Success: Justice for Minors

I want to share a story that started in 2011 that has (finally) come to conclusion. This is a story about housing law, criminal law, public interest law and poverty law. Unlike almost everything else in this space, this case has nothing to do with immigration. This is a case of a Canadian family who needed legal help. I helped the family while I was working as Staff Lawyer at Unison Health and Community Services (“Unison”) in Toronto in 2011. During this time, this family needed significant support. After I moved to Winnipeg, another lawyer took over the case and helped this family actually collect the $$$.

Here is a summary of what happened from my Supervisor and Legal Director:

In 2011, we opened a file for clients who were being evicted for arrears of rent. Alastair Clarke was assigned to the file and represented the clients. As he found out more about the case, he found out that the clients and their 3 daughters were renting from the client’s parents, in the parents’ home. Alastair also found out details about the tenancy in that, the male landlord (grandfather) was assaulting the teenaged daughters. Alastair helped the clients file a tenant application against both landlords (grandparents) seeking compensation from them. I should also mention that around the same time, the grandfather was criminally charged and ultimately convicted for the assaults (and was jailed). To add to the ordeal of a hearing, during the course of the hearing process, the clients were offered money by the grandmother to withdraw the application. They did not. After approximately a year, and several appearances, the clients were successful, and obtained an Order for $25,000 which is the maximum allowable at the Landlord and Tenant Board (and rarely awarded)!
Often I tell clients, that winning a court case is only half the battle, and that collecting on any type of judgement is the other half. The grandparents did not pay as ordered. Therefore, we (Joanna Mullen who was filling in for Alastair at that time) looked into ways to help them collect on this judgement. In the end, she helped the clients file a writ against the grandparents’ home. This was in 2012.
Recently, we were contacted by the lawyer for the grandparents who had just sold the home. In order for the sale to be completed, the writ had to be first satisfied (paid out).
Today, I had the privilege of handing a certified cheque in the amount of $24,752 to the clients ($25,000 less some arrears owing)!!! When I handed them the cheque, the expressed their gratitude to both Alastair and Joanna and Unison, and stated that this would hopefully bring a bit of closure to the matter. I asked how the daughters were doing, and was told that while the healing process is ongoing, 1 daughter is finishing college, and 1 is engaged.
Congratulations to both Alastair and Joanna for their hard work on the file!!
As you can read from the above, this was a very sensitive situation and the girls were living with a sexual predator. The grandfather in the family was sexually molesting his granddaughters and taking advantage of the housing situation. It was a messy and stressful experience. At various times, the family wanted to just get out of the rental housing situation and move on. It takes courage and strength to pursue these cases to the end.
I want to recognize the work of Joanna Mullen who continues to work in the Ontario clinic system. She also shared her thoughts on this case:
Thanks to everyone for their kind words and congratulations. I also worked with the daughters on applications to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, which were successful. Even though it was several years ago now, the resiliency of those girls in the face of such horrific violations has remained with me. I am happy to hear that they are doing well and that we were able to deliver compensation after so much time had passed.
The reason I am sharing this story is to highlight the services from the legal clinic system in Ontario. Unison, in particular, should be the model for services. Residents can go to Unison to medical services, employment services, housing support, counseling services, youth programming, pre-natal classes, exercise classes (yoga), disability services and, of course, legal services. I would tell my colleagues that we were providing medical services because many of our clients had medical issues and we were working closely with doctors and nurses. Poverty law often covers many different issues and it makes things go so much easier when service providers can work together.
Another reason for sharing this story is to focus on justice. The adage that the wheels of justice move slowly is evident. This case has been going through various administrative tribunals and criminal courts for more than 10 years. This family has gone through significant stress. In the end, however, I hope they feel satisfied with the results and I am thrilled that the girls are doing well.