Knowledge is power

CAPE teams up with Éducaloi to host tenants’ rights workshop

Knowledge is Power is the first of a three-part virtual workshop explaining the legal protections offered to renters in Québec. Photo: Matias Brunet-Kirk – NEWSFIRST 

Éducaloi and local housing advocacy organization Comité d’Action de Parc-Extension (CAPE) will be teaming up in early January to offer a workshop to tenants and renters outlining their housing rights and how they can effectively defend themselves when being threatened with eviction.

Knowledge is Power is the first of a three-part virtual workshop that will take place on Jan. 15. It will let participants take part in a seminar explaining the legal protections offered to renters in Québec as well as role-playing exercises to help them better prepare for potential interactions with their building owners.

According to CAPE, the objective behind the workshops is to give Parc-Extension residents and marginalized communities the knowledge and the tools to better defend themselves when they face threats of evictions, renovictions or unsafe and unhealthy living conditions.

The workshops will be hosted by Parc-Extension resident Rizwan Ahmad Khan, a law student and community organizer at CAPE, along with Alain Deschamps, a lawyer and plain language specialist at Éducaloi. 

Helping the community

Rizwan Ahmad Khan is a law student at l’Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) and has been volunteering with CAPE for approximately a year. With the support of Éducaloi, he has been organizing the workshop for several months now. 

“In Parc-Extension we have a very marginalized population. 60 percent of people here are from an immigration background. We have a lot of people who are refugees in the neighbourhood, we have a lot of foreign students also in the neighbourhood, and they don’t know their rights,” remarked Khan. 

“It’s easier for landlords to bully tenants, or just make them believe that what they’re saying is the truth,” continued Khan, explaining that the workshop would help dispel certain myths and educate tenants on what their rights truly are. 

The workshops will concentrate on giving practical experience to participants, by conducting role-playing exercises and simulations so tenants are prepared if confronted with a situation where they may face eviction or unsafe living conditions. 

Comité d’Action de Parc-Extension (CAPE) has long advocated for more protections for renters in Parc-Extension. Photo: CAPE 

Legal remedies

Lawyer and plain language specialist at Éducaloi Alain Deschamps will also host the event, explaining to participants what the law already offers and making it more understandable to everyday people.

“You have to be aware of your rights to be able to defend them,” noted Deschamps. He added that oftentimes, tenants didn’t know that they are entitled to stay in their apartment and to refuse rent increases. 

For example, Deschamps outlined that people have a fundamental right to stay in their apartments and are not obliged to move when their lease ends. “It automatically renews. So yes it ends, but you still have the right to stay,” he said.

“Our goal here is to give them a space in which they can learn and go through that first uncomfortable exercise of being like, ‘Well, how do I actually do this?’ and do it in a safe place where they’re well supported,” continued Deschamps.

“You have to be aware of your rights to be able to defend them,”

Housing crisis 

Parc-Extension is considered by many to be ground-zero for gentrification and the Montreal housing crisis. Over the past year, CAPE has flagged a growing number of evictions and renovictions in the area and a largescale increase in property values.

“It’s part of the larger toolbox,” remarked Khan on the workshop and its place in fighting the housing crisis. “There are different tools, you’ve got the bigger ones and the smaller ones, and I think the workshop is something that is practical on a day-to-day basis,” he added.

CAPE has long advocated for legislative changes at both the municipal and provincial levels to help address the housing crisis, but Khan recognizes that other options are still available in the meantime.

“We want more social housing, we want more protections for tenants, but right now these are not things that will happen overnight,” he noted, adding that for now the best tenants could do was to use the protections in place.

Rizwan Ahmad Khan is a Parc-Extension resident as well as a law student and community organizer at CAPE. Photo: Rizwan Ahmad Khan via Facebook.

Virtual workshop

Although Deschamps sees the advantages of legislative change in addressing social problems, he added that Éducaloi’s mandate was to make people aware of the law already in place and use it to their advantage. 

“In reality, Quebec does have fairly generous tenant protection laws,” opined Deschamps. “The issue obviously comes in when people aren’t aware of them and aren’t able to actually make use of the protections that exist under the law,” he added. 

He added that Éducaloi wants to specifically target vulnerable populations in Parc-Extension and help them better understand their rights and how to defend them in practice.

The workshop will be held on Jan. 15 via Zoom and is open to the public free of charge. Those who are interested in participating can contact CAPE to reserve a spot by either, visiting Éducaloi’s website sending an email to [email protected] or by calling (514) 278-6028.

Alain Deschamps is a lawyer and plain language specialist at Éducaloi. Photo: Alain Deschamps via Éducaloi