Parliament Street residents upset over waiver to enter fire-damaged building

By Maleeha Sheikh and Dilshad Burman

A week after a six-alarm fire at a St. James Town highrise forced approximately 1,500 people to evacuate the building, displaced and distressed residents say they are being further inconvenienced.

Residents have been told it could be months before they can return home and those visiting the building to collect their belongings say the process is disorganized and taking far too long.

“They’re taking one or two people at a time with no organization whatsoever,” says building resident Karen McMichael. “People are cutting the line, people are arriving at all kinds of random times.”

In addition, residents are being asked to sign a waiver before entering the building that many find confusing and refuse to sign. The commotion over the waiver became so chaotic that police were called in to bring calm.

McMichael says she understands why residents are worried.

“We arrived to be shuffled from one office to another being given forms that lot of people don’t understand because half of the residents of this building don’t speak English as a first language and it’s very confusing to people,” she says.

Doug Sartell, general manager of Wellesley-Parliament Square, which manages the building, explained that the waiver does not mean residents are signing away all their rights.

“The waiver form applies only to this process, nothing else. You’re not waiving your rights,” says Sartell. “You wan’t to sue us because you’re steaks got spoiled? That’s not part of this, You’re entitled to do that. Loss of income, loss of clothing, loss of anything — those rights aren’t being waived by signing this waiver.”

“This waiver is strictly and expressly for the entry into the building.”

CityNews double checked with Howard Levitt, senior partner with Levitt LLP, who says residents have nothing to be concerned about.

“This release only releases them (property management) from anything flowing from going to building on this occasion to retrieve their belongings,” says Levitt. “They can still sue the landlord as much as they want for what’s happened up-to-date.”

“They’re saying don’t go in if you’re fearful. But if you’re going to go in, we’ll let you, but don’t sue us for anything that happens when you go.”

In response to the concerns of residents Councillor Lucy Troisi handed out forms to residents with contacts for legal advice.

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