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Letter: In today’s world, remote meetings should be an option

Letter-writer from Sudbury concerned that eliminating option of attending virtually limits participation
typewriter pexels-caryn-938165 (From Pexels by Caryn)

Recently, I saw a post on a bulletin board in our building, inviting us to a Tenants' Rights meeting hosted by the Social Planning Council. I am unable to attend in person, so I emailed them to ask if I could attend, remotely and they accommodated my request.

The meeting was interesting, though attendance was quite low (mostly elderly ladies, which is not representative of all the residents living in Sudbury Housing units).

Towards the end of the meeting, staff told attendees that they would be paid $50 for the two-hour meetings. All they had to do was fill out a form, which was then handed out. Their logic was that if they were getting paid for their time, then the residents should be as well. 

Fair enough, but when I mentioned that I'd need these documents and other documents passed around that day, in electronic format, I was completely ignored.

One lady learned that I was attending virtually and vehemently objected, stating that we were in fact violating privacy by having people attend remotely. 

If it's a public meeting for housing residents, not sure what privacy was being breached. If anything, I was there to support the group and potentially get support with the accessibility issues that exist right on our property.

I got an email invitation to the next meeting, but this invitation told recipients to "rest assured that the meeting place is accessible, and as such we will not be hosting our meeting through Microsoft Teams online to include those who can't access the meeting place." 

Can I tell you how offensive that was to me? It was a slap in the face.

These days, it should be expected that some people do not want to go out in public or at the very least, be in a small room with a likely large group of people. Not to mention that there are health issues that have nothing to do with accessible spaces for people to attend in person. Some health issues, just keep you home, period. I felt my rights as a concerned resident were violated by that statement and was quick to let SPC staff know about my concern.

A phone conversation was booked to discuss the matter further, but it was clear they had absolutely no interest in accommodating remote attendance. Staffing issues was their excuse. They had three staff members at the last meeting and it only takes one to monitor or control remote attendance.

Instead of just having very few senior citizens show up, they had at least one other age group represented by me to provide perspective on other issues they might not be thinking about. I am genuinely invested in effecting positive changes in my community, but will no longer be able to participate in these meetings.

I say if you're going to tell tenants that you will help fight for their rights, you should consider all of their rights, not just the ones being overlooked by housing staff, but with their own team.

If any housing resident is interested in attending the next Tenants' Rights meeting, the meeting is will be at the Sudbury Legal Clinic, 40 Elm St. No. 272 (Elm Place, former Rainbow Centre) on Wednesday, July 6 from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

In order to attend, you must email Ryan at rodonnell@spcsudbury.ca to reserve your spot. RSVP is mandatory.

While I will not be attending, I hope this at least reaches other housing residents who do have an interested in fighting for or protecting their tenant rights. The bulletin board posts don't get to every housing complexes.

Dee Latourelle
Sudbury