Associated is a bi-weekly podcast and film column created by The Varsity’s associate Arts & Culture editors, Daniel Konikoff and Jacob Lorinc. They’ll be reviewing the latest movies making their way into theatres. On the bill for this week is book-to-movie thriller Gone Girl and the intense music-filled Whiplash. Plus, Arts & Culture editor Sarah Niedoba weighs in with Jake on romantic bio-pic The Theory of Everything.
Associated: Episode 2
The podcast featuring associate Arts & Culture editors Daniel Konikoff & Jacob Lorinc
GSU referendum did not reach quorum, says CRO
Stephen Littley says vote did not meet minimum threshold of 1,606 voters
The recent vote on the Graduate Students’ Union’s (GSU) continued membership in the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) and the CFS-Ontario (CFS-O) did not reach quorum, according to referendum Chief Returning Officer (CRO) Stephen Littley.
The quorum requirement for the vote was 10 per cent of eligible voters.
The referendum question asked: “Are you in favour of continued membership in the Canadian Federation of Student and the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario?”
According to sources involved in the campaigns, over 66 per cent of voting members voted “No.”
“[T]he total number of eligible voters was 16,056 putting quorum at 1,606. The total number of votes cast was 1,599,” reads a message posted on the CRO’s website.
“The vote, therefore, was not quorate,” the message continues.
As of press time, the final results could not be released until administration confirmed double enveloped ballots that will then be counted.
Alastair Woods, CFS-O chairperson, confirmed the CRO’s message. “According to the Chief Returning Officer, the referendum did not quorate, and so the referendum process has completed,” Woods says.
Members of the GSU have been fighting for the chance to decertify from the CFS since at least September 2013, when a petition was submitted to the CFS.
The petition was rejected just weeks before the referendum to vote was scheduled to take place. A GSU Litigation Committee reached a settlement with the CFS in October.
The GSU has no formal position on its status as a member of the CFS, nationally or provincially.
Brad Evoy, an organizer with the “No” Campaign, contends that, in the campaign’s view, they have met the needed threshold for quorum.
Evoy says that the next stages will be to have CFS and CFS-O recognize the will of members.
“The claims of the Federation are statistically insignificant, and derived from questionable numbers and suspect processes. However illegitimate, the CFS is doing (and will do) whatever it can to deny the democratic will of students,” Evoy says.
“This vote is the single strongest mandate the UTGSU has had — in terms of voters engaged — in the past decade and that mandate is to leave the CFS,” he adds.
“Now will be decision-time on a lot of issues at UTGSU and the future of the union rests on this question,” Evoy says, adding: “For me, what I’d like to see is a GSU that takes this mandate as a charge to build new bridges, to take charge on lobbying and on broader strategies of action.”
Voting was held between Monday, November 24 and Friday, November 28.
Graduate full-time enrolment in Ontario in 2012–2013 was 56,188 students.
A number of University of Toronto divisions, including the Engineering Society, the Trinity College Meeting, and Victoria University Students’ Administrative Council (VUSAC), passed referenda in favour of fee diversion from the CFS-affiliated University of Toronto Students’ Union in March 2013.
UTSU vice-president, university affairs Pierre Harfouche resigns
Harfouche cites lack of communication, power dynamics, procedural disagreements
After serving half of his term as vice president, university affairs on the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) Executive Committee, Pierre Harfouche has resigned from office.
Harfouche broke the news to the UTSU Board of Directors in a resignation letter sent via email on November 26. His letter cited an inability to accomplish his key goals, his deteriorating mental health, and his discomfort with being paid by students who he feels unable to represent.
Harfouche was the sole Team Unite executive elected in March 2014. He was the first executive member who did not run on a slate that included incumbents in eight years.
Previously, Harfouche served as a director on the UTSU board, where he urged the union to recognize the positions of divisions seeking fee diversion.
The UTSU divided
Asha*, a member of the UTSU Board of Directors, notes the rift between what she views as two different sides.
“Throughout the summer and continuing into the school year, you could definitely feel the tension and divide between Pierre and — I won’t say all of the [executives] — but a lot of the [executives]… I really almost felt like I was back in high school and they were two different cliques in the UTSU,” Asha says.
“I just feel like there’s a difference between socially not getting along and then literally kind of stopping him from doing his job,” Asha says, referring to an incident in which she alleges that Harfouche was intentionally not notified of legal counsel’s presence at a Board of Directors meeting during the summer. “If other [executives] are notified that legal counsel is coming, then he has the right to be as well. I felt that they were trying to make him look stupid and unprepared,” she says.
Yolen Bollo-Kamara, UTSU president, says that she has always worked to maintain a safe and respectful working environment for all members of the UTSU executive, as well as all other staff, volunteers, and board members.
She adds that she has made a point of addressing any issues brought to her attention with the individuals involved.
“I think it’s unfortunate that Pierre was unable to stay on as an executive, but I support his making a decision that he felt was best, and wish him well,” says Bollo-Kamara, adding, “being an employer and a student representative of a large-scale organization like the UTSU can be a difficult adjustment for first-time executives and it certainly becomes more difficult when there are concerns about your behaviour towards others.”
When Asha brought her concerns to other members of the UTSU executive, she did not feel that they acknowledged how Harfouche was treated. “I felt so strongly about how they were treating him that I even went to some of the [executives] to talk about it. I said, ‘I’ve heard some other execs talking about this, and even about how the board members [sic] talking about this,’ and I was really taken aback and embarrassed, and [Yolen] was like, ‘oh, I didn’t know that was how you took it,’ and kind of got defensive about it,” Asha recalls.
Bollo-Kamara alleges that Harfouche broke the UTSU’s bylaws. “Pierre has been made aware that he has broken the bylaws on numerous occasions, from not working the minimum required hours, to failing to pass a budget for the Academic and Student Rights Commission that he chairs,” she says.
“Certain roles involve more traditional 9-5 work hours while others involve strategic thinking, reflection, and reading, particularly meeting minutes, budgets, and university policy,” Harfouche says. “It’s very easy for anyone to accuse each other of not accomplishing the required number of work hours.”
Harfouche claims that he did pass a budget for the commission and it was approved by the Budget Committee. Harfouche said that it was approved in October, before the approval of the UTSU’s operating budget.
“It was difficult to work when access to information was difficult or worse, information was being withheld from me… information in the UTSU is extremely limited and shared on a need-to-know basis, regardless of whether or not it is illegal to withhold such information,” Harfouche alleges.
“I cannot work in an environment where the executives fundamentally do not want to share information with coworkers or the Board of Directors,” he adds.
Naming the management of the Student Commons project as an example, Harfouche says that, from day one, he was repeatedly told that the Student Commons Operating Agreement was not available for executives to see and that only individuals involved in the negotiations and the president could view the agreement.
“Hours later, I found out that this information was categorically false, as the agreement had already been posted publicly on the governing council website and had been discussed and debated at the University Affairs Board,” Harfouche says.
Harfouche also claims that the UTSU seems to have created a Student Commons Committee but does not know when exactly it was created.
According to Harfouche, the committee is comprised of the vice-president internal, the president, and the vice-president, campus life. Although the committee produced promotional materials to lobby governors for the approval of the Student Commons project, Harfouche claims that there was no selection process for this committee and that it never sought input from the other executives or the Board of Directors.
“As VP [of University Affairs], the bylaws charge me with being the chief [liaison] between the University, student societies, and the UTSU,” Harfouche says. “Through not including me on any [Student Commons] discussions, I was not able to fulfill that portion of my job description.”
Bollo-Kamara says that Harfouche would often complain about not knowing information after missing a training session without letting others know. “We worked to schedule things around his full-time work commitments for much of the summer, but he frequently missed or caused the postponing of important information sessions on staff relations, how the office functioned, the student commons project and more, due to unexpected absences,” Bollo-Kamara says.
Power dynamics and disagreements
In his resignation letter, Harfouche also implored the Board of Directors to consider the power dynamics within the UTSU.
Harfouche claims that he was never able to access UTSU archives without being accompanied by a staff member — an instruction that he says came from the executive director and the vice-president, internal. “I bear no ill-will to the staff in the office, but rather to the policies which the UTSU has adopted which concentrate all office-related decisions into the hands of two or three individuals,” he says.
Harfouche also took issue with the executive compensation system.
Harfouche says he was unwell for two full weeks in November and thus unable to fulfill his duties. “Four days into my illness, I requested that my salary be withheld as I had essentially just taken unpaid time off. My request was ignored — even after following up two days later,” Harfouche says.
Among Harfouche’s concerns is the process used to gather feedback on initiatives. “Simply telling students and student societies to submit alternative board proposals doesn’t move the conversation forward,” Harfouche says.
Harfouche suggests that the UTSU should be making documents to help students create legal, complete, and equitable proposals instead.
“Within the Executive Committee we prioritize working towards consensus on decisions where possible, and at minimum ensuring that all perspectives are heard and given due consideration,” Bollo-Kamara says.
Harfouche also alleges that the minutes of executive and Board of Directors meetings were heavily edited and that entire arguments were misrepresented. “It became extremely hard for me to express myself at executive committee meetings because I had absolutely no way of proofreading the minutes before they were sent to the board for approval,” says Harfouche.
During Harfouche’s last week in office, he alleges that his final executive report was modified to remove a paragraph about the University of Toronto’s mental health report and how board members could send him feedback to forward to the university.
“When the board package was released, there was absolutely no mention about mental health — no other executive had even mentioned it in their own report. I had even sent the executives an email informing them I put this paragraph explicitly in my report and that I invited others to build on it,” Harfouche says.
Since the UTSU’s bylaws prevent any by-election from being held between December 1 and September 10 of any year, the UTSU will take applications for the position of vice president, university affairs. From the applicants, no fewer than two candidates will be chosen to present to the Board of Directors, who will then decide who will replace Harfouche.
The process has raised concerns among some campus leaders. “The fact that the Executive has the power to create a very small short list, and thereby exclude candidates that they may not like but who would do a better job, is especially concerning,” say Tina Saban and Connor Anear, co-heads of Trinity College.
Teresa Nguyen, president of the Engineering Society (EngSoc), also expressed a lack of confidence in the procedure. “EngSoc has already determined that all of [UTSU’s] processes are so broken to the point where they can appoint their own incumbents,” she says.
*Name changed at source’s request for anonymity.
For the records
In conversation with Kops Records and a guide to record stores in Toronto
Tucked away amid the little shops along Queen Street West sits Kops Records, one of the oldest record stores in Toronto. Regarded as the last man standing among the record stores of Toronto’s past, the 38-year-old store stands out for having weathered the vinyl industry’s long and bitter drought with hardly a scratch to show for it. Locations such as Sam The Record Man and A&A Records both declared bankruptcy within the past 25 years and were replaced by CD shops and online downloading. Increasingly, record stores are incapable of keeping up with the rapidly changing modes of music distribution. Many record stores, not only in Toronto, shared the same fate and declared banruptcy. Somehow, perhaps even miraculously, Kops Records was spared.
For Andrew Koppel, the son of Kops Records’ founder Martin Koppel, seeing these monumental record stores being driven out of business was a bittersweet experience. Though it marked the end of an era, in some ways, Kops reaped the benefits of the change.
“The difference in the ’70s was that you had a lot more competition,” says Koppel. “You had a lot more chain stores, and my dad was an independent retailer. He was up against HMV, Tower Records, Ameba Records, Sam The Record Man, and basically any big chain store that sell CDs now that would’ve been selling vinyl then.”
While most of these companies made it increasingly difficult for a smaller store like Kops to maintain business, inexplicably, Kops survived. Major vinyl retailers found it impossible to break even and many were forced into switching over to CDs. Meanwhile, Kops Records survived the recession with nothing but a few minor hiccups.
“In the early 2000s we started pushing more towards selling clothing, to help tide us over,” Koppel explains. “We were more a unique clothing shop with accessories, but also had a healthy selection of vinyl. Luckily, we also had a bedrock of 45s, of which we have the largest collection in Canada.”
45s are the equivalent of the singles that musicians release online before releasing their full album. Singles were released on smaller records, and were played at 45 rpm, compared to a regular LP’s 33 revolutions per minute. The faster the rpm, the faster the record plays through.
Nowadays, with the resurgence of vinyl, business is booming for Kops Records. “By about 2006–2007, we were making enough money on vinyl that we didn’t need to sell t-shirts anymore, so we started fading it out slowly,” says Koppel. But that does not mean that the business today doesn’t have challenges to contend with.
“Nowadays, it’s more of a challenge of having to turn people’s vinyl collection down,” explains Koppel. “Now that the vinyl popularity has come back, everybody thinks the vinyl they have is priceless.”
Despite the return of vinyl’s popularity, the question of buying records over downloading music online remains. While it is certainly easier and more convenient to download music owning off of iTunes or otherwise, there’s an argument to be made for a physical copy of the music you choose to listen to.
“I just theorize that it’s filling a void here,” suggests Koppel, contemplating the benefits of buying records rather than downloading albums. “You say to yourself, ‘Why am I paying 10 bucks for something I can just download for free?’ Whereas with vinyl, you ask ‘Why am I paying $24 for vinyl?’ Well, it’s because I get two albums, I get to put it on my turntable, I get the posters [and] the artwork that comes with it… and you can actually feel attached to it,” he says.
Kops Records continues to sell strictly vinyl at their Bloor Street West location and almost entirely vinyl at their Queen Street West location. Their dedication to keeping vinyl alive comes from their commitment to selling physical copies of albums and singles; something which has become increasingly uncommon in the digital age.
“If you are a big music fan, and you really want to feel the experience, forget the argument about how [records are] warmer or sound nicer,” says Koppel, adding, “It’s not necessarily about that, it’s about being a part of it.”
In recent years, Toronto’s record scene has been stepping up its game. Despite the loss of hometown favourites like Sam the Record Man and Criminal Records, there are new stores and expansions opening left and right for the record enthusiast.
A Guide to Toronto’s Record Stores
FINDING A PLAYER
Records are an expensive love. That is not to say that you can’t enjoy records cheaply — just that it is extremely difficult to do so. Some of us will get lucky and find a dusty record player tucked away in our parents’ basement, but for those contemplating purchasing one of their own, you will likely want to give it some thought.
If you decide to commit, buying the right record player is key. The decision depends largely on why you want the record player and how much you’re willing to spend. In theory, we would all like to spend $1,300 on a sound system that brings the band to your living room — but that is a beautiful but unrealistic dream for most of us. So, if you’re looking to start, the best advice you will ever get about record players is through people. Not the internet — actual humans. If you’re serious about getting a player, go to Bay Bloor Radio, Planet of Sound, or really just any record store — they know what they’re doing.
With so many record shops in the city and more opening each year, navigating the options available to you can be daunting. Each shop has its own atmosphere and specialty and are as individual as the people who shop in them. Though big retailers like HMV, Urban Outfitters, and Amazon can be tempting for their familiarity and accessibility — and in the case of the former two, a good record selection — exploring the smaller, independent names can create a different experience and lead to some remarkable finds.
Kops has been in the business for years, and they know their stuff. The people here are vibrant and the atmosphere is comfortable making their two locations particularly ideal for those just beginning their relationship with records.
Their prices average out to approximately $25 per record.
Their specialties are their bins of one-dollar records and excellent vintage collections. If you’re looking for any independent records, sometimes you’ll find old-time favourites at their lowest price in Toronto here.
Cosmo’s prices range, on average, from $10 to $30. That being said, you can also find a $60 copy of Highway 61 Revisted. Their prices are all over the board. Their Queen Street West location is a small store with bins everywhere. If you’re looking for an impulsive buy or a rarity, this is the place for you.
Planet of Sound
This boutique-sized shop is hit-and-miss. Their records are priced relatively reasonably at $25 each, and though the size of their selection is rather dismal compared to their competition, it is eclectic — if you’re looking for rarer Animal Collective records, this is your place.
Their shining glory, however, is the sound systems they have available in-store. They stock some of the best record players out there and are a good source of information if you’re looking to invest in one.
This former Annex staple is now located just off of Queen Street West and Spadina Avenue and, to the rejoicing of Sonic Boom aficionados, the vibe is pretty much the same.
Records cost an average of $25 each. Their impressive collection makes them a great spot for holiday shopping.
They are arguably also the master of Toronto in-store performances. They have had many great local artists play in the shop such as Mac Demarco, Broken Social Scene, The Wooden Sky, and Luke Lalonde from Born Ruffians.
Tiny Record Shop
Record shops are a bit of a rarity in the city’s east end, making Tiny Record Shop a small but welcome addition. The prices are average (approximately $25 per) and it has a great selection from local record labels.
Another east end stop that offers considerably varied prices. They have an older vibe, and the smell of vinyl in this joint permeates everything: it’s glorious. Discovery Records has a great selection of collectibles and rarities. It’s off the beaten track as far as record stores go, and its location means you may have better luck with finding original pressings here.
Located at Dundas Street West and Ossington Avenue, this spot boasts what is arguably the best collection of rap records in the city, making it an essential stop for lovers of the genre. The prices are on par with other shops in the city at an average of $25 per record.
The new Roncesvalles location, although harder to find than their former Ossington Street home, is bigger and better. This is not your usual record store collection — if you’re looking for specific titles of independent artists, you may not find them here. What you will discover, however, are underrated finds for anyone looking for something new and different.
U of T students join rally against police brutality
U of T students protest against grand jury decision in Michael Brown case
On November 25, University of Toronto students joined in a rally at the American Consulate in Toronto to stop police brutality against black people.
The rally stemmed from a St. Louis County grand jury decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager.
For Zakerie Farah, a first-year student, the rally evoked many emotions. “This was a strong symbolic moment of black unity and strength. I was touched by it,” Farah says.
Daouii*, a second-year student who attended the protest, echoed Farah’s sentiment. She says she was amazed at “seeing such a large number of people from all different social, cultural, and economic backgrounds come together for a cause they believed so deeply in.”
Event organizers hope that the rally will help launch solidarity efforts to support organizers on the streets of Ferguson, as well as to recognize racially-motivated police brutality in other areas of the world.
Yolen Bollo-Kamara, University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) president and one of the organizers of the Toronto rally, drew connections between the deaths of Brown and Jermaine Carby, a black man who was shot and killed by a police officer during a traffic stop in Brampton on September 25.
Bollo-Kamara expressed hope that the rally would play a role in ending racial profiling in Toronto and ensuring that police forces are held accountable for their actions.
Bollo-Kamara also notes that rising tutition fees make post-secondary education unattainable for many low-income families, with black and otherwise racialized families disproportionately affected.
For M’kaylah Fridal, president of U of T’s Black Students Association, racial profiling hits close to home. “My father, my brother, uncles, cousins, and numerous friends all have been subject to racial profiling at least once,” Fridal says.
Fridal also referenced the lack of university professors from racialized backgrounds.
She recalled one particular instance where her 14-year-old brother was stopped by a police officer during his walk home from school and questioned about his activities and destination. “The reality is that things like this happen every day — not merely for some, but for many,” Fridal says.
The Arts & Science Students’ Union also expressed concern over the grand jury’s decision. “Acts of police violence towards First Nations people and people of colour occur all the time with a hugely disproportionate amount of violence being directed at black youth. For hundreds of students at U of T, this is the reality they face when they go back to their homes and communities,” a statement reads.
*First name used at student’s request.
Victoria College commissioner resigns
Arts & Culture commissioner’s resignation comes after attempted impeachment at council meeting
Conor Tangney resigned from his position as Arts and Culture commissioner at Victoria College on November 21 following a failed motion to impeach him from the Victoria University Students’ Administrative Council (VUSAC) eleven days earlier.
Four voting VUSAC executives voted in favour of Tangney’s dismissal, while four voted against it and six abstained.
The motion did not receive the required two-thirds majority it needed to pass.
When asked about the reason for the attempted impeachment, Rowan DeBues, VUSAC president and mover of the impeachment motion, said, “The simplest and main one is his conduct in the office space. Ideally, the VUSAC office is going to be the pinnacle of a safe space at Victoria College and the say he was carrying on was not facilitating that.”
Tangney declined The Varsity’s request for comment.
At the meeting, DeBues circulated hard copies of a confidential document that laid out the full list of allegations against Tangney. Although the document was not permitted to leave the room, DeBues confirmed in an interview with The Varsity that the charges against Tangney included disrespect towards orientation officials, misogynistic jokes, and homophobic slurs in the VUSAC office.
The dispute regarding orientation week arose when two orientation executives filed a complaint against Tangney, alleging that he called a lunch with VUSAC, scheduled for orientation week, a waste of time. “I disagreed with the placement, timing, and the event itself,” Tangney is reported to have said according to the minutes package from the November 10 VUSAC meeting. “I believed it to be a conversation that was between me and the execs, or me and a friend — not speaking badly about orientation week.”
Tangney is also alleged to have joked that “women have no place in politics.” According to Tangney, the remark was a private joke delivered in a sarcastic tone.
Tangney said that he apologized immediately after he made the joke. “A lot of you know my humour, out of all the women in the room on VUSAC — I voted for most of you if not all of you,” he reportedly said to the VUSAC members present.
During the meeting, Tangney expressed concern that the first time he saw the full list of charges or accusations was at the meeting.
DeBues clarified that he knew Tangney was considering resignation and did not want to make the allegations public if he was going to resign.
“[Had] I known all the charges, I would’ve submitted a resignation,” Tangney said.
DeBues notes that more grievances were made in the week following the motion to impeach Tangney.
DeBues does not know whether it was those that compelled him to resign, because Tangney did not mention them in his resignation letter.
VUSAC councilors are fulfilling the duties of the Arts and Culture commissioner until the new term, when DeBues hopes to hold a byelection for the position. “I don’t like the idea of losing someone democratically elected and replacing them with an appointee,” DeBues says.
University announces first steps in plan to combat sexual violence
Advisory committee to inform university policy against sexual violence
University administration is treading cautiously to develop a coordinated response to sexual violence on campus, an announcement on Thursday revealed.
The announcement came in a letter from vice-president, human resources and equity Angela Hildyard and vice-provost, students & first entry divisions Jill Matus, and was addressed to the Principals, Deans, and the Academic Directors & Chairs Committee.
It reveals the university’s plan to create an “Advisory Committee to the President and Provost on Preventing and Responding to Sexual Violence.”
The announcement comes after a series of legislative developments in the US and corresponding university commitments across North America to tackle the issue of sexual violence on university and secondary school campuses.
The events put increased pressure on university administration to develop a coordinated strategy to respond to sexual violence.
The letter addressed these pressures. “Recent attention to the issue of sexual violence on University and College campuses… signals an important focus on new approaches to prevention of and response to sexual violence,” it reads.
The letter also maintains that sexual violence remains in the jurisdiction of the municipal police, making the university’s scope of involvement complicated. “The University intends to examine these issues in the unique context of Canadian law and the University of Toronto environment,” the letter says.
The committee will be mandated to determine the best practices to prevent and respond to sexual violence on campus, and to report findings to the president and provost of the university.
Students, staff, and faculty will make up the committee, and focus groups will be held to solicit input from constituents across campus.
Cheap condos or cheap tricks?
Some Toronto accommodations listed on classified sites are too good to be true
Moving away from home to attend school in Toronto can be an expensive endeavour. In some cases, this process can also be a dangerous one.
Tuition for domestic students at the University of Toronto runs upwards of $6,000 for Canadian students and as high as $35,000 for international students.
On top of that, the University of Toronto estimates that accommodations average between $7,000-14,000 per year for a slot in a campus residence or a one-bedroom apartment.
The university also recommends setting aside $1,200-2,400 for “miscellaneous” expenses — enough for a year’s worth of coffee, or 35-70 cases of domestic beer.
If students want to live in style, the cost is even more prohibitive. According to the Toronto Star, the average rent for a one-bedroom condominium in the downtown core is close to $1,800 per month, as of this past spring.
So finding the following deal on a classified site is a remarkable achievement: a two-bedroom condo near University Avenue and Dundas Street for $1,059 per month.
TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE
The Varsity responded to the ad, acting as a prospective student tenant to investigate the post’s validity.
The renter says his name is David, and that he runs a pet store in London, UK. David claims that he inherited the apartment from his now deceased grandfather.
The rental arrangement is flexible — tenants can rent month-to-month, or sign a lease for up to six years.
According to the renter, the rent will never increase. “The price will not increase monthly. It will remain the same for the whole period that the contract will be signed for,” he says.
The deal gets even better: the price includes all utilities, water, electricity, gas, and cable and Internet.
While the renter does not specify the extent of the cable and Internet offerings, the cheapest Internet, television, and wireless package offered by Rogers starts at $65.47 per month before any taxes and additional fees.
The apartment also comes fully furnished, with a laundry list of amenities.
David says that the apartment includes standard items like a refrigerator, a stove, an oven, and includes access to a “juice machine, iron, toaster, coffee maker, microwave, [and] vacuum cleaner.”
Eventually, David says the apartment is ours.
“I have a good solution and you will have the keys in hands, in less than 48 hours. I’m the only person who has the keys and I found a way to complete this rental safe, fast for both of us,” David says.
An email sent to David’s email address a few days after was not delivered, with a message saying the email no longer exists.
David’s listing was not alone. A Varsity investigation found multiple other questionable listings, with promises of lavish accommodations for cheap.
Coming across fraudulent advertisements is a reality of using online classified sites like Kijiji and Craigslist. Kijiji says that not all of the site’s 65 million advertisements a year are reviewed before they go live. At Craiglist, around 40 people are employed to oversee 80 million advertisements per month.
That is not to say that all advertisements for properties owned by landlords outside of Toronto are scams.
Patricia*, a graduate student at the University of Toronto who rents an apartment from a landlord based in China, says that the key is having a property manager in Toronto who can quickly respond to any rental issues.
Ava, a supervisor for Kijiji Community Support, says that the company is not able to publicly share details on the proportion of advertisements that are actually scams.
“Our number one concern… is keeping our user community safe,” Ava says.
“We do so both by employing a full time Trust and Safety team, and by providing users with a comprehensive safety section in our Help desk section,” she adds.
Kijiji offers a number of tips for avoiding real estate scams, including exchanging funds in person, seeing a property before placing a deposit, and avoiding advertisements that ask for personal information via email.
Kijiji also advises renters to be realistic about property prices.
According to a recent survey conducted by the City of Toronto, the average monthly cost of renting a one-bedroom apartment in the centre of Toronto is approximately $1,475.
Apartment rent costs have risen about one-and-a-half times faster than inflation since 1990.