Legal aid to stop financing Toronto Tenants Hot Line

Globe and Mail, June 18, 1987

by Patricia Sarjeant

(If you were looking for the present hotline, for information see: Toronto Tenant Hotline.)

Beginning at the end of this month, the Ontario Legal Aid Plan no longer will finance the troubled Toronto Tenants Hotline, the Law Society of Upper Canada says.

Citing substandard legal services, inefficient management, internal strife and a failure to enforce financial eligibility criteria, the society says it cannot justify the annual expenditure of $250,000 to operate the legal clinic.

"The professional level of competence of the clinic cannot meet the level required of a specialty legal clinic," said Thomas Bastedo, chairman of the society's clinic financing committee.

The hot line, which employs a co-ordinator, five community legal workers and a lawyer-director (Ken Hale), provides legal counselling on everything from evictions to rent increases.

It is one of 61 community-based clinics financed by legal aid, but is the only one of its kind.

Susan Lesjak, the chairman of the hot line's board of dirctors, said the board, appointed only in November, had hoped it would be given a chance to solve the longstanding problems.

Although disappointed with the committee's conclusion, Ms. Lesjak said it was a reasonable decision.

But she said many tenants will be hurt by the closing of the clinic, which is especially vital at a time when low vacancy rates have created a favorable climate for unscrupulous landlords.

The clinic, at Jane Street and St. Clair Avenue in the City of York, claims to have provided assistance to 5,000 low-income earners last year.

"A lot of tenants aren't goign to have anywhere to go," Ms. Lesjak said, noting that while other clinics offer tenant counselling, they are also very busy.

Mr. Bastedo said it was a difficult decision to stop financing the clinic, but he hopes the clinic will eventually be replaced by a better one. "There is a high need for tenant services in that area," he said.

The committee acknowledged in its report that major improvements are needed in communications between legal aid and its clinics to help avoid similar problems in the future. Mr. Bastedo said steps already have been taken, including the hiring of more legal-aid staff.

He said part of the problem stems from the proliferation of clinics, which numbered fewer than 40 only four years ago.

Ms. Lesjak said an independent body should be available to help clinics resolve problems when the first arise. Problems at the hot line have been simmering since the early 1980's.

The clinic financing committee initiated an independent review of the clinic in 1985 and based its financing decision on the recommendations of Professor William Wardell of the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.

Typists notes: Barbara Hurd who had been one of the founders and for much of the time of this group the President, and who is a homeowner had been the Chair of the Federation of Metro Tenants Associations for several many years. Her husband Ken Hale was the lawyer-director of this tenants' hotline and along with her until about 2003 was on the board of the Federation of Metro Tenants and on their executive committee. The positions that both Barb Hurd and Ken Hale held were against the constitution of the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations as they are homeowners and not tenants.

Of course one of the things that they did when their own organization fell by the wayside, was to take control of the Federation of Metro Tenants Association and set up a Tenant Hotline there, this time with laypeople with no legal background considered even worse that this one. See Sue City of Toronto over bad legal advice.

Tenant Hotline Registration showing Barb Hurd as the President and Ken Hale as the lawyer filing the document
Tenant Hotline dechartering for non-compliance with filing requirements

Ken Hale was a founding board member of the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, a Legal Aid Ontario, funded Legal Aid Clinic. He and other hand-picked board members like FMTA employee Marcia Barry, changed the mandate of ACTO so that it would not take calls from tenants and compete with the FMTA's hotline, and that it would not take individual tenant cases which was the whole purpose for which was it originally created, to replace the Metro Tenants Legal Services, which the FMTA conspired to have wound up so that they could get its funding. See Hansard public deputation from November 17, 1998. And now Ken Hale has become the Legal Director of the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario!

Go back to the Federation of Metro Tenants Associations Story