on the local CCI Board of Directors and is co-chair of their Education Committee. She has also been appointed to the Advisory Committee of the Condominium Management Regulatory Authority of Ontario (CMRAO).
Madeleine Stirland joined Scott Petrie LLP in 2020 after completing her Master of Museum Studies degree and working as a museum professional in London and Toronto. She continues to work with Kristi on condominium matters, particularly enforcement matters and those before the Condominium Authority Tribunal. She assists on the Education Committee of the chapter.
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