Friedmann v MacGarvie [2012]

Case summary

Friedmann involves a female tenant who was sexually harassed by her male landlord. After ending her tenancy, she filed a human rights complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal.

The Tribunal found that the harassment she endured amounted to discrimination on the basis of sex, and was a violation of the BC Human Rights Code.

But upon judicial review, the BC Supreme Court disagreed, ruling that sexual harassment is not necessarily discrimination. The tenant appealed to the BC Court of Appeal, and West Coast LEAF was granted leave to intervene at this level.

West Coast LEAF’s involvement

West Coast LEAF’s position in this case is that sexual harassment constitutes sex discrimination and is a violation of women’s equality rights.

A landlord-tenant relation has an inherently unequal power dynamic, one which can be intensified when the landlord is male and the tenant is female. As a result, female tenants may be led to believe that enduring the landlord’s harassment is an implicit condition of their tenancy.

We argued that there are no circumstances in which sexual harassment is not discriminatory or a human rights infringement. That suggestion would imply that sexual harassment must be treated differently according to circumstance. It would also imply that harassment can simply be chalked up to bad behaviour, rather than as a product of systemic discrimination.


The Court of Appeal restored the Tribunal’s decision and affirmed that sexual harassment of a female tenant by her male landlord is discrimination on the basis of sex and contrary to the BC Human Rights Code. Tenants have a right to security and privacy in their homes, and a right to be free from harassment and abuse.

Case documents

Application for leave to intervene – BC Court of Appeal

Factum – BC Court of Appeal

Decision – BC Court of Appeal