The following op-ed was submitted by Naomi Hunter, leader of the Saskatchewan Green Party (Canada)

The Saskatchewan Green Party is calling for the provincial government to cancel Bills 15 and 21 immediately. The Ministry of Justice has hidden its proposals for permanent cuts to tenants’ protection from eviction. Last December it hid these inhumane cuts behind claims of improved tenant protection from sexual violence. 

As Leader of the Saskatchewan Green Party, it is part of my job to know the facts and not simply take the Moe government at its word. They are prone to play fast and loose with the most vulnerable of our citizens. 

As an example, Bill 15 actually makes it harder for tenants to access security deposit refunds when they need them the most. This government “nickels and dimes” the people surviving on nickels and dimes. The low-minded measure increases the risk of homelessness, unsafe housing, and the physical and mental dangers of poverty that are plaguing our society. 

The Ministry of Justice (Orwell, anyone?) calls the cuts to renters’ rights “A series of administrative improvements that revise and expand existing provisions to reflect current practices, create more efficiency, and allow more equity between the parties.” Actually, the”efficiencies”, and “equity” protections systematically taken from tenant rights and tenant security deposits exclusively benefit the landlords who requested them last summer. 

These legislated changes further undermine a fair, good faith system for renter populations who are experiencing disabilities or are otherwise vulnerable or marginalized. These are not merely the “administrative changes” of SaskPartyspeak; they are contrary to what should be a human right to safe, affordable housing. 

Bill 15 (Residential Tenancies Act) is to put into effect: 

  • NO actual improvement of existing legal protection for tenants experiencing sexual violence (the advertised purpose of the bill)
  • Increased risk of eviction and homelessness, by cutting in half the time allowed for tenants to respond to eviction notices due to late rent, from 15 days to seven 
  • Higher costs and several other barriers to tenants’ getting their own security deposit back. This return is of course essential for low-income renters to move to future housing (especially those who are unemployed or on programs like SIS) 

The proposed changes in Bill 21 (Safe Communities and Neighbourhoods — SCAN) expand SCAN’s already dangerous powers over tenancies: 

Eviction can be based on hearsay, with little time or process involved for the tenants to defend themselves. This will even more readily convert eviction into homelessness (even when against the landlord’s own wishes!), regardless of the presence of innocent household members. These situations often impact single Indigenous mothers or grandmothers, disproportionately more than other populations. 

Landlords are granted increased powers to immediately and forcibly remove the household members, even with no warning, thus endangering and destabilizing diverse households. Supposedly in Canada everyone has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. The SCAN program’s civil forfeiture powers will also confiscate and dispose of personal belongings, property, vehicles, and work and school gear.

The Moe government’s hard-hearted disregard for people experiencing unstable housing is cruel at any time. But during the 3rd wave of the pandemic? This is sadistic. Rather, let the Justice Minister and his colleagues know that safe, affordable housing is a human right and the province’s duty to ensure. 

These proposed system cuts will end up costing the Saskatchewan taxpayers more money. They will result in offloading more emergency care for the harmed, displaced and traumatized tenant household members of all ages and needs. Our charitable community emergency organizations are already stretched to the breaking point, as are our emergency rooms. They can’t take the added stress caused by these regressive changes to the system. 

We in the Saskatchewan Green Party know that undermining basic human rights to housing, and consequently increasing poverty and homelessness, as well as subjecting renters to oversight by hearsay, is all deeply wrong. We stand in opposition. Will you join us? 

Share your voice in a letter or phone call to the Minister of Justice Gord Wyant, to the Premier, and to your MLA. Cancel Bill 15 and Bill 21 now. Email: Everyone deserves affordable, safe housing and sustainable communities!Let’s ensure this together.

Naomi Hunter,

Leader – Saskatchewan Green Party

Naomi Hunter

Naomi Hunter is the leader of the Saskatchewan Green Party. She comes to this position as a lifelong advocate for community, the environment, peace and social Justice. In the summer she runs the family Haskap farm with her father near Birch Hills, Sk. During the rest of the year, she nurtures her other careers as small business owner, seniors fitness class instructor, community organizer and politician. All of this experience has produced one of Saskatchewan's most well-rounded, and hardest working advocates.

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