“I woke up a few months ago, and I felt like I was a stranger in my own country.”
That’s Andreas Kargut, the Richmond man taking his strata council to the Human Rights Tribunal.
The reason? The council was conducting all of it’s official business in Mandarin only, and wouldn’t use a translator.
LISTEN: Guest Host Shane Foxman speaks with Andreas Kargut about his Richmond Strata
Kargut says the problems started when a group of Chinese residents got together to force the former council out.
“They came in with 15 proxy votes for the reason of outsting the council. And then what they did in july of 2015 at the next AGM they actually came in with 34 proxy votes out of 54 owners, one guy came in with 34 proxy votes because he had full intention of getting enough votes to fire the property manager.”
He says since then, they’ve been acting as a closed group, refusing to spend money on the property or listen to the other residents.
“The council has been unapproachable ever since they actually got in power. They don’t listen to any of our legitimate complaints that repairs are needed, maintenance is needed, there’s safety concerns that need to be addressed.”
For Kargut, things came to a head when he finally insisted on sitting in on a meeting. He was told the entire thing would be in Mandarin, and there would be no translator. He went anyway… and when the meeting wrapped, was asked if he had any questions.
“How am I supposed to ask any questions for an hour and a half of proceedings that I didn’t understand in the least bit?”
The case has attracted considerable attention, including from the local MLA – and Kargut says it’s made a difference.
“Finally they put something in writing to me saying they will run the meeting in English, and we will have an accredited translator.”
He says he attended a meeting last night, and the council followed through on the promise. But he’s says this isn’t the end of it – and he wants stronger reforms.
“We want closure to this.”
He and six others are pushing ahead with a human rights complaint against the council, which it has about a month to respond to.
And he says whichever way the complaint goes, he’s taking his issue to Victoria, in a bid to have a law passed recognizing English and French as official languages in B.C.
“Right now we’re one of hte only provinces that don’t have that, so people can pretty much do what they want.”