Opinion: My condo board is trying to ban smoking, that's not okay

Jul 14 2018, 3:32 am

A few weeks ago I got the standard yearly email from my downtown Montreal condo association informing me of the annual meeting. As I scanned the agenda, I saw a vote on something called the “Smoke-Free Policy.”


“Excuse me, can you explain what the “smoking ban” on the agenda might entail?” I emailed politely to my building management.

I was eventually sent this, and it was worse than I feared.

ban smoking

Cursing, I emailed the building manager with a barrage of questions such as: Who wrote this? Why did they write it? Did they know it would get us sued in about five seconds? Have they not noticed we don’t HAVE any private balconies here? Do they lack compassion for the sick due to lack of experience, or are they just jerks?

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“I totally understand your frustration,” the manager emailed me back. “It was written by a board member.” I could almost hear him sighing through the screen.

I’m not the only person dealing with this problem. As legalization approaches a lot of buildings are going to try to implement this kind of thing. And while I support a smoking ban in common areas of the building, a blanket ban on “all combustibles” is ridiculous, poorly considered, and ill-advised.

Here are a few things to think about:

  1. Enforcing a ban on medical cannabis could be construed as a Human Rights violation. Sounds dramatic, but hear me out. Under the proposed rules, very sick people are going to have to leave their homes and walk 9 metres away from the building to consume their medication, effectively shutting out current and future residents with serious illnesses and mobility issues from living in the building – even more so if a resident has limited mobility. We have an obligation to accommodate disabilities and illnesses, and this policy mandates that we do the opposite – in writing.
  2. Who wants to ask the person on their third round of chemo to get up and walk 9 metres from the building? Or fine the elderly person in a wheelchair $500 because they can’t go outside in the winter but still require their doctor-prescribed medication? No one.
  3. If a rule is unenforceable without violating residents’ rights, it should not and must not be adopted. There is no way of knowing what happens in a private unit unless one enters said unit, which is against the law sans owner approval (or a major emergency such as a fire or flood).
  4. The new by-law makes it harder to take action against people who are disturbing others with their smoking. Peaceful enjoyment complaints require recording times and dates, a few witnesses maybe, etc. Under the proposed changes, the burden of proof is on the complainant, who must bring “proof” to the board that the resident is smoking. While it does not define “proof,” that’s still a much higher threshold for evidence than the original rules.
  5. It places unreasonable restrictions on private property. This seems like a heavy-handed and reactionary response to the passing of Bills-157 and C-45. I don’t need my condo board’s moralizing, nor do I appreciate their lack of compassion in its application.
  6. It sets a dangerous precedent. If what I’m doing on my own private property isn’t bothering or endangering anyone, then what does it matter what I do in the confines of my own home, and what other choices is the condo board going to decide they are entitled to make with regards to my private life and property?
  7. One day, it might be one of the board members who need medical cannabis. You might be surprised at what you’ll try when you’re in enough pain – and that’s a decision that you can’t truly make until you’re in that situation.

Fortunately, in the province where I live such a change to the rules requires 80% of owners to agree. Since our condo can’t even get 80% of owners to show up to a meeting, building residents can enjoy their cannabis (medical or recreational) on an unrestricted basis for now.

But be aware, condo-dwellers – if it can happen here, it can happen anywhere. Read up on your rights and your province’s condo laws to be sure that you don’t end up in a situation – but also remember to be a good neighbour and turn on the fan before sparking up a doob.

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Emma SpearsEmma Spears

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