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So Much for Good Laws

16 May 2012

Many reforms (or, if you will, good laws) have been enacted to make life under capitalism a bit better off for the working class. To a considerable extent this is a sham. Such laws can later be abolished, diluted, not monitored, ignored by the government, and, in the following examples, ignored by those whose interests they clash with.

In The Toronto Star (Jan 30, 2012), reporter Nicholas Keung, who previously wrote an article about how unscrupulous employers take advantage of immigrants who are ignorant of the laws and languages of Canada, wrote something similar about landlords and tenants.

The Ontario Residential Tenancies Act is feebly enforced, has loopholes, and is not made known to immigrants who are frequently taken advantage of. Some are asked by landlords to pay a full year's rent up front because they have no credit history in Canada. One such person, Rafiqul Islam, a financial manager from Bangladesh, and his wife, lived with relatives for six months after coming to Canada in 2010. They were asked by four landlords for a full year's rent but they refused to pay. Eventually they gave in and paid $8 600 in advance for a bachelor apartment in Mississauga. Iranian immigrant, Shahrzad Zofan, paid $6 000 to secure an apartment after being turned down by a dozen landlords. According to Zofan, "We were tired and desperate. We just wanted to settle down and move out of our friend's home as soon as possible. I understand it was not fair for us to pay in advance but we had no other option. We needed a place to live."

The question neither Mr. Keung, nor anyone else interviewed, asked was, "What if a newly arrived immigrant or anyone else doesn't have the money to pay for exorbitant rent in advance?' If one is newly arrived and has no job, surely he/she would need money for food and fares until a job be secured.

The Federation of Metro Tenants' Association exists to prevent people like Islam and Zofan from being harmed but according to Geordie Dent of the Federation, " The biggest problem is by the time we hear about it, the tenant has already paid and moved in and they do not want to make waves and risk losing their apartment."

The Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation holds clinics at immigration service agencies to explain tenants' rights and has to continue to do so. Director John Fraser said, " Immigrants being asked to pay a substantial rent deposit is the norm." Jennifer Ramsay of the Ontario Human Rights Support Centre said, "Being asked to pay extra deposits is among the most common of immigrant complaints."

It takes ninety days to resolve a rent dispute in Ontario, a result of the backlog at the Landlord and Tenant Board. Obviously this process is difficult, time consuming, and expensive for the tenant.

To review the remedies, the above mentioned officials suggest:

What is significant is what our three experts do not suggest - the abolition of landlords and tenants. There is an act of parliament supposedly designed to protect tenants whether immigrant or not, whether English-speaking or not. There are organizations existing to help tenants of all kinds and still this abuse of human rights, legal and moral, continues. There is, however, an act of parliament that will end the above problems in one fell stroke. The Act that a majority of socialist deputies will pass, once elected, the act to abolish capitalism and private property.

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