Bell vs. Ontario
Bell vs. Ontario involved a Toronto landlord who had been taken to task by the Commission for refusing to rent an apartment to a Black man. The prospective tenant, Carl McKay, wrote:
“On December 10, 1968, I saw an ad in the Toronto Daily Star for a 3 room flat for rent with private bath and kitchen at 30 Indian Road. I phoned the number given and was told the flat was still vacant. The next day when I went to the address in person, I was told the flat was taken by a man I later learned was Mr. Bell, the landlord. However, when my girlfriend, Miss Nancy Sharp applied the same day after me, she was told it was still vacant. I am a Black man from Jamaica and feel my failure to obtain accommodation was determined by factors of race, colour and place of origin.”
The landlord, Kenneth Bell, wrote:
“When the flat was advertised for rent, two young negro men came to the house to inquire about it. I judged them to be about twenty to twenty-two years of age and thought they may have been students. I considered them to be too young and accordingly, I turned them down . . . I did not refuse to rent to the negroes because they were to young and appeared to be students and I do not want young men or students as tenants, particularly because the flat is not separated from my own living quarters and is not self-contained.”
In the end, Kenneth Bell won on a technicality. In a 5-2 decision handed down by Justice J. Martland, the Supreme Court ruled that the landlord was exempt from anti-discrimination legislation because his apartment did not have a separate entry and could not be considered a self-contained dwelling.
Excerpt from "Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and
White in Canada", by Lawrence Hill,
Published by HarperCollins Canada Ltd., 2001.
Courtesy of Lawrence Hill