One group of Ontario tenant lawyers has filed a human rights complaint arguing that the provincial landlord and tenant board is switching to a “digital first” strategy, focusing on virtual investigations into tenants who may be vulnerable during epidemics.
The Lawyer’s Center for Tenants said the complaint was filed with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal on behalf of a 77 – year – old woman in North Bay, Ontario. System.
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Lorraine Beaver lives alone in subsidized homes, has no computer or cell phone, and has primarily tried to participate in her investigations with the board through the landline, the organization said. The panel said the board did not respond to Beaver’s request for a face-to-face hearing.
The prosecution said it plans to file several more applications on behalf of other tenants who claim their rights have been infringed due to the change.
Ontario tribunals, including the Landlord and Tenant Board, have adopted a number of digital tools, such as virtual investigations and online documentation, by 2020 in response to the Govt-19 epidemic.
Tribunals switched to a new digital case-management system late last year in a bid to combat delays and case backlogs exacerbated by the pandemic.
A spokesman for the Ontario tribunal confirmed that the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal had received the application from the panel, but declined to comment further, citing the sentencing process.
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In his application to the tribunal, Beaver stated that he had persistent problems with pests in his building and was beginning to seek compensation for the loss of his belongings due to infections.
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Beaver spent “considerable time and energy” over the years trying to be heard by the board after it was repeatedly rejected, in part because of problems accessing the online system, the document alleges.
“This should not be a test for an elderly person to access justice,” the application said.
Prior to the outbreak, the committee’s inquiries usually took place in person, or sometimes with evacuations of low-priority applicants and by telephone for those in remote areas of northern Ontario, said Ryan Hardy, ACTO’s staff attorney.
The board has regional offices throughout the province where applicants can ask questions and speak with attorneys, Hardy said.
The “Digital First” approach assumes applicants have a computer with a webcam, otherwise they are expected to make a phone call, he said. “They only partially participate because other participants can’t see anything they can see in the video,” he said.
“Then it assumes that you can do these things, that you have the technical knowledge to do it, and that you’re not hindered by disabilities in any way,” Hardy said.
There are other issues with the current system, he argued, including that it is difficult for an applicant to cross-examine the version of their events and submit and view supporting documents.
Is looking for a number of systemic reforms to improve accessibility. This includes, as an option equivalent to remote inquiries, including re-opening of places that allow for face-to-face hearing and filing of documents.
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