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Dear Urban Diplomat: My aunt left me some valuable self-portraits in her will. Can I sell them?

My aunt, a relatively well-known artist, passed away earlier this year and left me a few of her self-portraits. Apparently, they’re worth quite a bit, but I never really loved her work and I can’t imagine hanging them in my apartment. When I told my sister I was thinking of selling the paintings, she said I should give them to her to keep in the family. Am I wrong to sell them without telling anyone? —Phyllis Steen, Trinity-Bellwoods

Ultimately, you can do whatever you want with the paintings—they’re yours. But when your aunt left them behind, she probably took comfort in thinking her work would stay in the family for generations to come. Also, since your sister already knows you’re trying to sell the paintings, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to hawk them on eBay without her finding out. Tell your sister you need the money and she might even offer to buy the pieces. After giving your family first right of refusal, you have my blessing to sell to the highest bidder.


Dear Urban Diplomat, My workplace recently became dog friendly. At first, it was fine—one person brought their small, elderly shih tzu into the office. But lately, my manager has been bringing in his giant mastiff named Henry. Recently, I came back from the washroom to find Henry chowing down on the piece of pizza I’d left on my desk after lunch. The weird thing is that everyone else in the office seems to love Henry. Is there any way to broach this with my boss without hurting my chances of a promotion? —Dog Tired, Liberty Village

Never underestimate a dog owner’s blind love for their BFF. Your boss won’t want to hear about Henry’s shortcomings, and from the sounds of it, your co-workers have no plans to pipe up about Henry’s flaws. Since you don’t want to be the person who impeaches the office pooch, your only play is to wait for the right opening and, in casual conversation, half-jokingly tell your boss about the time Henry scarfed down your slice of pie. Hopefully your boss takes the hint and leaves Henry at home.


Dear Urban Diplomat, A couple of weeks ago, I had an intense interview for a legal secretary job at a law firm. The interviewer said my qualifications were strong and he seemed receptive to a few of my ideas. But toward the end, he asked some very personal questions. He wanted to know my favourite restaurant, if I was married, and if I planned to have children. The last question made me super uncomfortable, so I politely declined to respond. I recently found out they picked another candidate, and I can’t help but wonder if I hurt my chances by refusing to answer his questions. Is there anything I can do? —Cross-Examined, Moss Park

Not only were those questions awkward, at least one of them was a gross violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code. Unless having children could reasonably affect a core job requirement, interviewers aren’t allowed to ask whether candidates have—or plan to have—families. Since you’re vying for a secretarial position, your procreation plans are not relevant. Feel free to contact the company’s HR department to complain—or let the Ontario Human Rights Commission know that this workplace is flouting the law.


Dear Urban Diplomat, My eight-year-old daughter goes to an ethnically diverse elementary school in our neighbourhood. A few of her friends wear hijabs, and she recently asked if she could have one, too. How do I say no without destroying her natural sense of curiosity about other cultures? —Home Schooling, East York

Revel in this teachable moment. Tell your daughter that her friends’ hijabs are not a fashion statement—they’re a religious symbol for many Muslim women around the world—and respecting that meaning is another way for her to bond with her friends.

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Dear Urban Diplomat, I’ve been renting out my condo to a couple for the past year. They’re very kind and always pay rent on time. But the other day, I stopped by to make some repairs and I noticed the place is an absolute mess. There was food rotting in the fridge, piles of clothing in the living area and old newspapers scattered across the kitchen. I think they’re hoarders. Even worse, they’ve been complaining about broken appliances, and I suspect their bad cleaning habits are contributing to the problem. I would rather have tidy tenants. What are my options? —Cleaning House, Christie Pits

Unless you’re prepared to sic Marie Kondo on your tenants, there’s no quick fix to this (or their) mess. If you’re worried the couple is causing serious damage to your place, or that their pack-rat tendencies are posing a fire hazard, contact the Landlord and Tenant Board and ask for an adjudicator. This third party will do a full investigation of the situation before deciding whether it’s you who needs to chill or your tenants who need to purge the apartment of excess stuff.

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