LEGAL AID SERVICES ACT, 1998

Q&A with the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations', FMTA, Chair, Barb Hurd, and Henk Mulder, at the public hearings, Tuesday, November 17, 1998

For the full and extremely lengthy Hansard Transcript click here


The Vice-Chair (of the hearings): We have approximately two and a half minutes per side. We will start with the government.


Mr Martiniuk (Progressive Conservative): I want to ask a question that's not related -- well, I guess it is. There has been a substantial change in the venue for landlord and tenant disputes, from the courts to a tribunal. How has that impacted on the demand and the time on your organization?


Mr Mulder (Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations' Vice-Chair): At the moment, the tribunal as it is running is very confusing to say the least. We don't like the way the tribunal is running the show. Decisions are made that, if we would have had legal representation for our tenants, the outcome would have been completely different. So we are not in favour of the way it is run.


Ms Hurd (Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations' Chair): I agree that the reports we are getting back from our staff is that tenants are having quite a difficult time there. I guess there really isn't enough expertise, knowledge, familiarity and access to legal services available to all tenants. Possibly some of the lowest-income tenants might be able to get one of the legal clinics to assist. But if you're of a certain income, you're basically on your own unless you can afford a private sector lawyer.


Ms Castrilli (Liberal): I'm a little surprised by your presentation, and I'm particularly surprised in light of the response you just gave, that the tribunals aren't really working that well and that one of the things you need is legal assistance.

What, in this legislation, makes you think it's going to get better? I'm not clear on what you have told me. What I see is a system that says: "We're freezing monies to clinics for three years. We're not really guaranteeing anything beyond that. We know that 84% of certificates are now issued in criminal law matters." What makes you think that tenants are going to fare any better under that system?


Ms Hurd (Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations' Chair): We're very concerned that there not be any erosion of clinic services, and this legislation seems to recognize the value of clinic services. In my mind it's separate from whether it's in a court or a tribunal, whatever body is making a decision. This legislation isn't about the body that makes decisions about tenants; it's about the body that provides funding for tenants to get assistance, whatever decision-making tribunal or court they're in front of.


Ms Castrilli (Liberal): But isn't that the issue? If we know now that there's virtually no assistance, in terms of legal aid, for tenants who want to fight these cases -- there may be other assistance, but there's certainly virtually none. We know that funds are going to be frozen. I fail to understand how you think it's going to get better. If anything, it's going to perpetuate the status quo. It's not going to make it any better for tenants.


Mr Mulder (Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations' Vice-Chair): We have had, as you heard in our brief, a very close working relationship with the Metro Tenants Legal Services. They were, as I said, a sister organization of the federation. I have been a board member of that organization for the last six years. Two years ago I was the chairperson of that board for one evening and I did such a good job that the whole board resigned because of internal strife. That is meant as a little joke, but it is really true. It was a tremendous problem and it couldn't be solved. That money was not allocated to tenants' needs after that fact.

(Typists Note: It certainly appears that on the day of becoming the Chair of the MTLS clinic and voting to wind it up and shut it down, Mr. Mulder thinks the government money going to that law clinic, should have now go to him and his group of laypeople!)


Ms Castrilli (Liberal): Pardon me for interrupting, but that's a different issue. Would you not agree with me that all the boards in the world mean nothing unless there's some money to back it up?


The Vice-Chair (of the hearings): Thank you. Mr Kormos.


Mr Kormos (NDP): Go ahead, sir. Answer.


Mr Mulder (Federation of Metro Toronto Tenants' Associations' Vice-Chair): I'm just referring to the money they used to help tenants. We are just trying to get that amount back, or part of that amount, in order to start helping the tenants again. At the moment we are discussing old money that was used for the tenants, and we are trying our utmost to get part of it back.


Mr Kormos (NDP): You're quite right. This legislation approximates -- and I say that very carefully -- approximates the McCamus recommendations. The problem is that there's nothing in this bill which provides for a minimum standard or a minimum level of provision of services. I've got to tell you that these guys could do through the back door what they wouldn't dare do through the front door. They have sole discretion over the level of funding. You can defund legal aid and all the Bill 68s in the world aren't going to maintain any level of quality services.

I don't think either opposition party disputes the effectiveness of an independent board, an independent corporation etc. You heard from refugee advocates who noted that the bill ignores the McCamus recommendation that there be ongoing provision of refugee advocacy. The bill specifically excludes refugee advocacy.

I certainly wish you well. But I wish you well under a regime that wants to rob from health care, from public education -- quite frankly, I'm convinced, from legal aid -- so they can provide a tax break to its richest citizens. That's what defunding health care and public education and, at the end of the day, legal aid is all about. I wish the tenants' association well, and I wish them well with the next government as well.




Now for the story behind the story.

The Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations Chair at the time Henk Mulder, a group of laypersons with no legal background, helped to wind up and shut down, a community legal clinic operated by lawyers and funded by Legal Aid Ontario, and it is clear that after winding it up, Mr. Mulder feels that money should have been reassigned to his group even though they were not a legal aid clinic and have no lawyers in their employ.

Is this why there were supporting the Conservative Harris government with their evisceration of the legal aid in this legislation they supported?

After supporting the Harris government hurting Legal Aid, Barbara Hurd, Chair of the FMTA, got a job with Kensington Bellwoods Legal Services, and though she had no experience nor training as a Community Legal Worker, was "grandfathered" as one, even though she had only been a Support Worker, that is a secretary. Dan McIntyre the Executive Director/Program Coordinator of the FMTA is now on the board of directors of Kensington Bellwoods Legal.




Go back to the Federation of Metro Tenants Associations Story