Tag Archives: Rental criteria

Kijiji – stop promoting housing discrimination

Over the past few weeks, CERA volunteers have been scanning rental housing ads in Kijij to pro-actively reach out and provide human rights education to landlords who might be violating the Code.

The volunteers have been busy.

They have found dozens of ads – some blatantly discriminatory, others which may not explicitly discriminate, but which are still problematic.

Some of the more obvious examples:

“Require…permanent employment.”

“No children”

“Suitable for mature, working individual”

“Basement apartment for couple/employee”

“You must have a steady full time job”

“Applicants over 40 years old only”

“Professionals only please”

“No government assistance of any kind”

Other ads were less obvious, but still communicated to young people, people receiving social assistance, families with children and other groups protected under the Code that they are either not welcome and will not be treated equally if they choose to apply:

“A professional single or couple welcome!”

“Perfect for couple and young professionals”

“Best place for a single working person”

“Ideal for senior person or couple”

“Perfect for a retired couple”

Unlike rental ads in Viewit.ca, Renters News and most large newspapers, ads in Kijiji and other online “want ads” such as Craigslist, are not screened. As a result, exclusionary wording is common-place. While both Kijiji and Craigslist have mechanisms for reporting problematic ads, they do not make it clear to posters that they must abide by the Human Rights Code.

Kijiji and other free online classifieds need to start being pro-active in promoting human rights and removing discriminatory ads. There are many options they investigate – directly monitoring and removing ads, posting information on the Code, or adding discrimination as a reason for reporting an ad.

It’s time Kijiji and other online classifieds realized that they can play a significant role in promoting housing equality – or inequality.

Discrimination and Newcomers to Canada

I regularly facilitate human rights workshops for Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) classes – and each time I’m shocked by what I hear.

In almost every class, a large proportion of the students report having experienced multiple forms of discrimination in their search for housing:

Refused because because you cannot meet a minimum income cut-off? Check. Refused because you have no Canadian credit or references? Check. Required to pay six months rent in advance? Check. Required to provide a co-signor or guarantor because you are new to the country? Check. Denied because you don’t yet have a job? Check. Refused because of the number of children in your family? Check.

Many of these students hit a wall of discriminatory barriers when they first arrived in the country. And this was on top of the fact that there are few affordable housing options. Nothing could have prepared them for this introduction to Canada.

Canadians talk about how they value diversity, that it is something that defines this country. Governments rely heavily on immigration to keep the economy and tax base healthy and they lure people with promises . But when newcomers arrive, they are abandoned to a rental housing market that is unaffordable and often inaccessible.

As a result, new Canadians are often forced to double-up for extended periods with friends and relatives, eat away at their savings in expensive short-term accommodation, or even resort to shelters.

When are governments in Canada going to figure out that ensuring access to good, affordable housing has to be an integral part of Canadian and provincial/territorial immigration policies?

Keeping people out – the G20 and beyond

It’s hard not to be thinking about the G-20 and all that has happened in Toronto this past weekend.  In particular, the five metre rule, allowing police to search and demand identification from anyone moving too close the security perimeter.  Police admit now that there never was such a rule but they enforced it anyway as the Chief of Police Bill Blair said:  “…to keep the criminals out.”  It seems the powers that be thought it was their right to enforce an illegal law.  The public wants to know why this was allowed to happen and along with international human rights groups are calling for an independent inquiry.

Enforcing illegal policies is something we see many landlords doing in Toronto – and across Ontario.  Prospective tenants applying for apartments are told things like:  “You must be working”; “You must have Canadian references and credit”; “We don’t want children”; “You must not be paying more than 30% of your income on rent”; “You’re too young”; and the list goes on.   Even though such policies are illegal under Ontario’s Human Rights Code, some landlords believe they have the right to create and enforce them – to keep certain “types” of people out.  As housing advocates, our job is to challenge these policies and constantly remind tenants and landlords that the Human Rights Code is the most important law in the province. 

We all have the right to protest at the G20 in full view of the Heads of State present for the meetings.  And we all have the right to access housing.  Illegal laws and policies that violate these rights must not be tolerated.