It’s Rent Day and thousands all over Quebec can’t pay.
Montreal, April 1, 2020 — Today is Rent Day, and thousands of people all over Quebec cannot pay rent, or have to make the inhumane choice between paying rent, or having money for food, medicine and other basic needs. Tenants are scared, fearful, and anxious. While all of society is trying to manage a public health crisis, one main indicator of physical and mental health – housing – is the source of anxiety and depression.
MANY PEOPLE ARE LEFT OUT OF THE EMERGENCY RESPONSE BENEFIT (CERB)
The main argument opposed to tenants by the landlords’ associations is that the payment of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) — a $2,000 per month financial assistance for workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, by the federal government — will help pay their rent. However, this benefit will not arrive in the pockets of recipients until mid-April. It is also important to point out that many people will be excluded and will thus remain in financial precariousness. Some of the excluded include:
- Workers who left their jobs before the crisis began.
- Workers who have maintained incomes, even minimal ones, in the last two weeks will not be immediately entitled to it.
- People living on savings who did not have $5,000 in cash inflows last year.
- Many students, especially international students who have been cut off from funding from their home country or those returning from a study abroad.
- Non-status and undocumented workers.
- Sex workers.
- People who depended on undeclared income.
- People who have not declared their income for tax purposes in the last two years.
- Vulnerable people who, for health, precarity or other reasons, will not be able to complete the application.
These workers will also have absolutely no recourse if they are denied the CERB. This is why some of us will be on a forced rent strike and others will support us by going on strike and/or displaying a white sheet on the front of their homes. To provide relief to the most disadvantaged, we believe that the government must act responsibly by :
- immediately cancelling rent payments in Quebec;
- declaring a moratorium on all evictions related to the inability to pay rent during the COVID-19 pandemic; people who do not pay their rent during the crisis should not be evicted afterwards either;
- opening as many vacant units as possible — such as empty Airbnb units, vacant condos, hotels — to house people who are homeless or currently living in unsafe, unsanitary or abusive housing conditions.
ABANDONED BY HOUSING MINISTER LAFOREST
In a press release sent on the eve of April 1 (www.newswire.ca/fr/news-releases/pandemie-de-la-covid-19-1er-avril-le-gouvernement-du-quebec-rappelle-les-mesures-en-place-888418021.html), Andrée Laforest, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, insulted Quebec’s low-income tenants. She urges tenants to contact their banks (!). This means two things: i) Laforest is completely ignorant of the reality lived by poor and working class tenants, who cannot qualify for bank loans; Laforest’s suggestion is laughable; ii) Laforest is suggesting that tenants go into debt to deal with the current crisis, debts that cannot be paid, and will only increase mental and physical anguish in the middle of a public health crisis.
TENANTS ARE GETTING ORGANIZED
The testimonials of tenants from all over Quebec express fear and worry, while demanding the cancellation of rents immediately. Those testimonials can be accessed here: https://grevedesloyers.info/en/testimonies-2/
In a building in the Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie district, precarious tenants of 10 apartments have decided to go on a rent strike in order to signify to their landlord their collective inability to pay rent:
“We are working together to ensure everyone stays safe. However, the current circumstances have put not only our physical, but also our financial health at risk,” explains Dexter Xurukulasuriya, one of the tenants. In a letter sent to their landlord, they ask for an understanding that “the inability for some to afford the rent is due to a public health crisis outside of anyone’s control, and that for the good of public safety”, they must be able to stay in their homes, “without fear of being able to pay for living expenses.”
“Of course, we realize that [our landlord] is also affected by this crisis, and are reassured to know that [landlords] have access to tools and relief measures such as mortgage deferral.” adds Xurukulasuriya.
TOOLS FOR TENANTS WHO WANT TO FIGHT BACK
Hundreds of tenants all over Montreal, and all over Quebec and Canada, are organizing collectively. When confronting injustice, fear and isolation, our best weapons are solidarity, care and support.
The Draps blancs pour une grève générale have put together a WHY & HOW about rent refusal and rent strikes for tenants and supporters; access that info here: https://grevedesloyers.info/en/howwhy/
We have also put together important LEGAL CONSIDERATIONS, so you are aware of your rights, the risks, and how to best organize concerning your rent: https://grevedesloyers.info/en/legal-considerations/
We encourage tenants who are ORGANIZING autonomously to share their updates with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
A Montreal-wide Autonomous TENANTS UNION is also taking shape; learn more here: https://syndicatlocatairesmtl.wordpress.com
We have also put together a PHOTO GALLERY of white sheets place in front of homes, a symbol of rent refusal, rent cancellation, and a rent strike, and solidarity between tenants: https://grevedesloyers.info/en/gallery-2/
Autonomous tenants in Montreal have launched a Quebec-specific PETITION, with three clear demands, including rent cancellation. The petition is reaching 10,000 signatures. Sign and share the petition: http://chng.it/XJctK2Tw
The Draps blancs pour une grève des loyers reminds the MEDIA of our previous press releases, with information still very much relevant today:
– March 31, 2020: https://grevedesloyers.info/en/ressources/pressreleasemarch31/
– March 30, 2020: https://grevedesloyers.info/en/ressources/pressrelease2/
– March 26, 2020: https://grevedesloyers.info/en/ressources/pressrelease
The Draps blancs pour une grève générale is a Montreal-based effort, but there are rent strike efforts all over North America and all over the world.
– Here is the pan-Canadian CANCEL RENT site: www.cancelrent.ca
– USA RENT STRIKE efforts are coordinated here: https://www.rentstrike2020.org/
– For more North American and GLOBAL efforts consult: https://5demands.global/map/