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Saskatchewan NDP push for pause on all evictions, province says it’s taking steps to prevent them

Sask. NDP Leader Ryan Meili called for an immediate pause on all evictions in Saskatchewan during a press conference with media on Wednesday in which he appeared live on YouTube.
Sask. NDP Leader Ryan Meili called for an immediate pause on all evictions in Saskatchewan during a press conference with media on Wednesday in which he appeared live on YouTube. Screengrab of YouTube Live

The Saskatchewan NDP is echoing similar comments made by Regina Mayor Michael Fougere, asking the province to put a pause on all evictions to ensure no one loses their home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If we’re asking people to stay home, we need to make sure they have a home to stay in,” said NDP Leader Ryan Meili.

With four confirmed cases of community transmission in Saskatchewan, Meili said now is the time to implement an immediate moratorium on evictions in the province. This includes social housing, private rental housing and commercial rentals.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Saskatchewan limits gatherings to 10 people, moves to limit more businesses

In the past few days, Meili said, he’s received numerous messages on Twitter from people unable to make rent at the end of the month.

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“The idea of moving during all of these changes is really difficult. This is a real concern for people,” Meili said.

“They got less money coming in, rent is going to be due in a few days. There’s a lot of people facing the risk of being evicted. We need a clear message from the province that’s not something that’s going to happen.”

Regina’s mayor has a similar concern. He told reporters Monday he wrote a letter to Social Services Minister Paul Merriman asking for residential evictions to stop.

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Coronavirus outbreak: Saskatchewan now prohibiting public gatherings greater than 10 people – Mar 25, 2020

In a written statement issued to Global News on Wednesday, the Government of Saskatchewan said they are taking steps to address this issue.

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“Saskatchewan Office of Residential Tenancies (ORT) hearing officers are taking additional evidence into consideration when deciding whether to approve an eviction during the state of emergency,” the statement said.

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“This provides hearings officers flexibility to make decisions on a case-by-case basis in light of circumstances arising from the COVID-19 emergency.”

READ MORE: Frustrations continue for Saskatchewan nurses over lack of protective equipment

Additionally, the government says ORT is encouraging landlords and tenants to communicate with each other about their individual situations “so that they can come to mutually agreeable solutions in this challenging time.”

“In instances where the safety of landlords, tenants or rental property is at risk, personal health and safety will continue to be the primary concern,” the government added.

The Ministry of Social Services is encouraging anyone in a housing need, or existing tenants who have experienced a change in circumstances, to call their housing authority for options available to them.

People in an emergency situation, who don’t have enough money to meet their basic needs, can call the Provincial Client Service Centre or their local income assistance office.

“This is a rapidly changing situation,” said the government in a statement. “Government is carefully evaluating the needs of landlords and tenants as the COVID-19 situation develops.

“We expect to be able to provide further direction on this issue in the near future.”

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READ MORE: 14 new COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan, total reaches 86

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. All international travellers returning to Saskatchewan are required to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.