Paralegal

Agencies allowed to reject tenants evicted for crimes

Canadian PressTHE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO — Ontario will allow community housing providers to reject tenants who have previously been evicted for criminal activity.

Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark says the government is moving ahead today with a promise it made earlier this year to make community housing safer for all tenants.

Clark says if a tenant gets evicted for such illegal activities as drug trafficking, assault or damaging property, under the old rules, they could reapply to live in the same building.

Starting this week, social housing managers across the province can now turn those people away if they reapply.

In an interview with AdvocateDaily.com, Ottawa paralegal Amri Murray applauds the government’s “underlying objective” of keeping communities safe.

“However, these efforts must be balanced against upholding the dignity of previously convicted offenders, and further safeguarding their right to affordable housing,” says Murray, principal of AJ Murray Legal Services.

The government’s actions could make it increasingly difficult for “rehabilitated previous offenders” to find a home and reintegrate into society, she says.

“On the face of it, the change screams discrimination, but it’s not one which is protected under the Human Rights Code of Ontario. The Code says a person cannot be discriminated against because of their record of offences — but that only applies to employment.”

Murray says it’s important to remember that not all those previously convicted will continue to commit crimes.

“If the changes are indeed being instituted to create more housing and combat homelessness, then providing a safer community will need to be balanced against a potential homeless issue for those looking to reintegrate into society following a conviction,” she says.

Reintegration is already difficult enough for reformed criminals, Murray says, “and we need to ensure we do not make it more difficult.”

Toronto Mayor John Tory has been pushing for the change and says it sends a message that criminals are not welcome in community housing.

The measure is part of a new strategy the province announced earlier this year to help create more housing and combat homelessness.

— with files from AdvocateDaily.com

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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