Montreal single mother refused housing because she has 4 children

Karyne Cloutier says she's at a loss for what to do after she claims numerous people have refused her housing simply because she has four young children.

The single mother says she's been searching for a home for the last six months, but is now reaching the end of her rope.

"I'm so exhausted. I feel like crying," she told CTV News Thursday. "Everyone is refusing me or completely ignoring me as soon as I mention that I have four young children."

She laments finding an apartment big enough for the five of them is already a challenge in itself.

"Unfortunately, we are looking for a family with two children or less," one message on Kijiji, captured in a screengrab, states.

Cloutier, a nursing student at Champlain College, says because of her lack of luck, her young family has been living with her mother in LaSalle for the last six months.

"I love my mother, but she's not at an age where she can handle my young children," she said, noting she has three-year-old twins, as well as a five and six-year-old.

Cloutier admits she doesn't have a great credit score and she's on social assistance, but points out she's yet to broach those subjects with landlords because the conversations never get that far.

"I'm studying from home to become an orderly," she explains. "I haven't been able to work because one of my children was in and out of the hospital for a year because he had an epileptic episode."

She says, at the time, doctors told her to prepare for him to be in a vegetative state for the rest of his life, but he survived.

"We are waiting for an autism diagnosis. He has a few [developmental] delays," she said, adding two of her other children are also waiting for autism and attention deficit disorder diagnoses with the Douglas Hospital. "My four children are being followed by the CLSC. I have so many appointments left and right, that I can't work."

Cloutier says her plan, right now, is to sign a lease with any landlord that will accept her and her children.

"I don't have a choice," she said.

TENANTS' RIGHTS

According to Éducaloi, a charitable organization whose mission is to provide Quebecers with a layman's explanation of the law, landlords cannot refuse a tenant simply because they have children.

The organization cites Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, which outlines that one cannot be discriminated against based on:

  • race or skin colour;
  • sex;
  • gender identity or expression;
  • pregnancy (being pregnant or on parental leave);
  • sexual orientation;
  • civil status (single, married, divorced, having or not having children);
  • age;
  • religion;
  • political beliefs;
  • language;
  • ethnic or national origin;
  • social condition (a person’s social situation based on income, job, level of education, being a student, retired or unemployed);
  • disability or use of an aid (having a guide dog or using a wheelchair).

"What counts is whether the tenant can pay the rent," the organization clarifies. "Tenants who are unemployed or are on social assistance might still be able to pay the rent. Refusing to rent just because someone is jobless is against Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms."

According to Quebec's Tribunal administratif du logement, "A lessor may not refuse to enter into a lease with a person...for the sole reason that the person is pregnant or has one or several children, unless the refusal is warranted by the size of the dwelling."

It adds punitive damages may be awarded in cases where this provision is violated.

A person who believes they may have been the victim of discrimination can file a complaint with Quebec’s human rights commission.

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