'It's inhumane': woman battling cancer pleads with new landlords to withdraw eviction notice

Abra Shiner, right is pictured with her husband and dog in her apartment located on Queen Street West. She's lived there for 23 years and is devastated at the thought of leaving after she was served a notice to evict early January. (Prasanjeet Choudhury/CBC - image credit)
Abra Shiner, right is pictured with her husband and dog in her apartment located on Queen Street West. She's lived there for 23 years and is devastated at the thought of leaving after she was served a notice to evict early January. (Prasanjeet Choudhury/CBC - image credit)

Abra Shiner says she doesn't know how long she has left to live. Depending on how her metastatic breast cancer reacts to treatment, it could be a few months, five years, or if she's lucky, the next decade.

That's why these days, she says, her time and energy needs to go toward maintaining and improving her health. But that plan drastically changed after she was served a notice to leave her apartment and home of 23 years by the end of March.

"I've lost five pounds, I sleep about four hours a night. I'm so scared," said Shiner, 42. She was diagnosed around this time last year.

"I don't understand how they can ask someone in my position to move at a time like this. It's inhumane."

The notice to evict doesn't mean she or her husband are packing their bags right away — that's something for the backlogged Landlord and Tenant Board to decide when they eventually hear her case.

But Shiner hopes her voice, along with over 10,000 people who signed an online petition in her favour, can convince her new landlords to let her stay. The stress of finding and moving to a different place in the midst of a housing crisis is not "a feasible option" and one, according to her doctor, that could have a detrimental affect on her health.

Rob Krbavac/CBC
Rob Krbavac/CBC

Shiner says her and her husband are already in debt running their bar Swan Dive along Dundas Street West. If they're forced to leave, she says, they won't be able to find someplace else they can afford.

"I won't survive a move at this point in my cancer," said Shiner.

Landlords to look for an 'amicable resolution'

Shiner's landlords directed any requests for comment to their legal representative Elaine Page.

Page, a paralegal, says Shiner and her husband were asked to vacate the the property, located on Queen Street West, so one of the three new landlords could move their son in the unit.

"We certainly recognize that this is people's housing and it's a sensitive issue," Page told CBC Toronto.

"What we try to do is balance the needs of a landlord and balance the needs of the tenants and come to some kind of amicable resolution."

The new landlords recently took possession of the property through a power of sale, Page says, with it being in a "very bad state of repair."

Plans are in the works for the future of the space, but nothing has been approved so far, Page said.

The other units have been given similar notices, only those are slated for demolition instead, she continued.

Shiner says she isn't the only one impacted by the possible eviction. The other tenants are all marginalized individuals who live below or on the poverty line, and can't afford to live in the city if they need to move, she says.

"We're still an important part of the city and we're being forced out," said Shiner.

Try to avoid a hearing, mayor says

The tenant board has to consider all circumstances when its considering a possible eviction, said Marc Goldgrub, a lawyer at Green Economy Law Professional Corporation.

"There is a case precedent where the board will refuse an application for eviction based on considerations of health," said Goldgrub.

It will likely take several months until Shiner's case makes it before the board, but it could also take years, Goldgrub says, citing some of his cases that go back to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said lawmakers could likely never amend legislation to take account of every "dire circumstance" tenants might find themselves in. Instead, landlords should try to find a solution for Shiner before the hearing, like finding her alternate housing arrangements.

"This just represents basic humanity and consideration for other people," said Tory.

Although the landlords have said they'll help Shiner move, she says she's been "brushed off" during their encounters. She intends to get legal counsel of her own but doesn't "want to wage war," instead hoping to work toward a "harmonious relationship."

"I'm really hoping to just appeal to the kindness that everyone has somewhere in them," Shiner said.