In 2012, the Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women considered Kell v. Canada (CEDAW/C/51/D/19/2008). In 1990, William Senych applied for housing without the knowledge of his common law partner, Cecilia Kell, an Aboriginal woman from the Rae-Edzo community in the Northwest Territories (NWT) of Canada. Senych’s application was denied because he was not a member of the Rae-Edzo community for which the housing was earmarked. On the advice of a Tenant Relations officer at the Rae-Edzo Housing Authority, Kell then applied for housing, listing Senych as her spouse. In 1991, the NWT Housing Corporation issued an Agreement for Purchase and Sale to Kell and Senych as co-owners of the property. Senych subjected Kell to domestic violence, including economic abuse, over the subsequent three-year period. In 1993, following a request from Senych and without Kell’s knowledge, the NWT Housing Corporation (on instruction from the Rae-Edzo Housing Authority) removed Kell’s name from the Assignment of Lease, the document that certified co-ownership. The removal had the effect of making Senych the sole owner of the property. Senych was a board member of the Housing Authority at the time of his request
In 1995, Senych changed the locks and denied Kell access to the property. He subsequently sought to evict her while she sought protection in a shelter Kell filed proceedings against Senych in the NWT Supreme Court seeking compensation for assault, battery, sexual assault, intimidation, trespass to chattels, loss of use of her home and consequential payment of rent and attendant expenses. She also filed a declaration that Senych had obtained the property fraudulently, aided and abetted by the NWT Government. Kell was assigned a legal aid lawyer, who advised her to comply with the letter of eviction and did not challenge the letter’s validity. Shortly thereafter, Senych was diagnosed with cancer at which time Kell’s lawyer advised her to delay proceedings. Senych later died, following which Kell’s lawyer initiated proceedings against his estate, the NWT Housing Corporation and another. A replacement legal aid lawyer added a claim for damages for assault and intimidation. In 1999, Senych’s estate and the Housing Corporation offered Kell a monetary settlement. During negotiations, Kell’s case was twice reassigned to new lawyers. Both insisted that Kell settle. She refused, however, as her key concern was regaining the property. Following her refusal, Kell’s lawyer ceased acting on her behalf. Kell’s case was only re-assigned to a new lawyer after she appealed to the Legal Services Board. The Supreme Court dismissed both proceedings for “want of prosecution”. Costs were imposed against Kell and subsequent appeals were unsuccessful. In 2004, Kell filed a third action related to her interest in and right to the leasehold title and possession of the property. The property had then been sold and the Court dismissed the matter.
Kell subsequently submitted a communication to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in which she claimed that Canada had violated articles 1, 2(d), 2(e), 14(2)(h), 15(1)-15(4), 16(1)(h) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Kell claimed that Canada had allowed its agents – the NWT Housing Corporation and the Rae-Edzo Housing Authority – to discriminate against her on the grounds of sex, marital status and cultural heritage and had failed to ensure that its agents provide equal treatment to female housing applicants. Kell noted, in particular, Canada’s failure to prevent and remedy the fraudulent removal of her name from the Assignment of Lease and the failure to ensure that its agents afford women and men equal rights in respect of ownership, acquisition, management, administration and enjoyment of property.DV, sexual abuse