TORONTO – An unlicensed retirement home run by a woman facing a possible jail term must shut down and its residents moved to licensed facilities, an Ontario court has ruled.
In a novel decision, the Superior Court of Justice rejected arguments from Elaine Lindo to keep her illegal Toronto facility operational.
“There is ample evidence of harm and a risk of further harm if (Lindo is) permitted to continue to operate,” Justice Sandra Nishikawa said in her ruling.
The provincial Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority and courts have repeatedly rapped Lindo, owner of In Touch Retirement Living, for her two-storey house in which she offers accommodation and care to between 10 and 15 people. Most residents are over 65, suffer from serious cognitive impairments, and need help with personal care.
As evidence of risk, Nishikawa noted that one resident with dementia wandered away earlier this year and was found dead several days later, the home has a bed-bug infestation, and there’s no sprinkler system in case of fire.
After the authority turned her down for a licence in 2012 amid concerns about resident treatment and safety policies, Lindo said she was converting the home into a rooming house. However, numerous subsequent inspections concluded she was still operating a retirement home illegally undeterred by charges, jail time, $30,000 in fines and probation orders.
“At each inspection, Ms. Lindo denied operating a retirement home,” Nishikawa said.
Lindo, who says she’s broke, now faces possible jail when sentenced next week following a January conviction for illegally operating a retirement home and breaching probation.
Concerned about the fate of the residents if she is incarcerated, the authority asked the court to shut down the facility – the first such contested request under legislation enacted in 2017 – and allow it to move the residents to safety. Nishikawa had little hesitation in agreeing.
Nishikawa rejected Lindo’s suggestion that punishing her would violate her constitutional rights to freedom of religion because her spiritual beliefs had prompted her to help the homeless. She also found no merit to her claim of racial discrimination.
“The last-minute charter argument strikes me as the latest in a succession of unconvincing, after-the-fact excuses to justify a history of non-compliance and disregard of the applicable law,” Nishikawa said. “Ms. Lindo has no charter-protected right to continue to operate an unlicensed retirement home.”
Court heard that the son of one resident believed Lindo was trying to do a public good and that it would make more sense to help her comply with the legislation rather than prosecute her and shut down In Touch. The judge, however, said the argument could not justify rejection of the association’s request.
A Toronto Star investigation that began in 2010 found In Touch seniors living in deplorable conditions.