An Iqaluit couple is suing Nunastar Properties Inc. for wrongful eviction, harassment and slander they say they experienced not only on Nunastar property, but around Iqaluit after two Nunastar employees spread false and harmful rumours about them.
The allegations appear in a statement of claim filed July 6 with the Nunavut Court of Justice. None have been proven in court.
The lawsuit alleges the employees targeted the couple, Martha Apak and Jimmi Saila, as part of an effort "to remove certain tenants [the Nunastar employees] considered undesirable."
After evicting the couple, which Apak says have been homeless since, the lawsuit alleges Nunastar employees "slandered" the couple with "untruthful" statements to one company and two agencies in Iqaluit.
That resulted in the couple's unfair banishment from a friend's home and a grocery store, the suit alleges.
Steve Connors, a lawyer for Nunastar and its two employees named in the case, said he would not comment on the case but that his clients "deny the allegations in the statement of claim."
"We shall file a statement of defence in due course, which will set out the particulars of the defence."
Still homeless, and hurting
Apak, whose first language is Inuktitut, said Sept. 11 the eviction "broke [her] heart" because she could no longer help shelter and feed her grandchildren.
"I'm still homeless, I go place to place … I always have a hard time to knock somewhere else, when they're sleeping, [where] can I go?" Apak said, fighting back tears.
According to the court record, Apak lived in the Nunastar complex from January 2014 until May 2016.
During that time she accrued arrears of about $500.
But conflict arose between Apak's son and the Nunastar employees, who alleged her son was "verbally abusive and threatening," according to the claim.
The employees banned Apak's son from Nunastar property, "unilaterally changed the coding on Martha Apak's access key," and "commenced eviction proceedings … on a variety of unfounded grounds," the lawsuit alleges.
Meanwhile, the claim says Nunastar employees violated the couple's privacy by subjecting them to "continuous surveillance … including filming during inappropriate access to their residential unit … and through the windows of the unit."
"I got scared, like they're taking [my] picture everywhere I go," said Apak. "They've been following me and I never knew."
After evicting Apak and Saila, the suit alleges that Nunastar employees "continued to pursue and malign and harass" the couple.
For example, Apak and Saila began staying with a friend at a house owned by Nunastar but rented to another agency.
The Nunastar employees contacted that agency and "demanded" that Apak be removed from the house, "pushing [them] back onto the streets," court documents allege.
As a result of her homelessness, Apak, who said she suffers from chronic health problems, says she developed pneumonia.
"Sometimes I was having a hard time, especially when I … feel sick. Where can I go? I have no place to go, and I don't want to die outside, when I'm sick."
Allegations of slander, harrassment
The statement of claim also alleges the Nunastar employees slandered Apak and Saila by telling the RCMP and employees of one of Iqaluit's grocery stores that the couple's families are violent.
They say that led to the couple's banishment from the grocery store, further limiting access to food for a family already experiencing food insecurity.
In total, the couple's lawyer, Anne Crawford, alleges Nunastar and its employees broke three sections of Nunavut's Residential Tenancies Act.
The lawsuit seeks general and punitive damages for "harassment, slander, liable [sic] and dislocation."
The law firm representing Nunastar and its employees, Brownlee LLP, filed a request for more details of the allegations on Aug. 17.
According to its website, Nunastar Properties Inc. owns about 370 residential apartment units in Iqaluit, as well as the Astro Hill Centre, which includes the Frobisher Inn and townhomes in Astro Hill Landing, formerly Creekside Village.