Huricane Juan
Toronto Star
  • Rogue retirement home ordered to cease operating

    A rogue retirement home that has been operating without a licence for more than a year, has been ordered by the provincial regulatory body to cease operations by no later than Friday.

    The order against In Touch retirement in Weston comes in the wake of an ongoing Toronto Star investigation that revealed the home continues to operate even though it was denied a licence by the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority in July 2013.

    A Star reporter posing as someone looking for a place for her elderly father was recently told by owner-operator Elaine Lindo that In Touch, now called Rosemount Place, is home to at least 18 people but can accommodate up to 24.

    Rosemount Place is not licensed according to the regulatory body.

    Reached by telephone for comment on whether she planned to obey the order to shut down, Lindo was short and to the point: “That is none of your business, you have nothing to do with this, OK,” and hung up.

    In Touch has been the subject on an ongoing Star investigation since 2010 when a male reporter went undercover posing as a down and out drifter, and lived there for a week.

    The Star found seniors, many of whom suffered from mental and physical impairments, living in deplorable conditions. Some were left in soiled diapers for hours. There were no toilet paper or paper towels available in any of the bathrooms. Seniors were fed substandard meals, and cared for by overworked and poorly trained and paid staff.

    The RHRA denied Lindo an operating licence on July 17, 2013, a decision upheld four months later by the Licence Appeal Tribunal (LAT). Citing concerns that some residents were subjected to abuse and neglect, the tribunal noted in its written decision that Lindo had lied on licence applications, misled inspectors, and refused to pay the licensing fee.

    Lindo has continued to operate the home in the Lawrence Ave. W. and Weston Rd. area despite a charge laid by the RHRA in May for operating without a licence. A first conviction carries a maximum fine of $25,000 and a year in jail.

    Critics of the Retirement Homes Act, which came into force in April 2012 to a then-unregulated industry, say the RHRA’s ongoing scuffle with In Touch, and its inability to force the home into compliance, points to serious flaws in the legislation.

    NDP health critic France Gelinas wants the government to reopen the bill in order to strengthen protections for the more than 40,000 seniors who live in retirement homes across the province. The government knew the legislation was flawed but rammed it through into law anyway, she said.

    “We knew this was going to happen. We told them this was going to happen,” Gelinas said in a telephone interview “We have a duty to protect our most vulnerable persons.”

    Mario Sergio, Minister Responsible for Seniors Affairs, sidestepped the question when asked if he or his ministry has the power to shut down a rogue retirement home which flouts an order from the RHRA to cease operating.

    Instead, in an email to the Star, Sergio cited the number of “enforcement tools” available to the RHRA, including fines, warnings, and prosecution in court which could result in the jailing of the owner-operator, that could be used to bring a rogue home into compliance.

    “We will look for enhancements that we can make that will further strengthen enforcement tools and protection for seniors,” Sergio said, noting the legislation calls for a mandatory review of the Act to be completed by 2016. “We are looking for further steps we can take to strengthen it and continue to increase the safety and peace of mind for seniors and their families.”

    And while the RHRA says it has several penalties at its disposal it too lacks the authority to shut down any home, take over its operation, or to “enforce LAT orders directly,” RHRA spokesperson Brenda Bereczki told the Star.

    “The safety of retirement home residents remains the RHRA’s priority,” Bereczki said in an email noting that In Touch has been ordered to “cease to operate the premises as a retirement home” by Friday.

    “In all cases where resident safety is at stake, the RHRA will vigorously pursue the regulatory and court avenues available to it,” Bereczki said.

    The RHRA sent Lindo a notice back in November 2013 asking Lindo to “take timely and appropriate action to cease operating your premises as a retirement home.” The notice suggested Lindo could still provide housing for seniors as long as she limited the residence to five or fewer persons, which would take it out of the realm of the RHRA to licence, police and enforce.

    Lindo, apparently, ignored the notice.

    The order to cease operating, posted on the RHRA’s website this month, more than a year after Lindo was refused a licence and lost her appeal, notes “the Registrar believes on reasonable grounds that the Applicant continues to operate a retirement home without a licence.”

    It is not clear whether Lindo will obey the latest order.

    Lindo’s refusal to cease operations resulted in the RHRA charging her in May with operating without a licence. The RHRA says it cannot comment on the In Touch case or on what further action it might take should Lindo refuse to comply with the order.

    Lindo is due back in court on Dec. 16.

  • Jian Ghomeshi's other case: the union grievance

    Now that Jian Ghomeshi is out on $100,000 bail, his path through the criminal justice system is well understood: pretrial and maybe trial, possibly a plea and, if not, a verdict.

    No matter what happens in court, Ghomeshi will still have an opportunity to make the case that he was wrongfully dismissed by the CBC through a union grievance.

    But it remains unclear whether the union will support his bid.

    When Ghomeshi filed a $55-million lawsuit last month, several labour lawyers publicly pointed out that as an employee in a unionized workplace, he did not have the right to sue without first going through the grievance process.

    Earlier this week, Ghomeshi dropped his lawsuit and his union confirmed that he had requested it grieve his firing.

    “The grievance that was filed … will proceed through the usual process. This includes discussions with the CBC and the possibility of the case being decided by an arbitrator,” the Canadian Media Guild said in a statement posted on its website Tuesday, adding that because grievances are confidential, no further details would be provided.

    The CMG did not return the Star’s calls for comment, but it appears that the grievance could be on hold.

    “Often when there is a parallel criminal proceeding, the grievance and arbitration process is put on hold. Nothing, though, has been decided one way or the other at this point,” said Sean Fitzpatrick, a lawyer who acts for the CMG, in an email to the Star.

    While the union waits to see what happens in the courtroom, it is probably looking at the specifics of Ghomeshi’s firing to determine whether his case is worth pursuing, said Stephen Shore, a labour and employment lawyer not involved in the case.

    “It’s the union that will make decisions with respect to the grievance, not the individual,” Shore said. “So the union at some point could ultimately decide that it won’t pursue the grievance anymore, and they can do that without Ghomeshi consenting. They can unilaterally make that decision.”

    In a statement posted online Thursday, CMG’s national president, Carmel Smyth, didn’t name Ghomeshi, but wrote about the grievance process in the light of the “very public airing of a dismissal.”

    “In each case, when a member who has been fired asks us to file a grievance, we must be careful to do so in a timely manner, and then we will further investigate the circumstances before making a decision about whether the grievance is valid, supportable, or winnable,” wrote Smyth.

    “Winnable” is an interesting choice of words here, said Shore, that may give the union a pretext to not back Ghomeshi. “As a result, Ghomeshi would be in the position where he can’t bring a court case and the union isn’t going to carry his grievance forward to challenge his termination.”

    If the union decides not to pursue the grievance, Ghomeshi would have one last recourse. He could make a complaint to the Canada Industrial Relations Board that he wasn’t fairly represented by his union. Such complaints “aren’t rare, but they are rarely successful,” Shore said.

    Employment lawyer Howard Levitt, who has had cases with the CMG and is familiar with its collective agreement, says the success rate for such appeals is less than 1 per cent. “The unions are allowed to be wrong, they’re just not allowed to act in bad faith,” Levitt said.

    The CMG could choose not to pursue the case out of consideration for their female members, he said, or simply because they don’t want to spend the money to pursue it. “It would be a reasonable position for (the union) to say, ‘We’re not going to be involved in this cause,’ especially if they believed he did it.”

    “I would be very surprised if the union took this case all the way to arbitration,” Levitt said. “I don’t think the criminal outcome is even material. Even if you disbelieve everything the women say, and you believe everything he says, it’s an unwinnable case because of what he admits to,” he said.

    “It would damage the brand; it would upset listeners … who say, ‘I don’t believe in BDSM, especially when injuries and bruising are involved, and I’m not comfortable with that being the radio station I listen to with my morning coffee.”

  • Ikea monkey crowdfunding launched to find him a bigger home

    Darwin has outgrown his shearling coat and is in need of a new home.

    “We need room to grow,” says Kim Meehan, a volunteer at Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary, where the famous “Ikea monkey” has lived for the past two years.

    The sanctuary hopes to raise $490,000 online through its Darwin’s Dream crowdfunding campaign to move Darwin and other primates in its care to the site of the former Northwood Zoo and Exotic Animal Ranch in Seagrave, on the western side of Lake Scugog.

    “Its owner wants to retire,” Meehan says. “It’s a huge facility with existing infrastructure that would allow us to expand. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us.”

    Set on 22 hectares with treed enclosures, the Northwood property is up for sale for nearly $1 million. If Story Book Farm successfully purchases the property, the sale would include 20 primates already living there. However, the aging lions, wolves and grizzly bears would be transferred to other sanctuaries.

    “The other really good thing about it is that there are two six-year-old Japanese macaques there that we can put Darwin with,” Meehan says. “It makes us so happy to think that he could have a little family.”

    Story Book, with 22 primates in its care, is already operating at capacity. Founded in 2000, the tiny facility in Sunderland, 12 kilometres north of Seagrave, is divided into pens where hollering monkeys of all sizes swing on ropes and old fire hose and play with kids’ toys. There are lemurs, spider monkeys, pint-sized marmosets and a squirrel monkey. Most pens have sliding doors that allow them to slip into outdoor enclosures to frolic in the sunshine and fresh air.

    Sanctuary co-founder Sherri Delaney says monkeys, as intelligent and social animals used to living in troupes, can easily suffer mental breakdowns when kept in isolation.

    “People buy monkeys and leave them in cages when they’re not home,” says Delaney, who served 25 years with Durham Regional Police. “Our job is to inject life into their enclosures so they’re not just existing but are stimulated and enriched.”

    Since arriving at Story Book in December 2012, Darwin has made friends with Sweetpea, an old baboon. Meehan says the two often hold hands through the chain link barrier separating their pens.

    The other two Japanese macaques at Story Book don’t show much interest in Darwin, who by far is the shyest monkey of the lot.

    “It was difficult for him at first,” Meehan, who has worked with primates at the Toronto Zoo for the past 25 years. “But now he’s become independent — and that’s what he’s supposed to be.”

    The sanctuary also has a pair of Chinese-born rhesus macaques that spent years in small cages as behavioural test subjects. Boo, a teenage female, sports a scar on her forehead. She’s always clutching a stuffed animal for comfort.

    “They have all the same emotions that we do, but they’re usually not as deceptive as we are,” Meehan says of primates.

    Pockets Warhol is another famous resident. The adorable capuchin monkey is something of an art sensation in the animal world, using children’s paints to create abstract splashes reminiscent of Jackson Pollock’s work. Sales of this former pet’s paintings have raised thousands of dollars for the sanctuary.

    Darwin has grown a lot since he arrived there. At 2½ years old, he weighs roughly 20 pounds — nearly triple his weight when handed over to the sanctuary by Toronto Animal Services after he was found wandering in an Ikea parking lot in a tiny shearling winter coat. Photos and videos of the stylish but frightened little monkey quickly went viral.

    Toronto animal services seized him from his owner, Yasmin Nakhuda, and placed with Story Book. Nakhuda later sued the sanctuary to get him back. Her lawsuit ultimately failed, and last January she was ordered to pay the sanctuary $83,000 for its legal costs.

    Nakhuda is now believed to live with two primates in the Kawartha Lakes — an area without the exotic pet bylaws that allowed Toronto to confiscate Darwin.

    Delaney says animals are the “third most trafficked thing after guns and drugs” in Canada. “People want to acquire exotics for the cool factor.”

    She feels Ontario’s patchwork of municipal exotic pet bylaws should be replaced by more sweeping provincial legislation like that in British Columbia.

    “With each exotic animal, somewhere down the road there is a mother who has suffered the loss of her child, if not her own life.”

    The sanctuary hopes to relocate by next spring. Its crowdfunding campaign has raised nearly $4,000 since being launched this week.

Arts & Letters
Sunday, 12 August 2007