2013 Villain: IKEA Monkey Lady Yasmin Nakhuda
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2013 Villain: IKEA Monkey Lady Yasmin Nakhuda

Nominated for: wanting her monkey back.

Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains: the very best and very worst people, places, things, and ideas that have had an influence on the city over the past 12 months. Cast your ballot until 2 p.m. on January 1. At 4 p.m. we will reveal your choices for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.

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Let’s begin by conceding that we have all, at some point in our lives, probably fantasized about having a pet monkey. But then you know what happens to most of us? We grow up, learn a thing or two about monkeys, and realize that they are not supposed to be domesticated animals.

Last December Toronto was introduced to Darwin, a Japanese macaque photographed in a shearling coat and diaper while wandering around a Toronto IKEA store. His owner, Yasmin Nakhuda, first said that she had received Darwin as a gift six months earlier, before amending her story and admitting to having purchased him for a tidy sum. She also repeatedly maintained that this was not just a monkey to her, but someone with whom she had become so close that she now regarded him as her son (she has two other human sons). And then after signing a form to surrender Darwin to Toronto Animal Services, the corporate and commercial real estate lawyer Nakhuda unconvincingly complained that she did not understand the document that had been placed before her and took the fight to reclaim him to the courts.

After an ugly legal dispute in which assorted allegations of abuse were made and then dropped, Superior Court Justice Mary Vallee found in September that “the monkey is not a child. Callous as it may seem, the monkey is a chattel, that is to say, a piece of property.” She ruled that Nakhuda had lost possession of him when he left her car that fateful day and that Darwin should remain at the sanctuary where he’d been moved to, and where he now continues to make steady progress in learning how to be a monkey again.

Nakhuda has filed an appeal of the ruling.

By forcing Darwin to conform to her own myopic desire to dress him up in clothes and treat him as if he were a person rather than a primate, and by continuing to fight this case when he has clear options for a better life elsewhere, Nakhuda continues to display the kind of petulant behaviour typically found in children who simply don’t know any better. Perhaps she will one day realize a sad truth that many of those children manage to learn much earlier in life: wanting a monkey really badly and knowing that you will love him with all of your heart doesn’t, and shouldn’t, make that monkey yours.