Concerned the Ontario government will speed up eviction process

It is very concerning that the Ontario government is exploring ways to remove protections for tenants during the eviction process. If measures to speed up the eviction process are implemented, and the process by which tenants are physically removed from their units is deregulated, it is Ontario’s most vulnerable residents who will be affected.

Most tenants that CERA hears from are facing eviction for financial reasons that are often beyond their control, whether it be a job loss or unforeseen expenses such as the death of a loved one. These Ontarians want to pay their rent and are willing to do everything in their power to get back on track. Speeding up the eviction process takes away their ability to do so., And allowing landlords to hire independent agents to turn people onto the street will only lead to increased rates of homelessness and housing insecurity across Ontario.

In a province where we know that some landlords are taking every opportunity to try to evict long-term tenants in order to raise rents in their buildings, the government should not be making it easier to remove Ontarians from their homes. If the proposed changes are implemented, those who will feel the effects most are our most vulnerable: low income Ontarians, newcomers, seniors, and youth.

CERA is adamantly opposed to the government taking these steps, which will substantially exacerbate housing insecurity for vulnerable tenants and negatively contribute to our current homelessness crisis.

Read this article for more information

Welcoming new staff!

CERA is very pleased to announce the addition of three talented new staff members to our team! We are excited to be building the organization, and look forward to working with Erin, Janice, and Rozeta to continue advocating for improved housing conditions and the promotion of human rights across Ontario.

Rozeta Aleksov, Program Manager – Youth Housing Rights | Rozeta started her social engagement as a peace builder, youth and women’s rights activist in Serbia. Wanting to maximize the impact of her actions, in 2006 she joined the National Association of Local Authorities, where she was advocating for gender equity and a human rights-based approach in a broad range of policies and services. At the same time, she facilitated networking and collaboration on the national and European level. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Public Administration, Local Governance and Public Policies, from the University of Belgrade. She is passionate about achieving social justice through transforming mindsets and organizations, and navigating systemic change while empowering people, especially equity seeking groups.

Janice Campbell, Program Manager – Women’s Housing Rights | Janice supports CERA’s ongoing and dynamic work regarding Women’s Housing Rights. She brings education, communities of practice, business optimization, a thorough understanding of contemporary housing systems, subject matter expertise from a social housing delivery perspective, as well as experience working with local, provincial and federal governments, Indigenous peoples and First Nations partners. Janice enjoys working with diverse community stakeholders and looks forward to continuing her work in the housing sector, as informed by her LGBTQ2 lived experience and from her social-justice seeking feminist lens, by contributing to CERA’s mission and working towards a community-driven, government-supported, human rights-based platform of equality while offering innovative and “about time” solutions to some of our most complex social challenges that will improve housing outcomes for all people.

Erin Walker, Case Worker and Project Coordinator | Erin has an undergraduate degree in History from the University of Western Ontario, a Child and Youth Work diploma from Humber College, and a Masters of Child Study and Education from Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. She is a member of the Ontario College of Teachers and the Ontario Association of Child and Youth Care. Erin comes to CERA with 10 years of experience in the youth homelessness sector and the strong belief that stable, affordable housing is a human right that all marginalized populations should be able to access.

Statement on Human Rights Day

Safe, stable and adequate housing is a prime determinant of well-being, health, longevity and economic stability. It is also a fundamental human right.

Too often, governments fail to uphold their responsibility to ensure access to safe, stable and adequate housing. Too often, housing providers fail to understand their responsibility to provide housing in a manner that is not discriminatory and to appreciate the fact that, while often operating as businesses, they are in the business of providing a necessity of life to people. Too often, the public turns a blind eye to this important yet complex issue, often blaming homelessness on people experiencing its effects.

On this Human Rights Day and the 70thAnniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, CERA stands proud in its defense of human rights in housing and the human right to housing.

Today is Giving Tuesday, and there are many reasons to give to CERA

Did you know that less than 5% of CERA’s annual budget comes from donations? 

In 2018, we:

  • provided free legal information and advocacy supports to over 1300Ontario renters facing eviction or discrimination
  • delivered over 70 education workshops in eight Ontario communities, and continued to develop our unique and responsive plain-language resources for renters
  • established 17+ new formal partnerships with allies to expand our impact across Ontario
  • participated in numerous consultations, including for Canada’s National Housing Strategy and the United Nations Universal Periodic Review of Canada

Almost all of our funding is tied directly to our project work, which allows us to engage in meaningful initiatives dedicated to improving equity in housing, but it also means that we have very little space to respond to urgent or emerging situations on the ground.

As 2018 comes to an end, we are turning to you for help to increase our capacity to respond quickly to emerging priorities and key issues in human rights in housing in the year ahead. Your donation will support responsive legal actions, public advocacy, research and policy development in 2019 – the important, time sensitive work that our project funding doesn’t cover.

Can you commit to defending equality in rental housing in Ontario with a donation of $20, $100, or $250 – or any amount meaningful to you?

Thank you for your generous support.

Sincerely,

Alyssa Brierley
Executive Director and General Counsel

Support CERA today!

 

Call for CERA’s Board of Directors

The Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA) was founded in 1987
as a province-wide, not-for-profit charity dedicated to promoting human rights and ending discrimination in housing. Our public education and outreach initiatives work to intervene in cycles of discrimination that disproportionately affect low-income and marginalized individuals in the housing market.

Through public education, research, law reform, casework and advocacy on behalf of clients and occasional test-case litigation, CERA works to address barriers that prevent individuals from accessing and maintaining housing. Our Housing Access, Stabilization and Eviction Prevention Hotline provides individuals with information, referrals and assistance with regard to housing matters and serves approximately 1,500 clients per year.

In addition to our casework and public education initiatives, CERA engages in community-responsive projects to support vulnerable groups in maintaining housing and realizing their human rights in housing. This includes research into housing and human rights issues and support of the enforcement of human rights by provincial, national and international commissions, agencies and organizations. CERA recognizes and advocates for the right to housing and the realization of human rights in all aspects of housing.

Our Vision

CERA envisions an Ontario where every person realizes their housing rights, is treated with dignity, and lives free from discrimination in a stable, safe and affordable home.

Our Mission

CERA advances the right to housing without discrimination. We do this by:

  1. Educating individuals and communities on the intersection between human rights and housing law;
  2. Engaging in advocacy and supporting individuals in realizing their human rights in housing; and
  3. Promoting inclusive housing law and policy.

Board of Directors Search

CERA is currently recruiting for a Treasurer of the Board, as well as up to four additional general board members willing to contribute their expertise to our dynamic team. We are particularly interested in candidates who have experience in and are willing to contribute to CERA’s fundraising efforts, financial management, strategic communications, and assisting in leveraging relationships to develop creative, sustainable partnerships.

We are seeking individuals who share our commitment to protecting human rights, equality rights and social and economic rights, including the right to adequate housing, and who are able to actively participate in regular board meetings.

If you are or know someone who with an interest in human rights and housing, with a background in any of the areas above, CERA would like to hear from you!

CERA is also interested in broadening the diversity of our Board of Directors and are excited to receive applications from individuals from equity seeking groups.

Successful candidates will:

  • Serve at least one two-year term from 2019 to 2021;
  • Attend monthly board meetings on the 1st Wednesday of every month;
  • Participate on board committees as needed;
  • Have a passion for our Mission and Vision; and
  • Have an understanding or lived experience of the communities that we serve.

To apply to the CERA Board of Directors, please email a brief statement of interest along with your resume to cera@equalityrights.org

Application Deadline: November 30, 2018

Thank you for your interest and support of our work!

CERA welcomes Alyssa Brierley as Executive Director and General Counsel

The Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA) is delighted to announce that Alyssa Brierley has joined our team as Executive Director and General Counsel as of October 2018.

Alyssa is a lawyer and public policy professional with ten years of experience in legal service, public policy, politics, human rights and research. Prior to joining CERA, Alyssa served as the health, social, justice and labour policy advisor to the President of the Treasury Board of Ontario, the Director of Policy to Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure, an advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, as a lawyer and policy analyst at the Ontario College of Teachers, and as an articling student at one of Canada’s largest law firms. She also has extensive experience in electoral politics at the local riding association level, as a candidate, campaign manager and senior political staff member. Alyssa holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Waterloo, a Master of Arts in Political Science from York University and a Juris Doctor from Osgoode Hall Law School. She is also completing a Ph.D. in Political Science at York University, in which she is investigating strategic litigation in India and the development of a right to food.

“It’s an honour to lead this incredible organization and to have the opportunity to build on CERA’s legacy of advancing human rights in housing and the right to housing,” says Brierley. “I look forward to continuing CERA’s tradition of direct service, litigation, advocacy and public education on what I believe to be the most crucial social rights issue of our time.”

CERA’s board chair Jenny Neiman is excited about Alyssa’s appointment. “Alyssa’s skills in public policy, advocacy and organizational management will be great assets to the organization as will her energy and vision.”

The Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation envisions an Ontario where every person realizes their housing rights, is treated with dignity, and lives free from discrimination in a stable, safe and affordable home. We defend housing rights and human rights by educating individuals and communities, supporting progressive and inclusive housing law and policy, and providing free legal information and informal advocacy supports to marginalized Ontarians.

For media inquiries, please contact Alyssa Brierley at alyssa[at]equalityrights.org or416-944-0087 ext 2.

 

Seeking youth artist/arts facilitator for paid opportunity!

Call for Youth Peer Artist/Arts Facilitator

The Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA) is working with five youth-serving groups across Ontario to build awareness about youth housing rights. We are seeking an artist or arts facilitator to co-develop a creative workshop and educational materials for this exciting initiative.

Are you:

  • a visual artist or arts facilitator who is interested in working with small charities on important social issues?
  • familiar with the barriers and challenges to housing that young people face?
  • able to design in collaboration with CERA’s team a 2-2.5 hour session in which 10-15 participants use visual arts to creatively express their housing experiences?
  • able to co-design educational materials for a range of audiences?
  • available to work with us between January and April, 2018?

How to apply:

Our funding includes an honorarium of $2000 for this role, which we are happy to discuss in more detail.

Please contact me if you are interested in working with us! We will be accepting applications until January 10, 2018. Please include a statement of interest and resume or link to your work. Priority will be given to someone who has experiences of housing discrimination and/or homelessness.

Contact:       assefa@equalityrights.org or 416-944-0087 ext.3

About CERA:

CERA envisions an Ontario where every person realizes their housing rights, is treated with dignity, and lives free from discrimination in a stable, safe and affordable home.

CERA defends housing rights and human rights by educating individuals and communities, advancing progressive and inclusive housing law and policy, and providing legal information and services to marginalized Ontarians.

Read more about our Youth Housing Rights Program on our website: www.equailtyrights.org/cera

Bruce Porter Reflects on CERA’s 30th Anniversary

“CERA was formed in the heyday of the equality rights movement in Canada. That’s why it has it that cumbersome name that no one can remember or say. In the 1980s in Canada, “equality rights” were in the air. Equality seeking groups began the decade by fighting for and winning a radical reframing of non-discrimination rights in the new Canadian Charter to have them renamed as “equality rights.” Section 15 of the Charter was reworded to ensure not only that laws and policies should not discriminate, but also that they would provide “equal benefit” to disadvantaged groups. People with disabilities were recognized for the first time. Following on that victory at the national level, hearings were held in 1986 at the Ontario Legislature, into a proposed “Equality Rights Statute Law Amendment Act”, intended to ensure that the Human Rights Code and other provincial legislation conformed with the new understanding of equality in s.15 of the Charter. Of course, the government had left a lot out of its draft bill. That’s when we formed the Committee for Equal Access to Apartments – the precursor of CERA, and got to work. Along with a lot of others…

Those hearings were incredibly energizing and demonstrated a new sense of collaboration and shared purpose among equality seeking groups.  The Committee for Equal Access to Apartments mobilized low income tenants from across the province  working to advocate for two amendments to the Human Rights Code to address prominent systemic issues in housing at that time.  One was to remove an exemption that allowed landlords to designate their buildings as “adult only” and exclude families with children.  This had become a convenient way for landlords to “gentrify” their apartments while low income renting families were simply left out the tight rental market.  The other was to extend protections from age discrimination in housing to include 16 and 17 year olds in need of housing.  We won on both counts, but only after an unprecedented number of compelling submissions at Queen’s Park from low income parents, mostly women, and young people describing the effects of discrimination in housing.

Our own discrete victories, however, were part of a wave of victories in which all the different equality seeking groups collaborated. Sexual orientation was added as a prohibited ground of discrimination; protections for people with disabilities were strengthened and adverse effect discrimination was more expansively addressed.  During all of the collaborative work,  marginalized groups in housing, particularly those living in poverty, became part of the human rights movement in a new way.  It became obvious that we needed an organization to continue to promote human rights in hosing and to make hard won protections work for groups that are too often ignored.   We knew it was a daunting task, but I don’t think any of imagined that CERA would still be around three decades later.

CERA’s ideals are perhaps further from being realized now than they ever have been.  However, it is hard to imagine where we would be without CERA’s work over the last 30 years.  CERA has been a voice for the people who don’t usually get heard.   It has changed the way we think about equality in housing, raised awareness of the right to adequate housing and changed the way the international human rights system works.  It has achieved precedent setting recognition of income related discrimination, addressed eviction prevention in new and innovative ways and changed the way we think about equality and human rights in housing.  CERA changed me and so many others over the years and through all of us, informed what has been done in many other places around the world.  It has been an incubator for a more inclusive human rights movement in Canada and internationally.

For CERA to have survived for thirty years without any stable operational funding, surviving through hostile governments and times of austerity measures, is an historic accomplishment, not only for the institution, but also for the ideals for which CERA stands.   It has survived because of the dedication and commitment of staff, board, volunteers and members to a vision that has only become more relevant, more necessary,  more compelling over the course of those years.

When we opened CERA’s phone line 30 years ago, the thing we would hear from people more often than anything else was this:  “You’re the first organization that has really listened to me and taken my concerns seriously.”  CERA still does that.  The acronym of a little organization, with a cumbersome name has come to resonate for a lot of people who have felt they were heard for the first time and for a lot of human rights advocates and human rights institutions who have learned from CERA how to hear human rights claims in a new way.

“CERA”.  It has become a word in its own right, with the historic reference to the equality rights wave of 30 years ago still resonating in its identity.

CERA.   30 years old.  Imagine!  It makes me feel quite proud of all of us!!”

Bruce Porter co-founded CERA in 1987, and is currently the Executive Director of the Social Rights Advocacy Centre.

Community Art Show Raises Awareness of Discrimination Against Sex Workers

On April 7th, over 30 community members joined CERA and mural artists at All Saints Church and Community Centre to view murals created by sex workers at recent housing rights workshops in downtown Toronto. Attendees took part in discussions about housing discrimination issues, received information resources about housing discrimination, and shared a community lunch. We heard:

Making the murals “allowed me and participants to illustrate what a city of inclusion means to them.”

“Knowing your rights in empowering. “

“I will share resources with people in my community.”

Thank you to everyone who attended, to all of the mural makers, to South Riverdale Community Health Centre, Regent Park Community Health Centre, and Maggie’s Sex Workers Action Project. And a big thank you to All Saints Church for hosting us.


Out of respect for the privacy of the mural makers, we are not posting event photos online.

Thank you to the Law Foundation of Ontario for financial support of this initiative.

 

CERA releases findings from Seniors’ Eviction Prevention Initiative

Between October 2016 and February 2017, CERA gathered input from and held roundtable conversations and a community forum with senior tenants, front-line workers, and other stakeholders across the GTA.

Read our report and recommendations. We hope that our findings will lead to community-led strategies and system-wide improvements that meet the needs of vulnerable senior tenants in the GTA.

Want a hard copy mailed to you or to someone who needs to read this? Email cera@equalityrights.org or call 416-944-0087 to provide your mailing address and request a copy.

 

CERA is grateful for financial support from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, an agency of the government of Ontario.