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This Toronto woman is battling both an eviction and terminal cancer. Soon, she'll plead her case to the LTB

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For a Toronto bar owner with terminal cancer, navigating a lingering eviction has been like floating with no steady ground to land on for over a year – but next month, her fate will be decided as she pleads her case to Ontario’s Landlord and Tenant Board.

Abra Shiner leaned against the narrow corridor in her home of almost 25 years at Queen Street West and Dovercourt Road in late January, the reddish glow of her fairy lights matching her crimson hair.

“It seems my energy is divided between fighting for my health directly and fighting for my home,” the Swan Dive bar owner said.

The battle to remain in her home has gone on since December 2022 when an N12 eviction notice landed on her doorstep. New ownership took over the Victorian home, at the time, split into four affordable units, less than a year after she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.

So, Shiner brought her case to the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB), which has the power to refuse or delay an eviction based on compassionate grounds. “I’m just trying to hang on as long as I can,” Shiner said.

Abra Shiner stands in the hallway of her home at 1086 ½ Queen Street with her bulldog Nugget.

In response, the property’s three landlords told CTV News Toronto they could not “comment on the legality of [the case]” while it remains before the tribunal.

The next hearing date is set for March 18, when the LTB said it would “consider the circumstances of both parties.”

The March hearing isn’t the first scheduled – Shiner missed an initial LTB hearing in September 2023 after being hospitalized due to a low white blood cell count, which she attributed to stress.

“The tribunal itself was likely the cause of the reason I couldn’t attend,” she said at the time.

After the hearing was adjourned to March, she maintained six months of stability. But facing eviction once again, Shiner says the added stress of the situation has only made matters worse.

Stress can stem from something as small as a phone call with the landlords about a leaky faucet, she said. “When something goes wrong in the house, I tend to end up pretty sick,” Shiner continued, sitting on the couch where she spends most days with her bulldog, Nugget, while trying to run the bar from her iPad.

Abra Shiner sits in her apartment of 25 years at Queen Street West and Dovercourt Road in Toronto.Shiner’s doctors have written letters to the landlords. Chiefly, highlighting a need for her to be near Princess Margaret Hospital and an absence of available affordable housing close to the facility.

“Moving would probably mean the end for me,” Shiner said, pointing to a note from another physician, Dr. Ratika Birdi, who said a sudden change in her living conditions could be “detrimental.”

With less and less time before the potential eviction, Shiner says her health has started to deteriorate further. Tracing the lump on her neck, often covered by a colorful scarf, she says she can feel another forming in her groin and pain returning in her left breast.

Dr. Stephen Hwang, a research scientist at MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions, said stress has a direct impact on the immune system and its ability to fight cancer.

When patients move away from where they receive treatment, he said, “It often will result in missed appointments and difficulty accessing care. That certainty could have an adverse effect on someone’s health,” Hwang said.

A property with a commercial space at the ground level and four affordable apartments in Toronto.Blueprints obtained by CTV News Toronto for 1086 ½ Queen Street West reveal plans to demolish two rental units on the second floor, and one on the ground-level at the back of the house, and to expand an existing commercial space below.

Shiner’s apartment is the only one that will remain – the landlords, however, have said they plan to renovate for one of their children. Without plans for a family member to move in, the landlords would have been legally required to offer Shiner the renovated unit before putting it on the market.

“Things don’t really add up,” Samuel Mason, a lawyer representing one of the second floor tenants, said. “How can you demolish something on the second floor while moving your child onto the third floor?”

Dan Noffke, 79, has lived in a one-bedroom apartment below Shiner for 20 years, with a large desk pushed against one wall, a bed adjacent and a mid-sized fridge at the foot of it. His source of income comes from Old Age Security, and other government financial supports that total $2,000 per month.

“It's a no-brainer to want to stay,” Noffke said. Although, he received an N13 notice of termination, which means he must permanently vacate the unit.

The LTB sided with the landlord in a written order last December, but Mason is appealing the decision in divisional court, claiming the board “erred” in determining that the landlord’s plan constitutes a demolition.

“It’s certainly so important that whatever final decision is made is the right one because there is so much at stake,” Mason said. 

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