The Right to Smudge at Home

SmudgeStick-300x200 The Right to Smudge at HomeCrystal 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.” – Crystal Smith

In June 2017, Ms. Smith, with the assistance of lawyers at 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:

Evicted for smudging, First Nations woman files human rights complaint

June 15, 2017 | Josh K. Elliott | CTV News Link to original article A First Nations woman from Burnaby, B.C. has filed a human rights complaint after she was evicted for holding a traditional smudging ceremony indoors. The ceremony, ...
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Woman evicted over smudging ceremonies files human rights complaint

June 14, 2017 | Andrew Weichel | CTV Vancouver Link to original article An aboriginal woman who claims her landlord tried to evict her for performing traditional smudging ceremonies in her Burnaby, B.C. home has filed a human rights complaint ...
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Tenant fights eviction for smudging, takes case to B.C. Human Rights Tribunal

June 7, 2017 | Tereza Verenca | Burnaby Now Link to original article A Burnaby woman has filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal alleging her landlord is denying her the right to smudge. Crystal Smith of the ...
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