In Ontario, It Should Be Illegal to Insist House-Buyers Be of a Particular Nationality

This example shows Ontario’s laws must ensure an end to discrimination in housing throughout the province.

Editor's Note: This article first was first published last month in April 2023.

I had always thought that racial discrimination in Ontario housing was a thing of the past, but it turns out that it is still alive in parts of the province.

I recently came across a listing for an attractive house on Odessa Blvd., just outside Terra Cotta in the town of Caledon. The home is part of a development which describes itself as a “private Ukrainian community” under the name of the Poltawa Country Club.

The listing, which is no longer online, noted that any prospective buyer must be of “Ukrainian descent” to buy in the project.

The history of the Poltawa Country Club began in 1946 when a group of Ukrainian friends purchased a 22-acre site on the Credit River and began to build cottages and the infrastructure for a cottage community. Some members now live there full-time, making it an attractive year-round retreat from the city.

The property consists of one parcel of land divided into 106 residential lots. The Country Club grants licences to members for the use, but not ownership, of the lots. Purchasers may buy the buildings, but not the land on which they are situated.


The kicker here is that any prospective buyer must be of Ukrainian descent to qualify as a home purchaser and licence holder in the club.

The Poltawa restriction on the right to buy houses in the community is not affected by an Ontario law passed in 1950.

The Conveyancing and Law of Property Amendment Act voided restrictive covenants entered into after March 24, 1950, but it allowed earlier ones, including the one in the Poltawa Country Club, to remain in force. The Poltawa restriction dates back to 1947 and predates the 1950 law.

The law was passed in reaction to the highly publicized case of Noble v. Wolf and Alley. The case involved a restrictive covenant on the title to a group of cottages in the Beach O’ Pines area of Grand Bend, Ont. The restriction provided that the land could never be sold, used, occupied or rented “by any person of the Jewish, Hebrew, Semitic, Negro or coloured race or blood.”

Ultimately, the Supreme Court of Canada nullified the prohibition on the narrow legal grounds that it was void for legal uncertainty, and an illegal restraint on the freedom to sell property. The decision was not based on human rights or public policy grounds.

The Poltawa restriction seems to me to violate both the ruling in the Noble case as well as the Ontario Human Rights Code.

The Code mandates equal treatment with respect to the occupancy of accommodation, without discrimination because of, among other things, race, creed, ancestry, nationality, colour, or ethnic origin, so I don’t see how the Poltawa club restrictions can be enforced well into the 21st century.

Steve Clark is Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Doug Downey is Attorney General, and Michael Ford is Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism. Surely one or more of these ministers could put some teeth into Ontario’s laws to ensure an end to racial discrimination in housing everywhere in this province.

Image credit: iStock/Getty Image

Bob Aaron is Toronto real estate lawyer. His column appears on this blog, Move Smartlyand in The Toronto Star. You can follow Bob on Twitter @bobaaron2 and at his website 

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