The Hamilton Spectator
Residents need water restored now, not later
When people think of a progressive future, the last thing that should be of concern to them is the security of their water supply. This utopian vision, to be sure, is sadly out of reach for many people in Canada; people who live in rural areas, those who live on some First Nations reserves, and those who live in the heart of poverty in our urban areas.
The need for safe, clean and affordable access to water is a basic need for life. It takes a person longer to starve to death than it does to die of thirst, although both are horrific ways to go. Composed of about 60 per cent water, people dry up pretty quickly without a regular refill.
Then there’s the sanitary function of water as it cleanses bodies, clothes, food, everything it touches. Unless it’s contaminated, then it’s the other way around and it becomes a carrier of poison.
In Indigenous culture, water exists as a being that sustains and gifts us with life. Settler society has lost this ancient connection to the water, seeing it as a commodity to trade, a resource to exploit, as something taken for granted. This disconnect between gratitude and wasteful exploitation is one that threatens the humanity at very core of our existence.
Respect for water is respect for life.
Much has been said of the situation of the holdout residents at 1083 Main St. E., a building nostalgically remembered as the Delta. These tenants have been living without running water since the end of December due to burst pipes and an inability of the landlord/owner to fix them while the tenants remain in their units.
The complicating factor is the eviction notice the tenants are currently fighting. The tenants won’t leave for fear of being locked out of returning home. They are demanding the rights they have as tenants from “renoviction,” or eviction for the purpose of renovations. Their case comes before the Landlord Tenant Board in early March.
Councillor Brad Clark is right in his comments at council. Other landlords are watching closely and will be encouraged by the inability of the city to deal with the simple issue of access to water in a prompt and timely fashion. It has been two months that tenants have had to find alternate ways to get water.
Caught up in red tape, where deadlines have to pass before options kick in, landlords could play a game of chicken with the tenants, holding water hostage, weaponizing its absence, wearing down their resistance.
All over the city there are tenants who are losing from one assault or another on their ability to secure affordable housing. Landlords, and their lawyers, seek every legal option to assert their property rights, exploit every loophole they can find and maybe even stretch a couple just to the point of breaking. They say the same of tenants. Whatever trust there was in the relationship is long broken.
The optics of the situation at 1083 Main St. E. are not good.
Water should never be allowed to be used as a weapon, inadvertently or not, in a fight over tenant rights. Access to water is a vital service, a human right and must be a priority in the landlord/tenant relationship, whether that relationship is under threat of termination or not. The city has the power to guarantee access to water through its right of repair and it must uphold that power.
What happens if the tenants win at the LTB? Are there alternate renovation plans? Would the city demand absence to repair? Would the landlord better accommodate their tenants to progress the project along?
What if the LTB defers their decision? It’s been known to happen. Or what if either party appeals the decision? This could go on for months more, facilitated by the system in its absence of action and lack of protection for “renovicted” tenants.
Whatever fix can be made, should be made. Now.