Crystal Smith of the Tsimshian and Haisla First Nations and her children regularly smudge as part of their cultural and spiritual practices. Smudging is an Indigenous ceremonial practice involving the burning of sacred medicines, such as sage, as a cleansing rite. Ms. Smith started smudging over a decade ago when she began efforts to connect with her Indigenous culture. Over time, smudging has become a regular practice with her children and an important part of her family’s wellbeing in their home.
When Ms. Smith’s landlord noticed her smudging in her rental suite, he demanded that she stop. Throughout this time, Ms. Smith faced invasive and inappropriate questions and comments by her landlord related to her Indigenous ancestry. Ms. Smith explained that she would be unable to stop smudging as it is a part of her family’s cultural and spiritual practices.
In response, Ms. Smith’s landlord served her with three eviction notices. Ms. Smith took the eviction notices to the Residential Tenancy Branch for dispute resolution. She was successful in her first two RTB hearings, before deciding on her own accord to move out of her home because of the landlord’s conduct.
The reason I’m fighting, the reason why I’m pushing this forward is so that my children, my great grandchildren, will not have to do this.
In June 2017, Ms. Smith, with the assistance of lawyers at the BCPIAC, filed a human rights complaint against her landlord alleging that the landlord’s conduct was discriminatory and failed to accommodate her smudging. Ms. Smith explains why she is taking the fight for the right to smudge at home to the BC Human Rights Tribunal: “The reason I’m fighting, the reason why I’m pushing this forward is so that my children, my great grandchildren, will not have to do this.”
BCPIAC will continue to represent Ms. Smith in this matter and advocate for legal protections for the fundamental right of Indigenous peoples to freely practice their cultural and spiritual traditions, and to be treated equally and with dignity.
More on Crystal Smith’s case for the right to smudge at home: