Apparent discrimination and harassment of tenants at the Crossways apartments

This was a letter that was sent to me that I thought was worth posting. I think it speaks for itself.

To Whom It May Concern:

I thought you might be interested in our experiences with the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations back in the mid-1990s.

We lived at the Crossways 2350/60 Dundas Street West, in Toronto. Coming home one evening we learned from the police that there had been a fire and the building was without power. This happened in winter. The elevators didn't work so we had to climb all the way up to our floor to get some items and leave. The landlord / property manager wasn't there just a maintenance man with one flashlight so we had to wait our turn in a freezing cold unheated building. The building was uninhabitable for 4 days. We were offered 2 and 1/2 days rent and that was all and nothing for our lost grocery items, transportation costs to get to wherever we were going to stay and for some tenants hotel costs. In effect the landlord did nothing. We called each day and learned hydro *might* be repaired.

Rob Maxwell, our city councillor organized a meeting of tenants with a lawyer present to tell us our rights. The first letter Rob Maxwell sent to all Crossways tenants was removed from our private lobby mail boxes. We didn't receive that first letter. Rob Maxwell called the police and a police report was written. A second letter was sent to inform us of this meeting; this letter we did receive. Any time a poster was placed in the elevator about the meeting security removed it. One of the suggestions at that meeting was that we contact the FMTA and form a tenant's association. At the meeting many complaints came out about the lack of repairs made, what was obvious was those who didn't receive repairs were visible minorities or on social assistance. Many who didn't receive repairs stated as much when others who had jobs and were not minorities pointed out they didn't have these problems. We had always had our repair requests made, sometimes done the same day. The Property Management appeared to pick and choose who would receive repairs based on race and socioeconomic status.

We became members of the Crossways tenant's association. We met with a representative of FMTA and one of our first questions was how to get in contact with the FMTA. We had each tried and been unable to get through on the general phone line. Any messages we left for the FMTA weren't returned. The FMTA representatives stated that until we went door-to-door to collect $5 for the FMTA we wouldn't get the better contact number. He offered to take $5 from each of us right there, we were among those who declined to pay the $5 at that one and only meeting we ever had with the FMTA. It seemed like they were only interested in collecting money from us for the FMTA not helping with the issues in the buildings. At the Maxwell meeting about ten of us were interested in organizing and we contacted the FMTA on his advice. They met with us one time only at the Crossways. The FMTA advised of the benefits of organizing but we had to create flyers at our own cost and flyer the building, which we did.

As each of us put a flyer in any aparmtent door if it didn't go right through the crack and onto the floor, security, who followed right behind us, pulled it out of the door.

That night every one of the three contacts on the flyer was called at 3 a.m. in the morning with someone angrily complaining about the flyer and demanding their specific apartment number because they wanted to come over right away to argue with us. The following night at 3 a.m. the same thing happened. The contacts for our tenants associations learned to shut off their telephones at night. The calls began earlier usually at 8 pm; hang-up calls every single night for months.

The FMTA provided zero support despite the harassment. The three executive members of our tenants association received illegal rent increase letters via registered mail demanding they pay the maximum rent for their apartments, within 30 days even though each one had all already had their annual review. This was done shortly after the flyering of the Crossways about the Tenants Association. They placed late notices for this illegal rent request on apartment doors. Any repair requests we made were ignored. We were harassed to the point each member of the Association that became known to Crossways management left within a few months.

We always felt that the FMTA abandoned us to this appalling harassment after giving us instructions on how to organize our building to collect a membership fee for them. Aware that the FMTA receives government funding and has the facilities to create or at least photocopy flyers it shouldn't have been pushed onto the tenants; but all of the work was put on the tenants with zero support from the FMTA especially in our case where all members were harassed into leaving the building. We noticed the FMTA wanted to take credit for the organization; All they did was provide a few suggestions the FMTA person at that meeting was more interested in collecting a membership fee from each tenant than helping us organize or solve our problems.

It appears not much has changed at the FMTA in over a decade.

Crossways Tenants Association