For months, the Herongate Tenant Coalition has documented the long-standing intimidation tactics Timbercreek has employed. In June 2018, tenants reported at one of its weekly meetings that face-to-face intimidation had occurred, targeting non-English speaking women who had received eviction notices in May 2018.
Tenants said the property manager, Paul Boutros, was knocking on the doors of non-English speaking tenants and asking when they were moving. If they responded they were not moving, Boutros reportedly stated the locks on their doors would be changed if they did not move out voluntarily by Sept. 30.
Tenants also alleged that Boutros threatened to collect all their belongings in garbage bags and throw them out if they did not leave by that date.
It is very hard, this situation – being new to this country and already being kicked out of the home and community we just got settled in
This explicit targeting of non-white, non-English speaking women in the neighbourhood is nothing new, as it is part of the pervasive structural inequality and racism these women face on a regular basis.
The Coalition went door-to-door to collect information in the neighbourhood from May to July 2018, forming a highly localized census and obtaining accurate numbers on who was being evicted. The Coalition found there was an average of 5.4 people per house, totalling almost 600 people who faced eviction, including over 200 children, for the 105 households impacted. This census also showed that 93 per cent of the people who faced eviction were people of colour, the vast majority of whom were Muslim.
The Leveller interviewed Sophia (not her real name), the mother of a newly arrived Herongate family. Along with her four children and husband, she recently fled a country in turmoil to build a new life in Canada.
What happened when the property manager, Paul Boutros, came to your door last week?
Paul knocked on my door and asked me very nicely if I was moving. When I told him I wasn’t moving, he asked me why. I told him “because what is happening is not right and we are fighting to stay in our home.”
When I told him this, his whole face and attitude changed. He started to raise his voice, threatening me. He said if I didn’t move by the end of that month (September) that he and his company would come in my home, and throw all my stuff outside. He said he would call the police and he would change the key.
I was very scared because I am new to this country and my English is not very good. Sometimes I feel like because of this, I cannot say how I really feel.
Paul was very scary and I was alone with my little child at the time he knocked on my door. My husband usually is the one to talk to the staff, so it was difficult for me to say anything.
You said you felt very scared to respond to Paul. Why?
As I said, I am new to Canada and do not speak the English language very well yet. I do not know all of the laws of this country and fear he has the power to affect my status.
I also feared that if I said anything more to him, maybe he could target my family and make it difficult for us to rent a home elsewhere in the city. This is also why my family and I support the movement, but sometimes fear to show our faces at the events and meetings.
It is very hard, this situation – being new to this country and already being kicked out of the home and community we just got settled in.