Nazuri Awale has lived at the Avalon Coop at Cumberland Place and 16th Avenue for the past decade, and it hasn't always been easy.
Along with her four young children and husband, the East African Somali Muslim woman has tried to integrate into Canadian culture and get along with her neighbours, but that hasn't always gone well.
On Sept. 26, Awale came home from picking up her kds at school and said she found a note slipped between her screen door and front door. The note, which looks like graffiti and is done in reddish-orange ink, says "We hate nigers Move the f*** out."
An angry and scared Awale called the police, lodging a complaint and creating a file for the police to follow up on.
"It was very hard for my daughter because she didn't know what that word meant," said Awale. "I had to explain to her that it was not a proper word."
But the problems didn't start with that September note, as Awale's concerns go back several years.
Awale has sent numerous letters to her co-op and to other associations she believes are affiliated with her co-op.
In an April email that Awale forwarded to the Burnaby NOW, she set out her concerns.
"My children have experienced racial comments for some time now, one particular event took place on June 7, 2011 ... regarding racial comments addressed to my daughter, then nine years of age, now 10 years old, who felt humiliated and refused to play (in) the complex for some time (and) she became very sad and emotionally hurt."
Awale also alleges that her seven-year-old son was subjected to similar racial comments in March 2012 while at school.
"My son has been very emotionally damaged and hurt," Awale states in her letter as she outlines how another child told her child that they shouldn't play together.
Geoffrey Dabbs, a lawyer with Gehlen, Dabbs Lawyers in downtown Vancouver, is the spokesperson for the co-op and its board.
Dabbs said the board has taken Awale's concerns seriously, but it doesn't appear that Awale's claim is against the co-op as a collective entity.
Dabbs explained that when Awale first wrote about her concerns earlier this year, the board talked to all the parties and differing stories came out.
After this September's incident, the board also looked into the matter, but there was no evidence of who may have left the note on Awale's door.
The co-op board did send out a letter to all residents on Oct. 4 stating the co-op is committed to a culture of diversity and the note that was left on Awale's door was unacceptable.
But without proof of who may have left that note, the co-op could go no further, said Dabbs.
Awale also addressed her email to Sue Moorhead, education director for the Cooperative Housing Federation of British Columbia.
Moorhead responded, via email: "I am sorry to learn of the difficulties you are experiencing in your co-op.
"CHF B.C. is your co-op's federation. We provide a variety of services to co-ops and we work to help co-ops when problems come up. But co-ops govern themselves. When an individual member has a problem, the way to get a resolution is to appeal to your elected board. Ideally, your co-op will be able to work together to resolve problems.
"This is why we recommend you write a letter to your co-op board of directors about your concerns.
"CHF B.C. is unable to assist or intervene in co-op issues or disputes except at the invitation of the co-op's board of directors. We would be pleased to respond to a request from your board to assist in this matter, such as providing a mediator. If you think that would be helpful, you can suggest that to the directors."
Awale remains frustrated with how the situation has escalated.
"I felt unsupported and neglected and this matter has affected our family," Awale said in an email to the Burnaby NOW. "This community should be (a) loving and happy community, not a community distinguished and separated by color."
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