The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) Waterloo Region Chapter held its first meeting over zoom May 25.
ACORN has chapters across the country, with each local chapter determining their causes and goals. The union supports low- and middle-income community members across Canada.
Waterloo Region ACORN was started by Megan Ruttan, Brooklin Wallis, Sam Nabi and Cameron Walker. Ruttan and Walker faced “demoviction” from the Henry Walser Funeral Home, which submitted a development application to the City of Kitchener for a parking lot where Walker and Ruttan’s home currently stands.
Ruttan began her activism work in 2015 and had a support network that helped her advocate for herself and other tenants.
“It was only because I was already organizing in the city—people knew who I was, I had media contacts—[that] I was able to get the news out [about] what was happening in my home,” Ruttan said.
“We came to the conclusion of what we really need in the city. [Waterloo Region ACORN] is a tenants’ organization where we can provide that coverage and that support to everyone else because it was a lot of work. It’s still a lot of work to protect my family from the landlord,” she said.
Waterloo Region ACORN aims to grow its presence in the region. Ruttan said they would like to build a network for tenants so they can support each other when faced with unfair situations with landlords.
The organization will use direct action to protest and raise awareness for tenants’ rights and, hopefully, create a form of mutual aid in the community.
We want to make sure we can build that network so that we have people on board but we plan on doing direct action…So direct action just helping people get attention to what they need, through the news through just community contacts,” Ruttan said.
“It really is a network of solidarity is what we’re looking for.”
Through her process of advocacy, Ruttan had to work with the Kitchener City Council and the City Planner’s office.
She said she realized that many of the people involved in the decision-making were not aware of the rights of tenants and the laws and by-laws that support them.
This meant that Ruttan, Walker and others had to do much of their own research to understand and address the situation they were facing.
“[I]t’s hard to even ask for further rights when you know when they don’t know our rights to begin with,” Ruttan said.
“Not only do people not understand what rights we do have, we need more rights and we need to work together for them. So people with money can lobby governments. What we do is we build people power, we build numbers, and that’s how we get what we’re asking for,” she said.
“Landlords are increasingly evicting tenants under the guise of major renovations in order to take advantage of Ontario’s rent control loopholes that allow landlords to double rents in-between tenancies,” the petition states.
“These ‘renovictions’ are a tactic used by predatory landlords to push out [long-term] tenants so they can raise the rent!,” it states.
For more information on Waterloo Region ACORN or to sign the petition, visit acorncanada.org.