Day: March 16, 2020

Ontario residents could still be evicted from their homes amid COVID-19 crisis

Housing advocates are urging the Ontario government to halt all eviction orders that could leave people homeless and forced into the already-packed shelter system amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

A committee of lawyers, paralegals and housing advocates sent a letter to the Attorney General of Ontario Sunday urging the government to immediately cease all enforcement of existing eviction orders and postpone all hearings related to evictions. 

Cole Webber, a member of the committee, said that his office at Parkdale Community Legal Services is dealing with dozens of residents facing eviction, including families and low-income residents despite health officials stressing the importance of staying home. 

“We are already in a housing crisis in the city … there are not many available places and rents is very high, [and] so for people, especially low-income people, finding a new place can often be impossible,” he told CTV News Toronto Monday.

“Clients always express worry about being evicted from their home, the eviction is always devastating and traumatic, but only more so in the context of a public health crisis.”

He said as health officials stress the importance of staying home and away from crowded areas, the option to do so could become impossible for people facing eviction in the Greater Toronto Area.

“Public health officials are already concerned about the intensity and quickness with which the virus could potentially spread in places like homeless shelters; so it’s not the time that we need more people coming into already overcrowded shelters,” he said.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford was asked by reporters at the legislature Monday if the province plans to stop evictions so people are not forced out of their homes, and he responded that “everything is on the table.”

“Our number one priority is to protect the people on Ontario, no matter if it comes to their hydro bills, if it comes to their evictions, if it comes to job loss, we want to make sure that we are there to protect them,” he said.

However, a spokesperson with the Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing office told CTV News Toronto that the government is “actively” looking into measures to halt eviction at this time due to the pandemic.

In order for a tenant to be evicted from a home in Ontario, the landlord must apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board for an eviction order. If a hearing is scheduled, the board can then decide to issue an eviction order, which is then enforced through a municipal sheriff’s office.

The board has said it’s postponing in-person hearings and will reschedule them to a later date due to COVID-19, but also noted that “where feasible, alternative hearing options such as written and telephone hearings will be considered.”

Eviction orders that have already been issued are also scheduled to be carried out, which means that a sheriff could come unannounced and change the locks of a family or person’s home during the health crisis.

If the sheriff locks someone out, they only have 72 hours to make arrangements to get their belongings.

The Greater Toronto Clinic Housing Advocates, the committee which sent the letter Sunday, asked that all eviction orders be stopped for now, and that the Landlord and Tenant Board avoid scheduling telephone, electronic, and written hearings of eviction applications as well.

The committee, which work to protect the rights of tenants in the Greater Toronto Area, said that regions like New York, California and Florida have all take similar steps due to the pandemic.

The group said it’s worried that the issue will become more prevalent as an increasing number of Ontario workers face sudden income losses due to school closures, unpaid time off and layoffs.

“We are going to see it more and more as people with jobs who are sent home from work without sick pay … it’s going to become more and more of an issue,” Webber said.

A total number of 177 people have tested positive for COVID-19, and health officials are recommending drastic measures to contain the virus and prevent community spread, including social distancing and staying home if ill.  

CTV News Toronto has reached out to the Attorney General of Ontario’s office and the Tribunals Ontario for comment, but has not yet received a response.

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source https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/ontario-residents-could-still-be-evicted-from-their-homes-amid-covid-19-crisis-1.4855039

By The Wall of Law March 16, 2020 Off

32 new COVID-19 cases reported in Ontario

Ontario has confirmed another 32 new coronavirus cases in the province, bringing the total to 177.

Five of those cases have been resolved and more than 1,500 are still being investigated.

All 32 new patients are in self-isolation, but other information – including their ages and how they became infected – is sparse.

The new cases are across the province, including in Hamilton, Ottawa and Sudbury, but the majority are in the Greater Toronto Area.

Meanwhile, following complaints of long wait times for Telehealth Ontario services, Health Minister Christine Elliott says the province is adding more nurses to the system.

“By immediately expanding Telehealth’s resources, we can significantly reduce the time it takes for Ontarians to receive the information they need to stay safe and healthy,” Elliott said in a statement.

About 130 more nurses have been deployed for symptom assessment and referrals. Telehealth is also working to add more intake staff so that wait times are reduced for people to make initial contact with a representative.

The province is also working with the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario to expand supports using its 44,000 registered nurse members, Elliott said.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health says unless people have severe symptoms or a medical emergency, they should stay at home while waiting for a Telehealth response.

“We understand that people are anxious to get the advice about next steps as soon as possible, which is why the capacity of Telehealth is being enhanced,” Dr. David Williams said in a statement.

Elliott also announced that youth justice facilities have been told to suspend all personal visits and volunteer activities. All “non-essential” leaves for helping youth in custody reintegrate into the community are being restricted.

Elliott and Social Services Minister Todd Smith said video-calling can still be used for family to stay in touch with youth in those facilities.

Lawyers will still be able to visit their clients but should consider using teleconferencing instead, the ministers said.

 

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source https://toronto.citynews.ca/2020/03/16/32-new-covid-19-cases-reported-in-ontario/

By The Wall of Law March 16, 2020 Off

Ontario confirms 32 new cases of COVID-19 bringing provincial total to 177

Thirty-two new cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) have been confirmed in Ontario, bringing the provincial total to 177, including five recoveries.

There are more than 1,537 people currently under investigation for the virus. More than 8,460 people in Ontario have tested negative.

The number is down slightly from Sunday’s record of 42 new cases in Ontario. New patients reported today are all self-isolating, but other information — including their ages and how they became infected — is sparse.

READ MORE: Tracking each confirmed case of COVID-19 in Ontario

The new confirmed cases come just hours after CTV News learned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will announce some international flights will be rerouted to Montreal, Toronto, Calgary or Vancouver. He is expected to release details of the new restrictions during a press conference at 1 p.m. ET Monday.

The first case of COVID-19 in Canada was confirmed on Jan. 25, 2020, after a man travelling from Wuhan, China, tested positive for the coronavirus. The virus has now spread to more than 10 provinces with over 300 cases reported. 

Complaints over Telehealth wait times 

Meanwhile, following complaints of long wait times for Telehealth Ontario services, Health Minister Christine Elliott says the province is adding more nurses to the system.

“By immediately expanding Telehealth’s resources, we can significantly reduce the time it takes for Ontarians to receive the information they need to stay safe and healthy,” Elliott said in a statement.

About 130 more nurses have been deployed for symptom assessment and referrals. Telehealth is also working to add more intake staff so that wait times are reduced for people to make initial contact with a representative.

The province is also working with the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario to expand supports using its 44,000 registered nurse members, Elliott said.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health says unless people have severe symptoms or a medical emergency, they should stay at home while waiting for a Telehealth response.

“We understand that people are anxious to get the advice about next steps as soon as possible, which is why the capacity of Telehealth is being enhanced,” Dr. David Williams said in a statement.

Elliott also announced that youth justice facilities have been told to suspend all personal visits and volunteer activities. All “non-essential” leaves for helping youth in custody reintegrate into the community are being restricted.

Elliott and Social Services Minister Todd Smith said video-calling can still be used for family to stay in touch with youth in those facilities.

Lawyers will still be able to visit their clients but should consider using teleconferencing instead, the ministers said.

With files from The Canadian Press.  

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source https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/ontario-confirms-32-new-cases-of-covid-19-bringing-provincial-total-to-177-1.4854639

By The Wall of Law March 16, 2020 Off

Closing arguments set to start in Schlatter trial as courts wind down operations

Closing arguments are expected to begin today in the trial of a Toronto man accused of sexually assaulting and strangling a young woman, even as Ontario’s courts prepare to dramatically cut their operations.

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice announced Sunday it would suspend all regular operations, including all new trials, until further notice starting Tuesday to reduce risks related to the novel coronavirus.

Chief Justice Geoffrey B. Morawetz said in a notice the court would only hear urgent matters during the suspension, but trials already in progress would receive direction from the presiding judge today.

The judge presiding over Kalen Schlatter’s murder trial is expected to give his instructions this afternoon as the case reconvenes to hear the defence’s closing arguments.

Should the trial proceed, jurors are slated to begin their deliberations on Friday.

Schlatter has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Tess Richey, whose body was found in a downtown Toronto stairwell in November 2017.

Schlatter, 23, testified last week that Richey was alive when he left her in an alley following a consensual sexual encounter.

He told the court he met Richey and her friend Ryley Simard after all three left the same club, and Richey led him to a secluded stairwell to “make out” after her friend went home.

He said Richey did not want to have sex because she was on her period, and they parted ways a short time later.

His lawyers also called as a witness another man they suggested could be responsible for the killing.

That man, who can only be identified as J.G., told the court last week he saw Richey and Schlatter together several times the night the young woman went missing and denied playing any role in her death.

Court has seen surveillance video from Nov. 25, 2017 that shows Schlatter and Richey going into an alley around 4:15 a.m. and Schlatter emerging alone roughly 45 minutes later.

J.G., who was also captured on several security videos from the neighbourhood that night, does not appear on any footage after about 3:40 a.m.

Richey was reported missing after she failed to return from a night out with a friend, setting off a widespread search effort. Her body was discovered days later by her mother and a family friend.

Prosecutors allege Schlatter killed her after she refused to have sex with him.

A forensic pathologist testified the 22-year-old died from strangulation, but noted there were no obvious marks from fingers or a rope on her neck. That raised the possibility she was strangled with something soft, Dr. Kona Williams said.

Court has also heard Schlatter’s DNA was found on Richey’s pants and bra. J.G. also submitted a DNA sample but there was nothing found on Richey that matched it.

Civil and family courts are also largely shutting down over COVID-19 concerns, and will only deal with “urgent and emergency” cases, including those having to do with public health, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice said.

“This suspension will cause substantial inconvenience to those with matters before the court,” the chief justice said in the notice.

“The decision to engage this emergency process was not made lightly. However, the health and safety of the public, as well as all justice participants is a priority.”

The Ontario Court of Justice, which handles the bulk of criminal cases but does not have jury trials, has also said all matters would be automatically adjourned and rescheduled to a later date, and urged those involved not to attend court.

Other judicial bodies, such as the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, are also postponing hearings indefinitely.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 16, 2020.

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source https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/closing-arguments-set-to-start-in-schlatter-trial-as-courts-wind-down-operations-1.4854438

By The Wall of Law March 16, 2020 Off

Coronavirus forces suspension of Ontario Superior Court, Schlatter trial and other urgent cases expected to continue

Coronavirus forces suspension of Ontario Superior Court, Schlatter trial and other urgent cases expected to continue

The court, which deals with many family matters and the bulk of criminal cases, is expected to adjourn any criminal cases involving persons who are out of custody, according to a Facebook post from the president of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association.

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source https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2020/03/15/coronavirus-forces-suspension-of-ontario-superior-court-for-10-weeks.html

By The Wall of Law March 16, 2020 Off