Montreal

Montreal housing rights advocate, Ted Wright, dies at 71

After 35 years helping Montreal tenants, Ted Wright will be remembered as a wealth of knowledge and father figure to many.

Wright will be remembered as a rental board guru and father figure

Housing rights advocate Ted Wright founded the Westmount Legal Clinic in 1993. (CBC)

Montreal housing advocate Thomas "Ted"  Wright died on Dec. 12, after years of living with a kidney disease. 

Wright hailed from Toronto, but moved to Montreal in 1966, where he dedicated his life to housing advocacy through the Westmount Legal Clinic.

Leonard Yelle says he'll remember his former neighbour as the "hippie next door" in the 1980's and a father figure to kids in the Mile End.

Beyond having a wealth of knowledge about Quebec rental law, Wright was a powerful presence.   

"Ted was there and he was constantly encouraging us to stay out of trouble and basically he kept an eye on us," Yelle said.

"A lot of people would know him for his legal mind. He wasn't a lawyer, but he was as smart as one. He was a very bright man and he knew his job for tenants' rights and he also didn't just help out tenants. He was fair across the board."

Priscilla Duarte said she met Wright when she was just 11, after her father's death. He helped her talk about her loss and the two "became friends ever since."

"He could have just pep-talked me that day and left me, but he didn't and he checked up on me every day since the day that [my biological father] died," she said. "He never forgot to remind me that he was proud to call me his daughter." 

Wright offered her a chance to come on the radio to discuss laws targeting teens, which ultimately set her on a path to pursuing paralegal studies. She aims to become a lawyer and eventually, she hopes, a judge. 

"There was a point where I asked Ted if he would charge people for the advice he would give and he looked at me like I was being silly," Duarte said. "He said: 'why would I do that? I'm not a lawyer. I have no papers that I practise law. I just know everything about the rental board and if I can, I will.'"

Wright first stepped onto Montreal's housing rights scene in the 1980's when he called the Housing Hotline. He went on to volunteer for almost six years before accepting a paycheque.  

"He was indispensable during that period," said Arnold Bennett, director of the Housing Hotline. "We've had a lot of people volunteer over the years. In terms of somebody putting that amount of work without getting paid for it for a long time — although we did eventually find a way to pay him — for a few years, yeah, that was unusual. "

After spending nearly a decade working for the hotline, Wright left in 1993 to co-found the Westmount Legal Clinic, where he continued to share his knowledge of the law without charge. 

Wright is survived by his siblings: Melissa Demchyshen, Sandra Gilmer, Marlene Matwie, Michael Wright, and Rosemary Wright. 

While Duarte says no funeral services are planned due to the pandemic, she will launch a GoFundMe page in his honour and hopes to name a park bench after Wright. 

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