By a member of Common Cause Toronto
On August 15, Roma tenants living in three low rise apartment buildings in Mimico, a neighbourhood in west-end Toronto, decided to take matters into their own hands, and occupied the law offices of their landlord, lawyer Leroy Bleta. After weeks of their phone calls and complaints being ignored, the tenants decided to bring their demands directly to the landlord's place of business. They were joined by supporters including members of Common Cause and IWW Toronto, as well as workers from a local legal clinic.
“We decided to take on the landlord because of the behaviour of the building superintendent,” explained Krisztina, one of the tenants involved in organizing the action, “I asked him to fix the door to my apartment which was broken when I moved in, but he refused. He said 'all you people do is complain'.”
Like thousands of other Hungarian Roma people who have arrived here in recent years, Krisztina came to Toronto as a refugee three years ago, fleeing paramilitary violence by groups associated with the neo-nazi Jobbik party, and systemic discrimination from the Hungarian State. Refugee claim success rates amongst Roma claimants is very low; Canada considers Hungary a Designated Country of Origin which respects human rights and offers state protection to persecuted groups. Krisztina's family continues to face anti-Roma racism in Canada. “He [the superintendent] harasses my son and has hit children playing outside the building. He tells us to our faces that he hates Hungarians (Roma).”
While Bleta himself was out of the office at the time of the tenants' visit, they made their demands clear to the other lawyers and support staff present. Demands included firing the building superintendent for his abusive and racist behaviour toward tenants and their children, as well as a number of repairs including fixing faulty plumbing, broken windows, and water damage caused by frequent flooding.