The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented health and economic crisis for OPSEU members, other workers, our families and our communities.
It’s also driving a crisis of residential evictions and homelessness that threatens tens of thousands of our neighbours – including OPSEU members and their families – in the Toronto area and across the province.
That’s why OPSEU’s Greater Toronto Area Council (GTAC) is working with locals and activists in OPSEU Region 5 to build support for the growing “No COVID Evictions” campaign that has been launched by tenants’ organizations and community groups in Toronto and the GTA. And it’s why we’re asking for your local’s help to build this campaign NOW.
ON THIS PAGE:
- Steps you and your local can take NOW to help build the No COVID Evictions Campaign
- A model motion for OPSEU locals to discuss and pass at your Local Executive Committee and your next general membership meeting
Together, we can help make a difference for working people and our communities.
Need more information? Want to help build the campaign? Contact us at email@example.com or by using the contact form on this page.
BACKGROUNDER: COVID-19 and the Crises of Affordable Housing, Evictions and Homelessness
COVID-19: We’re NOT all in this together
Despite what governments and bosses keep telling us, one thing is increasingly clear about the COVID-19 crisis: We are NOT all in this together.
While corporations have cashed in on billions in government aid, and many have banked record profits, more than one million Ontario workers lost their jobs in the first wave of the pandemic and hundreds of thousands are still out of work. Hundreds of thousands more have had their hours cut. Those of us who are still working have to fight for adequate PPE, and adequate health & safety protocols. And many have no access to paid sick leave or isolation pay or are suddenly juggling family care responsibilities on our own.
No wonder working people – particularly in lower income, racialized and other marginalized communities – are disproportionately affected by rising rates of workplace and community infections, serious illness and death.
The COVID-19 recession is creating another crisis for workers and our communities. Forced to choose between rent or food, tens of thousands of Ontario tenants are unable to pay their rent and now face a massive wave of “COVID evictions” and a major increase in homelessness.
All these issues have a disproportionate impact on working people, including OPSEU members and our friends, families and communities. It’s time for OPSEU and the labour movement to help.
The crisis of affordable housing has been building for decades
In 1995, Mike Harris’s Tory government eliminated most rent controls in Ontario. They also slashed funding for public and affordable housing, cut social assistance rates and attacked workers’ rights and public services. Federal Liberal and Tory governments have also abandoned affordable housing. Meanwhile changes in the residential real estate market and massive investments by real estate investment trusts, hedge funds, pension plans and other speculators has driven skyrocketing rents and real estate prices.
The result has been an affordability crisis for low- and middle-income families; a new “renoviction” industry as corporate landlords fight to drive up rent and drive out current tenants; a growing epidemic of homelessness; and a patchwork of overcrowded, substandard and unsafe emergency shelters. And this was before the COVID-19 crisis.
The COVID-19 recession and Doug Ford’s COVID eviction blitz
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and deepened social inequality – and is driving a massive housing crisis for working class and low-income people.
By early June, more than one million Ontario workers lost their jobs, were placed on temporary layoff or saw their hours cut. But in July the Ford government lifted its first temporary freeze on residential evictions.
They also rushed the passage of Bill 184, which strips away important protections for tenants, lets landlords to demand unrealistic repayment plans when tenants fall behind in their rent, and allows the Landlord and Tenant Board to grant eviction orders without a hearing.
In August, the government restarted serving eviction notices. In November, the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) began an eviction blitz, holding as many as 2,000 expedited online hearings a week, and regularly granting eviction orders in 10 minutes or less. And when tenants and their allies organized to keep their homes, squads of police were sent to enforce these eviction orders.
Most recently, on January 14, the Ford government announced a “temporary pause” in eviction enforcement as part of its belated emergency response to the pandemic’s “second wave.” But there has been no pause in the LTB’s online eviction hearing blitz, and no offer of rent relief. As a result, thousands of working class families are being to the list of those who will face eviction as soon as the temporary pause is cancelled.
COVID-19, mass homelessness, governments and the police
Given the Ford government’s attack on tenants’ rights, it’s no surprise that homelessness has skyrocketed during the COVID recession. At the same time, the risk of infection means people who have no home are refusing to go to overcrowded and unsafe shelters. Instead, many are seeking the relative safety of the growing encampments in parks and public spaces in Ontario’s cities.
But instead of providing safe, affordable housing options together with critical health and social services, Toronto’s mayor and city council have backed a program of police harassment and forced evictions designed to drive encampment residents into shelters… or into greater danger in back alleys, empty lots and ravines.
No COVID evictions: Building the fight back
Faced with this crisis, tenants and allies in neighbourhoods across the Toronto and in other Ontario cities are organizing a major fight back:
- They are demanding an immediate moratorium on all evictions during the COVID crisis, rent relief for tenants who can’t make their rent or have missed payments, the repeal of Bill 184, and the restoration of real, effective rent control.
- They are organizing mass community actions to protest evictions and prevent them from taking place (note: full masking and social distancing protocols in effect at all in-person events).
- They are organizing to stop the harassment and eviction of homeless encampments and demand long-term, affordable and supportive housing and services.
- And they are demanding significant new investments by all levels of government in the construction and maintenance of affordable, not-for-profit, rent-geared-to-income and public housing.
OPSEU, the labour movement and our allies have a stake in this fight.
- OPSEU members work at the Landlord and Tenant Board, in the courts and at the provincial sheriff’s offices.
- We work in health care, education and frontline community and social services.
- And thousands of our members have lost their jobs or seen their hours cut, and are experiencing the same kind of financial hardship that is driving our neighbours into poverty and homelessness.
By supporting the No COVID Evictions campaign, we can help stop evictions, prevent homelessness and build the fight for housing justice.
SECTION 2: A list of steps you and your local can take to help build the No COVID Evictions Campaign
Put the No COVID Eviction campaign on the agenda of your next (virtual) LEC or General Membership Meeting or schedule a special meeting.
Consider asking GTAC to organize a guest speaker for your meeting to provide a brief overview of the campaign and the attached No COVID Evictions Motion for OPSEU Locals.
Pass the No COVID Evictions motion at your LEC or GMM.
- Once the motion is passed, send an email to OPSEU President Smokey Thomas (firstname.lastname@example.org) and your Region 5 Executive Board Members (Edie Strachan email@example.com, Kingsley Kwok firstname.lastname@example.org, and Julius Arscott email@example.com).
- In your message, let them know that your local has passed the motion supporting the No COVID Evictions campaign and asking that OPSEU do the same. Be sure to include a copy of your local’s motion.
- Please send a copy of this message to GTAC (firstname.lastname@example.org), so we can track which locals have passed a motion on this issue.
Encourage local members and activists to get involved.
- Ask members to sign up with the GTAC No Covid Evictions Team to get updates on the campaign and upcoming events and actions. (Please send interested members’ names and contact info to email@example.com).
- Organize a working group of interested members and activists in your local to get involved and keep your local plugged into the campaign.
Share information about the campaign with your members.
- Send members the backgrounder and the list of organizations to contact for more information or to get involved (both included in this package).
- Share campaign updates and information on upcoming events.
Make a Local Donation
- Your local can donate to two community organizations we are working with – Parkdale Organize and Peoples’ Defence – who are helping to lead this campaign on the ground. (Contact GTAC for details.)
Join GTAC and attend our monthly Zoom meetings
- GTAC is a great way to plug yourself into this and other OPSEU, labour and community campaigns, activities and events. All Region 5 members welcome!
Contact GTAC for information on how your local can affiliate.
SECTION 3: Model Motion for OPSEU Locals to discuss and pass at your Local Executive Committee (LEC) and your next General Membership Meeting
GTAC passed the following motion at our December meeting. We are encouraging all OPSEU locals to discuss the issue and pass the motion ASAP at your LEC and at your next GMM.
Be It Resolved That OPSEU Local ______:
- Supports and endorses the “No COVID Evictions” campaign and calls for an immediate ban on all residential evictions in Ontario during the continuing COVID-19 public health and economic crisis or for rental arrears incurred during the crisis;
- Calls for the immediate repeal of Bill 184 and the re-institution of key protections for all Ontario tenants, including a ban on predatory repayment agreements and on evictions without a fair hearing, independent representation and due process; and
- Calls on the Toronto Mayor and City Council and other Ontario municipal governments to i) immediately end municipal orders and police action to evict homeless encampments during the COVID-19 crisis and instead ii) to work to urgently expand the availability of safe, humane housing options acceptable to encampment residents; provide health and support services to residents in encampments and shelters; and expand long-term housing solutions for homeless residents; and
- Demands urgent action by all levels of government to address the long-term crisis in affordable housing in Ontario by i) reinstituting effective rent control on all rental housing and ii) expanding funding for the construction and maintenance of sufficient affordable, not-for-profit, rent-geared-to-income and public housing to address the current crisis.
And that Local ______:
- Urges our members to actively support the “No COVID Evictions” campaign in our workplaces and communities and to work with labour and community allies to achieve the goals listed above;
- Calls on other OPSEU locals, sectors, divisions and area councils to endorse the “No COVID Evictions” campaign and work together with our allies to achieve these objectives;
- Calls on OPSEU’s President and Executive Board to endorse the “No COVID Evictions” campaign and these objectives, and to issue a public call for governments to implement urgently the measures listed above.
SECTION 4: Organizations and online resources where you can find out more and get involved
To learn more about the housing crisis, the No COVID Evictions Campaign and the fight for housing justice, contact any of these organizations
OPSEU Greater Toronto Area Council (GTAC)
*For more information about the No COVID Eviction campaign – or to sign up for the GTAC Rapid Response Team to support upcoming actions – send us an email with your name, local # and contact information.
Keep Your Rent:
Landlords of Toronto*
*A useful site exposing who Toronto’s corporate landlords are and supporting campaigns for affordable housing and tenants’ rights
Encampment Support Network:
Toronto & York Region Labour Council:
Labour Council Statement on Rental Housing and the Covid-19 Crisis (November 2020)