Category Archives: CERA Activities

Join us! Dec 10th Speakers’ Panel & Open House

On International Human Rights Day (December 10th) join us for a discussion of the importance of a human rights based approach to homelessness and housing insecurity in Canada. The CERA team will also be on site to provide information about CERA’s work on discrimination in housing in Ontario.

The evening will include:

6:00-7:30 pm : :  Welcome to CERA & Speakers’ Panel

featuring Cathy Crowe (Street Nurse), Bruce Porter (Director of the Social Rights Advocacy Centre, Co-Director of Social Rights in Canada, and CERA co-founder), and Victor Willis (Executive Director of Parkdale Activity Recreation Centre, and member of CAMH’s Board of Trustees).

7:30-8:30 pm : :  Open House & Ways to Support CERA

~ ~ Light refreshments will be provided ~ ~

RSVP online here and share on Facebook! You can also help us spread the word by downloading a copy of the invitation and sharing it with you communities: Invite – Speakers’ Series Dec 10

Photo Contest: Your Housing, Your Reality

Share your housing story, through your eyes.

CERA is collecting images about the reality of housing in Ontario. What does fair housing mean to you? What are the biggest housing-related challenges in your life?

Send us your photo, and you’ll be entered to receive a $100 gift card.

Selected photos will be included in a photo book to kick-start conversations about housing rights in Ontario.

Download the required  Submission Form – Your Housing Your Reality and email it along with your photo to katie@equalityrights.org

Submission Deadline: October 28th, 2015

Read more here 

PROJECT UPDATE! Facilitating Local Responses to Housing Discrimination

If our recent conversations with hundreds of tenants, housing seekers and professionals in the housing sector are any indication, discrimination in rental housing continues to be serious problem in communities across Ontario.

Public legal education and knowledge sharing are central to ending discrimination in housing, and CERA is grateful for funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation that has taken us to seven communities across Ontario where we have met with hundreds of Ontarians. Recently completed Housing Rights Workshops in Hamilton, Toronto, Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Ottawa, London and Windsor targeted local key priorities, and brought residents and community based advocates together to learn about CERA’s approaches to overcoming discriminatory barriers in rental housing.

Unanimously, workshop participants agreed that opportunities to learn about and discuss the Human Rights Code and related housing legislation is necessary, and that communities could benefit from more frequent workshops or local leaders that work to target housing discrimination specifically. We’re excited to start this work in year 2 of the project.

One young mother who joined us for a workshop at a Violence Against Women shelter in Toronto said she was surprised by “the fact that being pregnant cannot be a reason for being denied housing” under the law. A senior tenant who attended a workshop in Ottawa was surprised to learn that landlords cannot refuse to rent to aging tenants because they may need modifications to the unit to accommodate mobility issues. Participants in many regions were surprised to learn landlords should also not deny anyone a rental unit based on family size.

Ontarians have asked for practical resources so that they can take advocacy around housing rights into their own hands. As part of this Ontario Trillium Foundation funded initiative, we are producing a number of user-friendly resources, available soon online and in print. Together, these resources will enable Ontarians to inform themselves, their housing providers, and their communities about their rights under Ontario’s Human Rights Code.

• Want to send a clear message to a landlord about discriminatory practices? Use one of these printer-friendly postcards. More postcards are coming soon:

• Want to share information about your housing rights with your friends or family? Our forthcoming tool kit will be available for download on our website soon, or you can request your hard copy by emailing cera@equalityrights.org.

In the meantime, check out our other useful resources.

WHAT’S NEXT?

The second phase of this project, starting this summer, will see us re-connecting with our partners and workshop participants to develop community-led outreach initiatives that will continue to combat housing discrimination in each community.

Thank you to our supporting partners who helped to spread the word about CERA’s work. We look forward to working with you in the year ahead.

Age Friendly London Network
CMHA Sudbury Manitoulin
Housing Help Hamilton
Kinna-aweya Legal Clinic
Voices Against Poverty
and numerous shelters, drop-ins and community organizations in Ottawa and Toronto

Special thank you to our funder, the Ontario Trillium Foundation, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

Project Update

“There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” – Audre Lorde

In 2012, CERA worked with local partners in Hamilton, London, Ottawa, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, and Windsor to identify emerging priorities and experiences with housing discrimination. The following arose as key priorities:

• Aging and related changing needs
• Fleeing domestic violence
• Being new to Canada
• Being a visible minority
• Being Inuit, First Nations or Metis
• Having mental health issues

This spring, CERA is excited to be rolling out housing rights workshops targeting these locally identified issues in communities across Ontario. With the support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation, in the coming weeks we will be re-visiting six communities outside Toronto to work with residents and service providers on identifying and responding to discrimination in rental housing. Our goal is to address these overlapping challenges in locally responsive ways, building capacity among front-line workers and residents to combat discriminatory barriers in housing.

Workshops have already started here in Toronto, where we are partnering with VAW shelters and related programs to work with women who have faced or are fleeing domestic violence.

This round of workshops will inform toolkits for tenants and housing seekers who are facing discrimination by landlords, as well as myth-busting tools for landlords. We’ll be sharing these tools early this summer. Stay tuned for updates!

If you are interested in learning more or finding out if an upcoming workshop in your area is a good fit for you, please contact us at 1-800-263-1139 Ext 3.

We look forward to rolling out these workshops with our local partners, including:

Age Friendly London Network
CMHA Sudbury Manitoulin
Housing Help Hamilton
Kinnewaya Legal Clinic
Voices Against Poverty
and numerous shelters and drop-ins in Ottawa and Toronto

Prospective tenant awarded $10,000 for landlord’s discriminatory treatment

A young woman was denied an apartment because she was under the age of 18, something that is illegal under Ontario’s Human Rights Code. The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario found Havcare Investments and Ms. Carolyn Goodman had violated the Code, fabricated evidence and attempted to get a witness to lie on the stand.

Recognizing the young woman’s particular vulnerability the Tribunal anonymized her name, noting that she “had been a Crown ward since she was 13 years old, was homeless, and was still in high school. Furthermore, she was dealing with significant personal issues, including a pregnancy.”

The Tribunal awarded the young woman $10,000 in damages for the discrimination and ordered the landlord to hire an expert to develop a human rights policy and train staff.

“This is a significant decision,” said Megan Evans Maxwell, AB’s lawyer who acted for the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA) and is now counsel at the Human Rights Legal Support Centre.  “This young woman had support and was determined to make a difference to other peoples’ lives so she stuck with it,” continued Evans Maxwell.

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario found that Ms. Goodman (also known as Ms. Linton and/or Krebs) had “attempted to influence a witness, Ms. St. John, to deny that the applicant had been denied the unit on the basis of her age.” The Tribunal also concluded that the landlord’s insistence the unit had been rented to another tenant was “fabricated evidence regarding the purported tenant.”

“Housing decisions from the Tribunal are rare,” said Theresa Thornton, Executive Director of CERA. “Most people walk away from the discrimination, desperate to secure a place to live,” continued Thornton.

CERA is the only organization in Canada dedicated to promoting human rights in housing and ending housing discrimination.

The Human Rights Legal Support Centre offers free legal services to individuals throughout Ontario who have experienced discrimination contrary to Ontario’s Human Rights Code.

For more information or to arrange interviews:

Theresa Thornton, Executive Director, CERA 416-944-0087 ext.2

Jennifer Ramsay, Human Rights Legal Support Centre 416-597-4958 or 416-522-5931 (mobile)

 

Download this press release: here.

What can we do about housing discrimination?

Over the past few months, CERA, the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario and COSTI Immigrant Services have been holding housing rights workshops for front line workers that provide housing assistance for recent immigrants and refugees.

We provided a session in Ottawa in October, Toronto in November and London in December. We’ll be holding our fourth and final session in Windsor later this month.

I’m responsible for the segment dealing with housing and the Human Rights Code and, invariably, I’ll see many people nodding their heads during the discussion of the different types of discrimination. Being refused an apartment because your income is “too low”, you have no Canadian credit or references or you have “too many” children, or being required to pay six or twelve months rent in advance is old news for these community workers. It’s what many of their clients experience when applying for an apartment.

Shortly after I see the heads nodding, a hand goes up. The participant asks, “What can we do?”

This is the most difficult question I have to deal with in any workshop. It’s easy to describe the law. The challenging part is making it work for vulnerable households.

Ontario has a human rights enforcement system, but the vast majority of people experiencing housing discrimination do not access it. Many are not aware of their legal rights or the mechanism for enforcing them. Those that are frequently don’t have the resources or time to file a formal human rights application and take it through the Tribunal process – a process which will, in any event, not get them the apartment they were denied. The proof is in the numbers: despite evidence of widespread housing discrimination, housing cases make up less than 6% of all human rights applications filed with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

In most cases, a person who experiences housing discrimination will just move on to the next apartment ad, try again and, often, be refused again.

During my workshop, I tell these community workers that they or their clients can call CERA and we will advocate with the landlord. The reality, however, is that CERA is a very small organization and we receive no funding to provide human rights advocacy services (we’ve only received dribs and drabs since 1995). Our services are provided almost entirely by volunteers and this limits what we can do.

I can also tell them to contact the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, but in most cases the intake process at the HRLSC is too long for any advocacy to start before the apartment has been rented. And few community legal clinics provide direct advocacy services related to housing discrimination.

Even if a person can access advocacy services, will anyone follow-up with the landlord to ensure the discrimination doesn’t happen in the future? No.

To effectively tackle housing discrimination, Ontario needs an enforcement process that recognizes the importance of early intervention and monitoring – where housing providers are monitored for compliance with the law and where community and legal workers can be ready to advocate with landlords immediately after discrimination has occurred. A system that focuses entirely on formal complaints, as ours does, will be needlessly expensive and will not respond to the needs of the thousands of recent immigrants and refugees, Aboriginal People and members of racialized communities, youth, people with disabilities, lone parent families, people living on low incomes and other disadvantaged individuals and families who experience housing discrimination.

It will not respond to the needs of Ontario’s most vulnerable residents – because that is who experiences rental housing discrimination.