Toronto Tenants Associations info
Go back to the Federation of Metro Tenants Associations Story
Updated January 2004
Inside FMTA: Diagnosing the problem
Inside FMTA; attempt to reform it from within.
Outside FMTA: Persecuted.
Outside FMTA: Tracking the Bastards.
I first became involved with FMTA when I tried to start a tenants association in my own building and ran into a lot of disruption from the non-profit housing provider. I asked FMTA if they could send someone to assist. What would have been helpful would have been for them to have observed and reported the housing companys agents bullying.
They sent us Neal Ballosingh, who had other priorities. We became another building that has received the benefit of FMTA organizing. We got a big pitch on the benefits of organizing, and of giving five bucks each to FMTA. Then he held a quick election and threw a standard form constitution over his shoulder as he headed out the door.
Soon after, he left FMTA and became manager of the Cooperative housing project across the street from me, where he has played factions in the building against each other for six years, creating a nice job for himself and gradually wrecking the coop.
I went to the FMTA annual general meeting in November of 1996 to find out what was the matter with this outfit. I got elected to their board. There were a few more candidates than positions.
During the three years I was there, Barb Hurd was the chair person. If her Husband Ken Hale was not present, she couldn't get through a meeting. Hale obviously ran the organization. You only had to talk to him for a few minutes to see that here is something badly wrong with his attitude.
As homeowners, they were both disqualified to be on the board. But anybody who questioned what was going on was treated very rudely until they stopped showing up for board meetings.
Hales preferred attack dog on the board was Anne Fitzpatrick. I was compelled to demonstrate that if challenged in that way I would stand up and shout back until they stopped trying to shout me down. Partly because they soon did not have a quorum, they backed off. I decided to show up, look stupid, and find out what was going on.
At the time I joined them, they were very demoralized. They had been riding high on money from the provincial New Democrats and suddenly were reduced to about $97 000 they were getting from the old city of Toronto to run a tenants hotline. This 'United Tenants of Ontario' (UTOO) group had folded, and its smaller subsidiaries all over the province. But they seemed to be getting some extra money steered their way by mysterious friends within the old city of Toronto Housing Department.
They would get public money to print a tenant survival manual. Then they would charge money for it. They were given a $20 000 one-time grant to get their membership list up to date so that they could solicit donations. They never did it. The old Toronto housing department kept parking sums of money in FMTA's bank account. FMTA also did this as a favor to some mysterious other organizations so that they could transfer money from one years budget to the next without having to give it back. Or so I was told as a member of the FMTA board.
Three people worked for FMTA at that time. Harold Becker flatly refused to do any work and told me that he thought the hotline and everything else about FMTA was a boondoggle. Hale and Tessler seemed afraid of him. Becker left to work for a city councillor. I met him recently and he now denies all this.
Sam Kuhn was the only one there who did any real work; handling the phone line. I don't know how he stood it for three years; it was a horrible job. He said he was just a tenant helping tenants and wanted to keep out of the politics of FMTA. Later he worked as a tenants counsellor in a legal clinic in Belleville and expressed disgust with FMTA. Recently he seems to have become more radical and organizes direct actions around housing and poverty issues in the Belleville area.
Howard Tessler was the executive director but had health problems and only worked part time. He spent his time on the phone talking up media and politician types. He treated me respectfully, but tried to prevent me from finding out anything about the working of the outfit. He was disdainful of any ideas of attracting new members, getting them to volunteer, or raising money from them.
Sam Aderawale did some very good work for the federation selling advertising in their newsletter. In the end they cheated him on his commission.
The budgets shown to the board were a farce. Everything was in round figures; $20 000 for 'newsletter,' $5 000 for 'office expenses.'
The first reaction of most people would have been that they were simply crooks. But nobody seemed to be lining their own pockets, except perhaps Tim Welch, who got a $20 000 special grant from the old Toronto to rewrite a manual for tenants. I could have written a better manual. Hale and Hurd dressed poorly and drove an old car.
They seemed obsessed about being short of money, but had a warped sense of values. They wanted me to white out business cards with the old address on them and stamp the new address on. I refused to do this. But they would spend money on cabs for Tessler to go to the stationary store when they would run out of something. Often I felt that a show was being put on for my benefit.
One board member, Charlie Diamond, wanted to raise money by a membership drive, but the rest of the board insisted it couldnt be done. He finally gave up on it and dropped out. Howard Tessler once tried to sell the board on raising money through professional fund raisers, but was shot down.
Hale, Hurd, Fitzpatrick and Henk Mulder controlled the board of directors. Most of the other people on it were there because they had nothing better to do with their time. They stuck their hands up on cue, which strained the intellects of some of them. One kept falling asleep and snoring loudly during meetings. For awhile they kept no minutes at all, but they had to start because Barb Hurd could not remember where we were at otherwise.
This foursome was obsessed with the idea that they were about to be shut down; that they had enemies everywhere. They wanted FMTA to avoid attracting attention to itself.
There was no provision in their constitution for appointing interim members to fill vacancies, but they did it constantly. They still could not maintain a quorum on the board.
So, a different conclusion would have been that they were mere fools who could not even manage a small office now that they had lost all their staff; that they only wanted to preserve a fragment of their hobby-horse and did not want to get involved in anything complicated.
However, as these people got over some of their fear that they were going to lose the hotline money after the amalgamation of Metro, they began to be obsessed about various other tenant organizations. It was as though someone had told them that anything to do with tenants is their turf, and any tenant's group in Toronto has to belong to them.
They seemed to be very connected to the New Democrat party and to so-called 'left' city councillors. Yet they expressed great hostility to unions. I got hold of a transcript of Mulder bragging to a legislative committee about personally breaking the union at the old Metro Tenants Legal Service. Hale grabbed it out of my hand and refused to give it back.
Once, they even tried to get Doug Gilchrist, one of the Tory cabinet minister who did so much harm to Toronto, to be the keynote speaker at one of their annual general meetings. Some people are very angry that Kenn Hale, Barb Hurd and Tim Welch met with the conservative government group that was drafting the tenant protection act. They claimed they were trying to moderate the act, but the effect of their efforts was more likely to have made it harder to challenge in the courts. They thought that if they worked with the Harris government that they might get grants to become a legal aid clinic.
It had become clear to me what the real problem was with FMTA. What had once been a vibrant tenant's rights group had fallen into the hands of people whose personality disorders reinforced each others to create a paranoid, group think mentality. There is no way to respectfully disagree with them. If you are not part of their in-group, you do not belong in their field. If you will not go away, they will demonize you and justify any kind of attack on you. These are not people to give public money to.
They had destroyed the old Metro Tenant Legal Clinic because the employees had finally gotten tired of their bullying and stood up to them. Yet their biggest priority was to get another tenants legal clinic started under their control. Hale finally acheived that aim with the new 'ACT-O' organisation which collects money from the provincial legal clinic funding system and acts zero.
I was disgusted by this organization, but I did not want the tenant hotline to stop. I also wanted this organization to be a base for rebuilding a tenants movement in Toronto. I was also very concerned, and still am, that exposure of these people's nonsense behavior would make it impossible to get funding for any kind of tenants program in Toronto. I thought that what was needed to clean this problem up was two more good people.
I had concluded that the problem with FMTA was that it tried to be a lobbying organization and at the same time to run publicly funded services. These two activities were in absolute conflict with each other and had led to absolute corruption of this group.
I gradually refined a plan by which FMTA could be split into two organizations. One would run city funded services for tenants, so that they stayed in the hands of a volunteer board sympathetic to tenants issues. The other would stick to lobbying for the interests of tenants and in order to do that effectively would spurn all public funding and depend on member donations, therefore staying in touch with the real needs of tenants. I envisioned a sort of discreet umbrella organization over both of them.
I was frustrated in my efforts to find two more like minded people to be part of this FMTA board of directors, with whom to pursue a strategy of compelling the control clique there to explain their behavior. Also, to get the hell off the board if they were not tenants. I have run into groups like Hale and Hurd before. I have seen how easy it is to deal with creeps like this when they have a few people confronting them who have the elementary good sense to come to each others defense and not be divided.
I believe the minimum number to deal with them would be three. You have to have two people together so that it is not their word against one. And you need a third as a backup in case one of the other two can't be present. More is always better.
I was surprised at the hostility toward FMTA when I tried to contact some tenants groups. I could not understand why, if FMTA was so objectionable, they did not run candidates for its board and change it from within. Or, create a viable alternative. These days I understand why but I still find it contemptible.
The only people I could get to talk to me were some people who were very pressing about getting me to obtain FMTA documents for them. I told them I was not interested in being a spy; I was looking for people who wanted to apply to the board of FMTA or better yet run to be on the board. At least, to take out a membership and vote at their annual general meeting.
These people would look at me like I was completely crazy when I suggested this. And there were no documents to snitch. The FMTA in-group has a perfect way of leaving no paper trail; they do not keep records or file reports. For several years they never renewed their corporate registration, which of course means they are not a legal entity. For all I know they still have not.
Cliff Martin and Vance Latchford approached me. They were not really the kind of people I was looking for. They wanted me to ask Hurd and Hale if it was all right for them to apply to be on the board of FMTA. It seems they had dealt with Hale and Hurd before when both were on the board of the old UTOO. I told them to stop being ridiculous and go to the FMTA office themselves. They finally did.
An "organizing committee" was started at FMTA, I suppose to convince people that we actually did organizing. I was the chair of it and York, Latchford, and Martin were members. Meetings were cancelled that I called. From this I learned never to trust Martin and Latchford. I quit as chair and recommended to the board of FMTA that this committee be dissolved.
By the next FMTA meeting York had sent his resignation and so the organizing committee was dissolved. Tessler was paranoid York could have taken some documents out of the FMTA office. He was worried York might have photographs of all the envelopes containing membership cheques that had been thrown unopened into the garbage or copies of some bank statements from the hidden account.
Shortly after this Paul York started the Greater Toronto Tenants Association in collaboration with Tim Welch. He never seems to have had any documents against the Federation or he would have used them.
The next big chicken squawk was when Cliff Martin was quoted in the 'Sun' newspaper. They wanted to remove him from the board. I decided I did not want to see these people start throwing elected members off the board without reference to their constitution. They had to hold a special membership meeting. I had a very hard time getting this through to Martin. They voted by two-third to ask him to resign. He refused to resign, and eventually they dropped it.
During the last year I was there, FMTA began to be noticed and criticized by some of the right wing press and councillors. The city hired a consultant, Liz Yorke, to look into FMTA. Her report was denounced even by Latchford as a whitewash. It included Tim Welch as a consultant to critique the FMTA as the same time Welch had a nice fat contract with the FMTA - talk about a conflict of interest, but Toronto City Councillor said he knew Tim Welch and supported Welch's work on the report!.
I thought this would provide some push to clean up FMTA. I collaborated with Latchford to pressure them into some reforms. We made them fill vacant staff positions by competition rather than cronyism. We got them to provide us with something approximating proper financial statements. For awhile we were able to get rid of the executive committee and had one meeting a month so things could be decided by the whole board.
I looked into automated call response systems to relieve the load on the telephone councillor and recommended something similar to what they eventually installed after I was gone. It would have cost about $2000. They claimed they did not have any money. They had at least $60 000 stashed away in hidden accounts at the time. Instead they allowed a situation in which people complained of being unable to get through on the tenant hotline and the one counsellors job became even more stressful.
They asked me to be the board secretary. I was really just a minute taker. I typed up the minutes, went to the office and copied them, then mailed them to all the board members. I talked to some people at the city housing department, which provided almost all FMTAs funding, about the way FMTA was run. They also seemed to want to keep FMTA in existence, but were concerned that the improprieties of this bunch were going to sink it. They asked me to inform them if I saw further instances of abuse.
However, as pressure increased on these UTOO people to straighten out their act and account properly for their use of public funds, they became more arrogant and hostile. The accounting firm told them that the way they kept their books was not acceptable. The woman who handled FMTAs account was especially concerned that here was no way to separate out how income from member fees was spent from how the city funding was spent. She thought the budget line items should indicate clearly what the money was spent for. Kenn Hale fired this accounting firm and did not inform the board about it until after the fact.
At this time I circulated my plan for splitting FMTA into two groups so that its functions no longer conflicted. I think this is the reason why they began to be very hostile and harassing toward me again.
I started to get criticism for the way I kept the minutes. I had looked into how minutes should be kept. They have to reflect what went on at the meeting. The Hale and Hurd bunch did not even want the movers and seconders of motions recorded. Eventually they removed me as board secretary.
In November of 1999 the annual general meeting came around again. FMTA was forced to announce it more widely than it normally does, so it was better attended and there were more candidates than positions to fill. I won election after giving my little speech in which I promised to keep working to improve the services FMTA was providing and make it a more effective organization. Also, to revive the membership base and make FMTA less dependant on government handouts.
I was enthusiastic. There were some new people elected who seemed to me to be very keen about tenants rights and unlikely to let Hale and Hurd push them around.
However, I got ambushed in one of the "workshops" afterwards. A creepy little spazz who was indignant that I had gotten reelected and she had not, picked a fight with me. Anne Fitzpatrick kept stirring her up and she was literally spinning around like a top, screaming at the top of her lungs. I refuse to let anyone intimidate me in that way. Finally they backed off.
But this was used as a pretext for getting rid of me. First, they held a board orientation session without informing me. Then I had trouble finding out when the first proper meeting was taking place. All this might have turned out very different if I had not had a slight case of flu on that day. I did not feel up to an FMTA style shout down. I agreed to leave the room while they discussed the matter. I thought that surely the new people could read the constitution in front of their noses and refuse to go along with this.
I should have talked to these people before and found out what they are really like. And one of the great regrets of my life will always be that I did not stay in that room and fight it out with these evil little scum. If there was ever a time to have stopped them cold it was right then. I still feel that I let down the people who voted for me.
They told me they had removed me from the board by unanimous vote. I later heard there were at least three votes against, probably more. I told them to read their constitution and that I expected to receive the minutes and be informed of all meetings. I was led to understand that they were not setting a date for the next meeting and that the election of officers was being postponed until then. So I went home. Then they played false with me and held elections for executives. They elected Robert Bezanson as president, who no one had ever heard of before.
The staff and volunteers were made afraid to talk to me. I could not find out the date of meetings. When I did find out, they called the police when I showed up. More about that later. Once they had effectively removed me from the scene, Bezanson systematically went after Brenda Barry, and then after Collis Kelly, and finally after Pat Eastwood.
Most people have heard the famous quote about how 'the Nazis came for..., and I did not object because I was not..., then they came for me...' It is disgusting that each of these people accepted the argument that the person being attacked this month had to be removed because he or she was 'disruptive,' and there was going to be a conflict until he or she went. They seemed to think all they had to do was not be a 'disruptive' and they would be safe. What they thought they could accomplish on this board in that way is baffling. Even after seeing the same thing happen several times, they were amazed to find themselves chosen as the scape goat of the month, to be hounded out by verbal abuse.
I was a member of the board of FMTA until the end of 2000. But I was completely shut out. When they started getting large amounts of money from the city government, I knew it was going to be impossible to fix what was wrong. This was like pouring gasoline on a fire that was almost out. My contacts at the city housing department now evaded me.
My attempt to reform FMTA had failed. This organization had become something unjust to tenants and offensive to the idea of tenants rights. So I became concerned with how to shut them down without jeopardizing all present and future programs benefiting tenants.
This is about how the FMTA got me illegally arrested and held in jail for five weeks, and continue to harass me. This module also stands as much as a warning about the urgent need for reform of the police and justice system as it does about FMTA.
Democracy requires that people, especially people without means, be able to participate in public life without risk of being arrested and their lives destroyed, whenever somebody with power decides they are in the way.
The control clique of FMTA staged a sham vote against their own constitution, and claimed to have voted me off the board. I rejected this, but I could not find out when meetings were taking place. I am told that if they are incorporated in Ontario then what they are doing is illegal. But laws are not much good without a means of enforcement.
I got hold of the list of these board members. I wrote out a lengthy letter to all of them, explaining what was really needed, and especially for the new members, what had been going on. I made it very clear that I was not resigning, I could only be removed by a special general meeting.
At the next FMTA meeting, I showed up early. Bezanson called the cops. I did not expect the cops to even respond. But two of them showed up led by this geek with a potato nose and told me to leave. They were utterly disinterested in finding out both sides of the story. So I had to go, before most of the board had even arrived. The cops said that if I came back I would be arrested.
I went to the police 14 division that night to complain about potato nose. Later I talked to an officer White over the phone, who told me that he thought that these two cops had acted improperly, that it is not the way he would have handled such a situation, and that I should just forget about it and go back to FMTA whenever I wanted. He said it was unlikely that if Besanson called the cops again the same two cops would show up, or that other cops would act in the same way.
I called the board members and told them what had happened. Some were complete shits about it. I had expected Brenda Barry to have a lot more fight. She just sniveled that there was no point in fighting because Bezanson would just keep calling the cops on me and picking on her. I asked her why she had even bothered running for the board if she didnt have the guts to stand up for herself and others. She could not answer.
At first I could not find out where the board meetings were, then it became evident that anyone who might have been worth anything had been driven out. I saw no use in even trying to attend. I am particularly disgusted that Martin and Latchford, who I repeatedly stood up for during attempts to force their resignation, would not back me up and then turned against me. Also, that people in city housing department who had asked me to keep them informed, wouldn't return my phone calls when I needed their help. These were David DeLucca and Rob Cressman.
I was at a loss for what to do about this situation. I had concluded that there was no way to reform FMTA, it had to be dissolved. I knew that the FMTA was applying for a large grant. But I did not want to help to create a situation where all tenants organizations, and all services for tenants, became associated with the backstabbing and opportunism of FMTA.
I went into the FMTA office at least once a month at different times of the day to assert my right to go there as a continuing member of the board of directors, and to observe their non-compliance with the administrative reviews directives.
Bezanson would dance around me, giggling, making me brush by him and doing this 'oh, Im being assaulted' thing. On a couple of occasions when I was in places where I would not expect to encounter him at all, Besanson jumped out in front of me and then ran away yelling that I was chasing him and he had a court order for me to stay away from him. He never had any such order.
When I went to FMTA office, I could see that they were doing everything that the administrative review had told them to stop doing. Bezanson always seemed to be in the office. There were new people there and I tried to find out who they were. I looked at what was on peoples desks. Some of the dumber board members were doing work that should be done by staff or volunteers. It was clear that the office was not being modernized and the work there streamlined, although they have always had the money to do it.
The staff who had been there when I was working there were afraid to talk to me now. When I called them on the hot line I could tell by the tone of their voices that Bezanson was making life miserable for them. Some of the new faces at first disliked me when I showed up on my inspection tours. Later it became obvious that at least some of them were getting sick of Bezanson.
The last time I was there, when he ordered them to call the police, they ignored him. He said something about how thats okay, he is going to me charged this time. I was arrested at home that evening by the same cretins who had thrown me out of the board meeting three months previously, which is very suspicious indeed.
They never told me what I was charged with. When I was sitting in the dark interrogation room alone someone outside said 'The wheels of justice work well when greased with money.' How am I supposed to take that other than as a mocking admission of having taken a bribe to arrest me?
I never have been impressed by the slobs who for the most part make up the police force in Toronto. But I never suspected that it included scum who would actually arrest and charge me on this little cretins say-so. I dont think either the cops or Bezanson expected that they would get me that bad.
The real reason why I ended up in there for so long was because I had the bad luck of getting Robert Kellerman as a lawyer. By his reputation among direct action groups, he should have been the best possible lawyer for me. However, it turned out that he had a conflict of interest. I suspect he has represented Hale in the past. He never declared it. I suspect he was still on a retainer from FMTA at the time I was trying to get him to defend me, instead of to keep promising to defend me and not showing up at bail court.
I was completely baffled about what was going on at the bail court. I couldn't even hear half of what was said. The prosecutor was saying ridiculous things and the fact of which that the justice of the peace allowed them proved that both are frightfully corrupt and stupid.
The prosecutor claimed there was a court order for me to stay away from Bezanson. But they never produced it. This would not have been difficult for them to have checked.
They claimed I harassed people over the telephone, calling 50 times a day, but never produced phone company records. They claimed they had pictures of me attacking Bezanson, and pictures of bruises, but never produced them. There were people all over the place eager to testify against me, but no written statements. Later there was no mention of any of this in the crown disclosure, the file of evidence that the prosecutor has to give to the defense lawyer before the trial.
I live on a disability pension in social housing. I am very lucky I did not lose my home and my income for being in jail longer than thirty days.
When I got to the bail review stage before an appeal judge, which is required after 30 days, the proceedings started before I got there. But it looked like Kellerman was actually trying to lose. The prosecutor demanded very harsh conditions, and when Kellerman agreed to them, he demanded more. He proposed things that would have amounted to house arrest. Kellerman agreed without consulting me. But the judge cut this off and freed me. I had conditions that I could not be in city hall when a member of the FMTA was there, which is outrageous.
I have gone several times to that same bail court. I have watched the same justice of the peace abuse people and ignore the law in the same way as when I was standing in the defendants booth. Whenever the defendant has a competent lawyer, he backs right off.
I had a very difficult time finding another lawyer. As soon as they heard that Kellerman had been there before them, they ran. I think now that this is because I kept looking for lawyers with a 'progressive' reputation. Such lawyers seem to all belong to this 'law union' of which Kellerman seems to be the head. I wont make the mistake again of looking for 'progressive' lawyers who may be more interested in protecting 'progressive' organizations than in defending justice and their clients.
When I finally got to court, I drew the 'hanging judge' Monte Harris. He had been featured in a newspaper article the weekend before as one of the three worst judges in Toronto. I should not have been surprised at this. I had been doing 'jail support' for some people who were wrongfully in jail and I had observed the way in which court support staff, who are provincial employees, manipulate assignments of judges.
These moral retardates who give police everything they want, and who should not be judges, always sit on cases that are of special interest to the police. Civil rights lawyers these days have an axiom; 'you lose and then you go to court,' meaning the appeal courts, which seem to be less corrupted.
I really did not trust the lawyer I was finally able to engage but I had become so worried that I would not be able to find any lawyer. I assumed that any competent lawyer should be able to deal with these obviously spurious charges. She said she was looking forward to a fun day in court.
When the fun day in court arrived she learned who the judge was and freaked. She was quite adamant that I had to 'plea bargain' or I was likely to go back to jail. However, if I was determined to go ahead she was prepared to do the appeal, which was sweet of her. I had already had one lawyer tell me that. I had spent five weeks in jail listening to people whose lawyers had decided they didnt like the judge and walked out on them, or who were sitting there while lawyers took their time preparing an appeal.
I went into the court room while my lawyer negotiated with the cop, Van Andel. I watched a lawyer struggling to convince this judge Harris that he could not hold a trial of people who did not speak English without an interpreter, and the case had to be moved to another court. At first, the trial was going to take place in a room half full of old records. We changed courtrooms twice before Harris started hearing cases. Everything smelled of some drastic shuffling of judges and courtrooms just to get me on front of Harris. I am sure some more money went under the table to grease this.
It was obvious to me that there was no way I could get a fair trial with this screwhead. He was likely to try to send be back to jail for another two months. That meant I would be living in a homeless shelter when I finally heard the appeal court judge say 'not guilty.' I could not count on my lawyer to fight to get me back out pending an appeal. I was cornered by a system designed to corner me. Realistically I had no option but to plea bargain.
So, I was persecuted for nearly two years yet magically, the people responsible have avoided having to present any evidence and I have never been convicted of anything. I will have a lot more to say about lawyers, including civil lawyers, later.
It is common knowledge that the police complaint bureau is a waste of time. But it is less generally known that so is the complaint bureau of the law society. They spat on me when I tried to report Kellerman to them, until I stopped wasting my time.
In the meanwhile, FMTA continues to try to wreck my life. I havent had anyone from FMTA jump out from behind a corner lately and run away, yelling that I am chasing him. But they have called the police on me when I attended forums they held. The press releases they sent out were clear that the functions were open to all tenant activists. Again, the fact that they have no grounds for removing me from these places does not seem to concern the Toronto police. Hurd tried very hard to get them to arrest me again. They also tried to get me banned from the University of Toronto campus, where I am a part-time student.
I also get anonymous e-mails making threats that FMTA is working to have me permanently barred from city hall, to get me arrested again, and so on.
The FMTA has posed as the champion of tenants. Because I dared to stand up to them, and because I know too much about them, FMTA tried to destroy my life and make me homeless. They did so using exactly the methods which the worst landlords in the city use against tenants who try to organize fellow tenants; all the way down to bribing police and court officials.
I found that once I was clearly on the outs with FMTA, many people who did not want to talk to me before were now eager to. I was not isolated by being thrown out of FMTA, I found that I had been isolated by being in it. Here is what I have found out about the origins of the FMTAs problem.
Kenn Hale and this group he is connected with seem to take over organizations and use them to further their own hidden agendas. They will dissolve them if they think they are losing control. It has been decided somewhere that anything to do with tenants is his domain.
For many years, Kenn Hale ran a tenant hotline funded by the legal aid society. He was closed down in 1987 for giving bad legal advice and for administrative and fiscal mismanagement. He seems to have been on the board of FMTA since it started but it was sometime after 1987 that he gained control of it.
Once FMTA and the tenant legal clinic that had been affiliated with it had been pretty good organizations. Some people feel it started to go bad when Hale became involved in it. Bob Olsen described to me that when he was on the FMTA board in 1992 he quit because he perceived the staff and the board chair as fighting for control.
Harold Becker said that in 1995, before the province cut off its funding for FMTA, someone called Peter Bruer was executive director of FMTA and was well qualified to run it. But he left because he didn't want to keep fighting with Kenn Hale. So Howard Tessler was brought in from Montreal to run the FMTA, although he was not properly qualified. His background was in sales and public relations and environmental issues and he did not know anything about accounting or administration. When they had to cut back staff he had to do all this himself.
There are some other tenant groups in Toronto; but they all despise FMTA. The big complaints are:
That they use aggressive means to try to force them to join the FMTA, and will try to destroy tenant groups they see as rivals, using the 'tenant association busting' tactics of the meanest landlords. The FMTA mentality is that if you are not in their tent you are the enemy, and anything goes in trying to 'get' you.
That they sponge up all funds available for tenant oriented projects. Any proposals that these other tenant groups put forward are ignored. FMTA is some sort of sacred cow to a group of downtown city counselors. Jack Layton was often mentioned in this regard, and more recently Michael Walker.
That they do not do anything with the money they get. They do not speak up for tenants. Often they seem unaware of, or indifferent to, important tenant issues. For example, they worked to bury the issue of tenant property taxes.
The trouble is, most of these groups are very locally oriented. They wont unite and many only want to deal with 'their own kind' of people. Most seem to be 'chickened' by FMTA.
Bob Levitt says he has heard that FMTA has defeated all attempts to hold them to account by threatening the city staff who are supposed to be monitoring them. One city housing staffer quit in protest after being threatened by a city councillor for looking too closely at FMTA.
FMTA was able to get a lucrative two year funding commitment in 2000 because it was an election year, it was thought at the time that tenants issues were going to be big issues in the election so counselors don't want to be seen as anti-tenant. FMTA and a group of counselors went all out to attack any councillor, or anyone else who opposes funding FMTA as 'enemies of tenants.' But they only won by one vote, and many counselors hate them. I flatter myself that if I had been around to speak against FMTA, instead of in jail because of them, I might have moved that one vote.
Conditions were attached to FMTA's funding that they have to show that they can actually deliver the service they are contracting for. But the people who are supposed to monitor this are the same staff who are under threat. For awhile, FMTA were refusing to file quarterly reports on what they are doing with the money they are given. The reports I have seen are amateurish and clearly deceptive.
The city constantly gets complaints about FMTA. They are buried and nobody ever knows about them.
It is disgusting that an organization claiming to be a 'voice for tenants' and whose ruling clique always make a big show in public about never saying anything bad about a tenant, routinely uses the methods of the nastiest landlords in order to attack its enemies. Bezanson is just another Frankenstein monster they found. So was Neal Dallosingh who now is the petty tyrant of the co-operative across the street from me. I am surprised Besanson has not hung up his shingle yet as a tenant organizer, consultant, paralegal, or whatever. But I hear of him creating problems for tenant groups in St. Jamestown, near where he lives. It would be interesting to know who BeZanson really works for; who pays his salary.
I talked to someone in a social housing building who says that they asked FMTA and Bezanson to help them because the landlord had co-opted their tenants association. It is a long, complicated story, but the person who invited them in feels that Bezanson sided with the landlords toadies. The person who called in FMTA ended up being being chased and beaten with a baseball bat. He had to be transferred out of the building for his protection.
Catherine Toresse-Benyi quit as an FMTA employee and has sued them and Bezanson for sexual harassment and constructive dismissal. The cops who arrested me on his say-so never did a check on his back ground. They ignored my lawyers subpoena for one, claiming it was not necessary.
They had some trouble getting rid of him. He ceded the chair to Barb Hurd during one meeting so that they could have a discussion of some of the things he has been doing. They decided to remove him as chair. But at the next meeting he was back, chairing the meeting. I dont know how they finally convinced him to resign.
Recently, FMTA has been trying to respond to the accusations that it never achieves anything by going out and doing outreach. But they really aren't capable of anything. There is nobody in the organization with any expertise at tenant outreach. The only thing they know is thuggery.
Some supporters of FMTA used some nasty methods to try to gain control of the High Park Tenants Association although they seem to have been defeated. As I understand it, they co-opted a few members of the board and got them to meet separately and depose the other members. However, to make that stunt work you have to have the people with the bankbook and the seal. The legitimate members of the High Park Tenants seem to be continuing on.
However, the FMTA hack, Roy Cunningham, kept his bogus association going. He did not hold elections or even meetings for two years.
Since they had to get rid of Bezanson their chief attack dog has been Dan McIntyre. They brought him in from Ottawa where he controlled the local affiliate of the UTOO ( United Tenants Of Ontario) group, as the chief staff person. With characteristic 'you-too-er' gall, he pressured the Ottawa city council to levy a surcharge on every tenant household in the city, to be paid to his group. Instead they cut off all funding to his group. When the board of the Ottawa tenants wanted to try to keep the organization going, he cleaned out the bank accounts, removed all office equipment, and locked the doors on no authority but his own.
What do you suppose he would do if Toronto city council finally had the sense to defund FMTA?
When I was on the board of FMTA, they were not interested in social housing. I was. I participated in developing the tenant representation system in the late Toronto Housing Corporation, in whose building I live. Cliff Martin and Vance Latchford both lived in buildings of a different social housing authority than me. They wanted FMTA to become involved in social housing. I had come to see that FMTA would only do harm. But they did not listen.
FMTA discovered that Toronto Housing corporation was studying a plan to contribute a monthly fee per tenant household to a pool. This pool could be drawn on by social housing building councils. Immediately FMTA sycophants were at every tenants council meeting, salivatating for control of that money. They have used their standard methods to take control of the tenant council in Toronto Housing Corporation and the tenant reference group at the other main social housing provider, Toronto Housing Authority, formerly Ontario housing.
Their front person in THA was Latchford. In THC it was Pat McKendry. They played on the vanity of people who will do anything to have some power and prestige. They used the selfishness of many building representatives, who were only involved for what they could get for their own building and were uninterested in any larger issues. Some good social housing tenant activists, especially Sandy Nimmo, have been turned to the 'dark side.' Others have been 'frozen out.' They have engaged in crude agitation and misinformation.
What has restrained them has been the management of the two housing authorities, but especially THC. Now that the two housing authorities have been integrated under the former THC management, they are further restrained. The new Toronto Community Housing Corporation formed from them, seems to know what these 'You-toos' are all about and is not going to let them get away with anything. They have been specifically warned against attacks on people who oppose them.
The newly formed TCHC has recognized that tenant representation has been a failure because those tenants who are already good at manipulating the system to gain privileges quickly turned it into a closed system. Buildings where the tenants are not so good at goodie grabbing are left out. The half-hidden malign influence of FMTA did not cause this problem, but it certainly aggravated it. TCHC is now studying new approaches to fulfill its mandate from the city for tenant participation in decisions affecting them.
A prime objective of the you-toos has been to start a new tenants legal clinic under their control. They seem to have achieved that goal. This will likely be the host organism they move to when FMTA is finally broken.
They had a legal clinic before. The Metro Tenants Legal Services was affiliated with the FMTA before it became corrupted by the Hurd-Hale bunch. The employees of this clinic rebelled against the abusive way in which the You-too group always treat employees who are not initiates into the cult. They tried to form a union. So the You-toos abruptly terminated the legal clinic. It seems they had the idea that they could always get the clinic funding system to give them whatever they needed to start up another clinic. It did not work that way.
A lot of obscure and sleazy politics go on around legal clinics. Each clinic has staked out its own turf and guards it fanatically. Area legal clinics have always resented the idea of specialty clinics, probably because they might take funding away from them. They do not want to do legal challenges and test cases, probably because they get their funding from the provincial government and do not want to bite the hand that feeds them.
Much of the conflict about services for tenants must be seen as a battle between landlords interests supported by the province and elements within city government, and with the social interests that the city must respond to. Legal clinics are provincial agencies and have supported coopting FMTA and shutting down MTLS. Most executive members of FMTA are employees of legal clinics or have connections with legal clinics, such as Christina Brousalis.
But there is so much demand for specialized legal clinics that the clinic funding system has had to organize two new clinics, one dealing with poverty issues and one dealing with tenants issues. But the process of setting them up was designed to insure that committed social activists would not have a strong influence on their boards and that government policies in these areas would not be seriously challenged in the courts. They will not intrude on the legal clinics day to day business of steering poor people through the courts, but deal only with test cases and they will always pull their punches.
Leslie Robinson was brought back from Vancouver where she has been for some years, to organize the two clinics. She is a former Executive Director of the FMTA. Some people I know who were on the FMTA board ten years ago recall her as bearing much responsibility for the trouble in these organizations.
Levitt says Robinson also sold out tenants interests to support the Peterson governments Residential Rent Regulation Act of 1986, that led to 30 and 40% rent increases, and mysteriously left the FMTA to a job provided to her by the Peterson government. I now have an article all about: Leslie Robinson.
It seems there were enough real anti-poverty activists in Ontario to apply pressure to prevent the poverty issues clinic from being stacked. But there is no authentic tenants rights movement, so the tenant issues clinic is totally under the control of the You-toos and legal clinic apparatchiks.
Kenn Hale and Marcia Barry, an FMTA staff member, were on the founding Board of this ACT-O, having been 'recommended' by Leslie Robinson. One of the changes the new ACT-O board made in their first meeting was to expand their mandate to include 'tenant organizing.' Jennifer Ramsay was hired by them to do this and spends much of her time working with and organizing for the NDP. This has nothing to do with their original mandate of working on precedent setting cases.
They will take money from the clinic funding system and find ways to move it to other organizations and individuals that the You-toos are allied with. I believe there are some lawyers with connections to You-too who are going to make a lot of money taking the government to court over its laws effecting tenants, with little result.
They will also relieve the legal clinics of a headache; that of having to send people to the landlord and tenant tribunal to hold peoples hands while they are evicted. This will now be done by the tenant duty counsel run by ACTO. Lately I have found that the director of this duty council program is Julia McNally, another You-too operative and former FMTA board member.
The most recent news from out of the FMTA politburo is that here has been another purge. Cliff Martin and Mary Taylor have been forced to leave. Yet both still seem to be doing dirty work for FMTA. Also, a 'financial statement' that was said to have been presented to the FMTA board has been 'leaked.' A few FMTA-haters are excited that this could finally be the'smoking gun' that finishes them off. I am not optimistic; worse things than this 'financial statement' have been revealed about FMTA. As there is no alternative to them, it does not matter.
But this financial statement is more brazen than anything I was handed when I was on the board of FMTA. It says little for the intelligence of the people who are on the board now. My knowledge of accounting is rudimentary, but I know that you cannot take an operating deficit and treat it as an asset in calculating net worth. I wish I could do that with my personal finances.
FMTA is the tip of an iceberg. It is part of some sort of network of people who like to abuse power for fun and profit. I find as many theories about the nature of this group, as there are people who despise FMTA. There are people who think they are hard core communists. Other people think they are right wing extremists. I have developed my own ideas about this and I will discuss it later.
Go back to the Federation of Metro Tenants Associations Story