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Coronavirus: Quebec activists want province to do more to stop evictions during pandemic

Housing activists in Montreal want the Quebec government to do more for renters facing eviction during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the Quebec government ramps up measures to contain the spread of coronavirus, many independant workers forced to self-isolate are losing income, and with that, many fear they won’t be able pay rent at the end of the month.

On Monday, Quebec’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Andrée Laforest, announced eviction hearings are suspended until March 23, except for cases in which health and safety are compromised.

READ MORE: Quebec rolls out temporary financial aid program as number of coronavirus cases climbs to 50

It’s a respite for those who are currently facing eviction, but housing activists say it’s not enough.

“We’re asking the measures announced to be extended until the end of the measures so tenants can have a little bit of space to make things work and re-arrange their lives,” said Philippe Girouard, a spokesperson for the Regroupement des comités logement et associations de locataires du Québec (RCLALQ).

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A petition asking the federal government to “cancel rent and mortgage payments for the duration of the COVID-19 virus pandemic” has gathered tens of thousands of signatures.

Social media is abuzz with calls for a rental strike in Montreal. A post that has been shared nearly 100 times is suggesting people to not pay their rent come April 1.

“A suggestion to withhold your rent on April 1st, as part of a large-scale public campaign, until there is a moratorium on paying rent for all tenants, including a moratorium on evictions,” the post read in part. “This tactic, accompanied by a public campaign, can force all relevant authorities to meet our collective demands.”

READ MORE: Montreal-area food banks struggle to cope with COVID-19 restrictions

But Girouard is discouraging people from taking such measures.

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“We want to defend tenants who are having problems but I don’t see why that is necessary. Landlords have a lot of power. The easiest way would be for the government to take measures,” explained Girouard.

Girouard says housing groups are continuing to put pressure on the provincial government to extend the moratorium on evictions. He says he trusts more measures will be taken to protect tenants in need.

In the meantime, Girouard is advising people to inform themselves about their rights and call their local housing committee. “It’s common for landlords to misinform their tenants,” he said.

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