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Renters Rights and a Movie

I went to a public consultation put on by the Ontario Human Rights Commission the other day. There were not too many people in attendance, partially because few people had heard of this thing, and partially because it was way out in RIM park, which was a half-hour bike ride away from the university. It was a great way to exclude the poor, but the organizers apologised, so I guess it's all okay. I did get to interact with former Toronto mayor Barbara Hall, though, so that was neat.

I whined about how people don't want to rent to unemployed lazy bums like me, and how it wasn't fair that I be prohibited from working from home. I was pretty out of place: most of the people speaking were on Ontario Works or ODSP, and they were complaining about how their landlords had given the police the keys to their apartments, and how the police were busting in at 3am to do drug searches.

One woman went on at length about non-smoking restrictions. Her point was that poor people often smoke, and that we are engaged in a hate campaign against smokers -- we don't rent places to them, we don't want to employ them, we make it ridiculously hard for them to smoke in public spaces, and so on. Even though I am a bigot who really doesn't want to live with people who smoke in my home, I could see her point, especially when she brought up the point that the World Health Organization does not hire people who smoke to work for it.

It's a fine line. It's pretty clear that smoking is bad for people (and I grieve that so many of the people I met while volunteering for the Working Centre do smoke, especially when one of my bicycle mentors died last year of lung cancer) but it is awfully hard to avoid conflating the sinner and the sin.

Overall, I don't have a lot of faith in Human Rights Commissions, but I guess that is because I am privileged. In my view, filing complaints and working through the grievance processes is too much like getting involved with our legal system: it sucks up time, energy and money, and it encourages us to be adversarial towards each other. I am not even sure I want the Commission codifying my grievances into rules that landlords must follow; if some landlord hates lazy unemployed people like me but rents me a place because the rules say so, am I really any better off? I have enough hubris to think that I can find a place that does serve my needs better. So by participating in this public consultation I was likely making things worse, not better.

On the other hand, poorer people and people who face a lot of systemic discrimination don't have such options, and the presence of this organization can help such people access opportunities -- like housing -- that they would otherwise be unable to access.

In other news, I went to see a movie yesterday. It was probably a mistake; my day had been fairly unproductive, and even though I was tired there were lots of ways in which I should have been spending my time more productively. Attending the movie alone also fuelled my feelings of isolation; I did not really need to be reminded of just how few social contacts I have.

In other news, the two people next to me are whispering loudly about climate change conspiracy stories. They are citing The National Post a lot and calling themselves "skeptics". Sigh.

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Mood: emo