Steve Thomas has lived in his Dartmouth, N.S., apartment building owned by Killiam Properties since last summer.
He says he has endured racial harassment from tenants in his building, after he made a phone call to police on Sept. 8, 2023 reporting excessive noise coming from their unit.
“They had a big party there and I called the police a couple of times, and they showed up,” says Thomas.
Since then, the 66-year-old who is Black says he has been threatened, called racial slurs and says he even found a note left on his car.
“It said, ‘Get out you N-word’ on it in big letters and I thought it was just kids trying to sell cookies or somebody advertising,” says Thomas.
“I’ve lived in many apartments. I’ve never, ever experienced anything like this.”
Longing for help
Thomas says for months he has reached out to his property management company, Halifax Regional Police and several other people for help.
He says he’s spoken to representatives for Killiam about his concerns, but did not feel the company adequately dealt with them.
“I spoke to a couple of the managers and I got no words with them,” he says.
With the help of a social worker, he says he was able to have his short-term lease extended for another three months.
“I would have been as of Jan. 31 … living in a tent on the street.”
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Thomas says he believes none of this would have escalated this far had Killiam handled it properly.
He says on different occasions, including when he called police for a second time to report another noise complaint, he took the opportunity to inform Halifax Regional Police officers about his experiences with racism.
“I told the constable who was just here on Tuesday … this young constable … that was the biggest thing that I talked about was the racial remarks. And I said, ‘Make sure you talk to them about it.’”
Thomas says despite taking his claims to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, and conversations he says he had with the Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs Twila Grosse, and Nova Scotia Liberal Leader Zach Churchill, doubt started to creep in about whether or not he would actually receive help.
“I’m a decent person, former business owner, respectable person. Don’t drink, don’t smoke, no drugs, no criminal record,” he says.
“They look at me as somebody who’s making things up and that. And even when the police showed up, I even volunteered to go to their station to take a lie detector test to prove that I’m telling the truth.”
HRP AND PROPERTY OWNER RESPONSE
Global News reached out to both Killiam Properties and Halifax Regional Police for comment about Thomas’ claims.
On Thursday, Ruth Buckle, the senior vice-president with Killiam Properties, says “the police have responded to the resident as well and have not found or provided any evidence to support the resident’s claims” in a statement.
When asked whether they could confirm Thomas informed them about his claims of racism, Buckle says, “in the interest of our resident’s privacy, we will not share details of communications with our residents. That said, we assure you that we investigate and take appropriate action for any concern brought to us by any of our residents.”
However, on Friday afternoon, in another statement, Buckle says, “while Killam respects the privacy of any and all tenant concerns, our company has zero tolerance against racism, we condemn racism in all its forms and investigate each and every allegation to determine whether there is evidence to support any claim.”
Thomas says he did not receive an apology from management about his concerns.
Global News also reached out to Halifax Regional Police on Thursday.
Const. John MacLeod, Halifax Regional Police’s public information officer, confirmed they did respond to reports of noise complaints, however MacLeod says they have no records of Thomas’ racial harassment claims.
Thomas says he has no idea why police would not have records of his claims, and says he is disappointed by that.
“I don’t feel too good about it. I mean, I’m the victim here,” says Thomas.
“I called the police. They showed up to the party. That was proof enough right there. And they even told me back then that … ‘You’re probably going to have lots of problems.’ And they were right.”
A TURN OF EVENTS
Shortly after Global News’ interview with Thomas on Thursday, a police officer showed up at his residence.
Thomas says the officer was looking to speak with him.
“He acknowledged it and he said he was going to talk to them specifically, mainly about that. And, he said this should have been addressed long ago,” says Thomas.
He says the officer also spoke with the tenants accused and advised Thomas to obtain a peace bond.
“I finally found somebody who probably realizes why we’re doing this and why we’re here, why they came so many times,” Thomas says.
“It’s a good feeling.”
On Friday, Global News received a statement from Halifax Regional Police about Thomas’ interaction with the officer. Const. MacLeod says, “during their interaction with (Thomas), officers made note and subsequently documented information provided to them in relation to racial comments that (Thomas) believes were said. The information provided to the officers was not of a nature that would lead to criminal charges, but will be retained for information purposes should it be required in the future.”
Thomas says he feels somewhat vindicated following his conversation with police, but admits he still fears for his safety.
“I’d like to find a nice place where I can live in peace and comfortable that I can afford. That’s my biggest wish right now,” he says.
“I mean, I just don’t want to keep living here if nothing is being done. You know, how much more can a person take?”