SUBMITTED BY BOB WOOD
A big part of the clinic’s practice is in the area of tenant rights.
For nearly two years we worked with very vulnerable tenants who had arrived from war-torn Syria.
In one case, members of our Housing team represented 2 families, totalling almost 60 people. The story was reported in the Spectator, the International edition of the Guardian and the Toronto Star.
Our clients, sponsored by the federal government under the Syrian refugee resettlement program, were initially housed in a Toronto hotel when they arrived in Canada.
Problems with bedbugs began soon after they moved into 221 Melvin Ave. Bedbugs are rare in Syria, but present a huge problem in some Hamilton apartments.
“They didn’t know what these pests were. Obviously, it was traumatic for them,” staff lawyer Ali Naraghi, told the Guardian.
Bug bites resulted in itchy red bumps and painful blisters. Government supplied mattresses, sheets, clothing and furniture was discarded.
Complaints to the landlord and the Management Company and treatments for the pests didn’t resolve the problems.
So, the Syrian tenants moved out of the high-rise before their leases expired seeking $63,666 in compensation for the losses and a partial refund of rent paid during the infestation.
Then Melvin Apartments Inc. sued the 12 tenant families in small claims court for rental arrears for the months remaining on their leases and for repairs.
In May, just before a scheduled hearing at the Landlord and Tenant Board, a settlement was reached. Tenants were pleased with this victory.
Naraghi told the Spectator that the Director of Melvin apartments had “expressed his desire for the refugees to feel at home in Canada and to feel that they have been treated fairly.”
Homelessness Film Festival
We’ve been working with members of the Coalition of Residential Care Facilities Tenants and the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction to put together a film about tenants who live in such facilities. The film will be shown as part of the Canadian Homeless Film Festival coming up soon in Hamilton.
The Festival will feature original shorts by people with lived experience of homelessness and by frontline workers. The event aims to raise awareness and inspire action in the face of homelessness in Canada. Youth homelessness, Indigenous displacement, immigration, art and the opioid crisis are just a few themes. Films are coming in from all over Canada. There’ll be critically-acclaimed features and a panel discussion with the audience each night.
The 2-day film festival runs at the Lincoln Alexander Centre on Sunday November 4th (5pm) and Tuesday November 6th (6pm). Tickets are available from the sponsoring organization, Core Collaborative Learning/ Good Shepherd Hamilton at www.goodshepherdcentres.ca/events
Bob Wood is a Community Worker at Hamilton Community Legal Clinic.