Freedom Flyer Fall 2000 Cover

Freedom Flyer 34

the official newsletter of the
Freedom Party of Ontario

Fall 2000


Photo from Scene Magazine, Nov 4-17,1999
Photo from Scene Magazine, Nov 4-17,1999

LONDON (September 16, 1998 - present) - Almost nine years after the original London Free Press November 8, 1989 newspaper article that got London landlord Elijah Elieff into trouble with Ontario's Human Rights Commission, a lawsuit has been filed against those he holds responsible for the loss of his (former) Cheyenne Ave apartment buildings and another unrelated business. (Visit the Cheyenne Avenue Scandal page on this website for a complete accounting of his ordeal.)

Elieff's Statement of Claim, filed on September 16, 1998, names London councillor Susan Eagle, the United Church of Canada, Neighbourhood Legal Services Inc., and the National Bank of Canada as defendants in a $1.3 million claim which includes: damages for conspiracy, abuse of process, intentional interference with contractual relations, inducing breach of contract, and unlawful interference with economic interests. Additionally, he is seeking damages for the improvident sale of his (former) Cheyenne Ave apartment buildings by the National Bank of Canada and also wants an accounting of the rent money collected from his tenants by the other defendants during their campaign to gain control of his buildings.

On the advice of his counsel, Tony Steele of Polishuk, Camman & Steele, Elieff has declined an out-of-court settlement already offered (in 1999) by the National Bank of Canada.

Elieff's claim stems from the activities of Susan Eagle, who, as a paid lobbyist for the United Church of Canada, launched a widely publicized effort to obtain control of his privately-owned Cheyenne Ave apartment buildings for taxpayer-funded co-op housing from the mid-1980's to the early 1990's. Although unsuccessful in obtaining the buildings for co-op housing, Eagle's campaign (which included the recruitment of one of Elieff's Asian tenants to file a racism complaint against the landlord before an Ontario Human Rights Commission Board of Inquiry) nevertheless created conditions that ultimately resulted in the sale of his building under power of sale.

(For a quick summary of the story, read Scene magazine's November 4, 1999 CenterSpread exclusive, written by Fp president Robert Metz.)


In the days when he was targeted by Eagle's campaigns against him, there seemed little that Elieff could do to stop the London Free Press from vilifying him on a regular basis. Today, there seems little that Elieff can do to get the London Free Press to print even a single sentence about his current lawsuit.

Of all the injustices suffered by Elieff, this is probably the greatest.

The very paper (and the ONLY member of the media) that created the "notoriety" that attracted the Human Rights tribunal to Elieff's attention, is not only not covering his current situation, but seems committed to maintaining its silence. Despite constant reassurances of providing "balanced" reporting on community issues, the London Free Press has NEVER reported Elieff's side of the story fairly, nor has any London Free Press reporter EVER contacted anyone at Freedom Party for another perspective of Elieff's situation. (Ironically, this is not even necessary since the whole story appears on our website and is available to anyone. Also ironically, in contrast to the London Free Press' so-called 'balanced' reporting, our site also includes their side of the story.)


On November 8, 1999, London Free Press editor Helen Connell, who had been with the paper during the period it printed hundreds of articles about the Cheyenne Ave apartment buildings, appeared on CJBK Radio's weekly "London Free Press Hour" with (then) host Dan Gall.

"I'm not aware of the lawsuit," she replied to an elderly caller identifying himself as "John", even though the London Free Press had received Freedom Party's media releases regarding the lawsuit months earlier, and even though the story had appeared on the front page of the November 4 edition of Scene magazine which was widely distributed throughout the city.

"Well that's surprising to me," the caller replied. "This has been chucking around for quite a while, and there's nothing in the London Free Press about this lawsuit. It's pretty high profile! The Reverend Susan Eagle is a co-defendant on something that she butted her nose into and had no right to be there. Do you know the background of this thing?"

"Yes I remember the original story and things," replied Connell, "but with a lawsuit like this, I mean, there are many many lawsuits filed all the time. The court dockets are full every day and we don't report on every one of them, but what we do do is watch them, track them..."

"Well it'll be interesting to see what the London Free Press DOES publish about it," replied the caller, "because any other lawsuit for over a million dollars, I'm quite sure there'd be something in the paper about it. The Free Press does not look good in this lawsuit according to what I'm reading."

"I'll check into it when I get back to the newsroom..." Connell promised.


A week later, on November 15, there was still no London Free Press story about the lawsuit. Fp executive member Gordon Mood phoned the call-in show on that morning:

"Hi, I'm calling about a caller last week who called about the Cheyenne apartment case," said Mood. "It's on the front page of Scene magazine and you mentioned that you might do a follow- up. Will the Free Press be reporting on this at all?"

"I suppose we might report on it as it works its way through the courts or as it gets to a resolution somewhere down the road," replied Free Press editor Rob Paynter. "It's not a big issue for us at the moment. Are you thinking it should be Gord?"

"Well, considering that the person named (in the suit) is a councillor, I would think it should be," Mood responded.

"I think we'll follow it through the courts," Paynter replied. "I'm not going to do a take while it's before the courts though."

"No?" queried Mood.

"No," responded Paynter. "We don't usually cover civil suits like we do a criminal case, but we certainly report on outcomes."

"But you seemed awfully interested in it a few years ago," responded Mood. "I used to read in the paper about the Cheyenne apartments all the time."

"We did write about it at the time," interjected Helen Connell, "and I think what Rob's saying is that we're going to treat it like we treat normally treat I think we treat it at the time like we treat a story of that kind and we're treating it again as we would normally. (sic) We normally don't follow civil suits." [Yes, that's what she actually said - ed]

"Gord, cut to the chase here," challenged Paynter. "What's your interest in it? What are you trying to say to me?"

"You don't think there's an injustice there?" Mood asked.

"Frankly no, I don't know." Paynter responded. "You tell me about the injustice."

"Well, maybe you should investigate it yourself," Mood responded. "You're the newspaper person."

"Well that's true," Paynter embarrassingly admitted.

"Isn't it the job of a journalist to do investigation and find out what the truth is?" asked Mood.

"Well Gord, we do that every day in the paper," Paynter replied in a more challenging tone. "You've got a sore point on the Cheyenne apartments. What is it?"

"What's YOUR sore point?" Mood countered. "You're the Free Press. You're the press. I'm an individual in the public. You're the ones who are supposed to say whether there's something there or not, not me."

"Right," responded Paynter a little more sheepishly. "Well I told you we'll probably follow it as it makes its way through the courts."

"I see," Mood concluded politely, "Ok. Well, that's the answer. Thanks a lot."

Following Mood's call, Paynter commented: "I don't know if (Gord) was intimating this, but it seemed like he was, that we were somehow hiding it or staying away from the story. That's not the case."

"Yeah, I don't know why that feeling's there," Connell joined, "We wouldn't normally cover a civil lawsuit. There are a number of organizations and groups involved, so I'm not surprised that there's some interest in it, and Rob's assuring us that it will get treated like a regular lawsuit news story. We'll probably follow it sometime."


A week later, on November 22, there was still no story about Elieff's lawsuit to be found in the pages of the London Free Press. This time, the landlord himself phoned the call-in radio program, and in his broken English asked Free Press editor Rob Paynter:

"When would you start saying a little bit of the truth (about) what has been happening to me and my family? Until I was kicked out of business, you were writing mostly stories perverted and that were not true. I one time had a reporter of yours with a camera who I asked to take pictures of broken machines, washers and dryers, and I asked your reporter to tell the people of London that I had been vandalized. I was really hoping the next morning to read the truth on the story about the machines. But what I read, sir, was 'Poor tenants now don't even have washers to wash their clothing because the landlord won't fix them up.'"

"Can I stop you there for a second?" interrupted Paynter. "As I understand it, this is a case that is still before the civil courts. Barry Wells at Scene magazine did a big spread on you a couple of issues ago. Barry Wells has been pestering me to make an issue of the thing. The Free Press will cover the story as it goes along. I know you're feeling that we've done something bad to you and Barry Wells thinks there are plots within subplots within conspiracies in this thing, and Barry Wells has a newspaper where he can write just exactly that if he wants."

"But you know..." Elieff tried to interject.

"Bear with me here," Paynter insisted. "The newspaper tries to cover the community in a fair and balanced way and we try to cover almost everything that goes on here. So I'm not saying we're not going to cover your story. Let us get to it. This happened before I came to town and I'm still trying to get up to speed on this story, quite frankly."

"I appreciate that," replied Elieff, "but Rob, sir, for all those years in the past, everything that I said was mostly perverted. You realize that we subpoenaed the Free Press and then Miss Nesbitt came over and said 'Oh we don't have that tape (on which) we thought we had Elijah calling the tenants names.' But that was the reason why Susan Eagle took me to Human Rights for thirteen days (where) I was crucified and thrashed. In the end, the (judge) didn't find us guilty of discriminating..."

"I thought you were found guilty of discriminating against Cambodians," responded the suddenly very-well informed Paynter, though incorrectly referring to a divisional court case subsequent to Elieff's appearance before the tribunal.

"I was only found guilty (of) serving this tenant a rent increase (during the time of the hearings) which I thought I had the right to do," explained Elieff.

"Alright, guilty with an explanation then," said Paynter. "But let me get to the story. I know you're eager to have your story told, and so is Barry Wells from Scene magazine, but Barry Wells and you don't dictate what the newspaper covers and when it covers it. So bear with me. If the story is worthy of coverage, it'll be covered. I promise you!"

"I would hope," concluded Elieff, "that you would at least start saying SOMETHING so that those who want to support me and my case could come forth and support me. That's all."

"Thank you for your call," closed off program host Dan Gall. "I think Rob was succinct in that he has stated that he will cover the story if and when he feels like covering the story."

"Not so much when I feel like covering the story," corrected Paynter, "but I'm still trying to come up to speed on this. Scene magazine seems to think that the Free Press is purposely ignoring the story because the Free Press has some peripheral involvement in this. That's not the case. I'm still trying to get my head around this story and when I do, and when I deem it of some newsworthy value, it'll get in the paper. I mean, the newspaper is a FILTER for a lot of things in the community. We DON'T REPORT on everything that goes on in the community. No newspaper does. You try to come up with a package every day that has some broad appeal so you can sell some newspapers." [emphasis ours, -ed]

"There's no conspiracy not to run this story," Paynter assured Elieff. "I'm still getting to it frankly and I'm going to talk to my senior editors about it and see what they think because they've got the history on the thing."

"This story has been brought to our attention on the London Free Press hour for the last three weeks," noted Gall. "So I'm looking at that and thinking there's got to be a reason why the London Free Press hasn't written the story. If it's a matter of 'let-me-get-my-head-around-this- thing'..."

"And once I do the story, the story might not be newsworthy," Paynter added. "It might get bumped off the sched for weeks. Who knows? I don't know. But I'll find out."


Weeks later, still no story appeared in the London Free Press. Again, the Elieff suit was brought up on the London Free Press hour by a caller identifying himself as 'Bill'.

"They were hammered daily by the Free Press," the caller explained to Paynter. "They were hammered daily for weeks."

"Well as I understand it, it's a lawsuit that's in the discovery stage," responded Paynter. "Should it go beyond that, we'll probably have to get on board and start covering it. But at the moment it's just at discovery stage. I don't even know if it's going to go ahead."

"Oh I see," responded the caller somewhat disbelieveingly. "At the time (Eagle) was getting so much news coverage hammering the Cheyenne Ave apartments, like, I heard her husband worked there, her brother worked there, something along this line. Is there any truth in that?"

"Yes, her husband works at the Free Press," responded Paynter. "He's the entertainment reporter. His name is Joe Matyas. But the fact that her husband works at the Free Press in an entertainment department wouldn't have any effect on what's going on in the news department. Trust me. Trust me!"


It is rather self-evident that the London Free Press will NOT be reporting on developments as they happen with respect to Elieff's lawsuit, nor will it ever be held accountable for the central role it played in falsely painting Elieff as a racist slum landlord. Given this reality, the challenge of getting Elieff's story out to the public is formidable indeed.

Our special thanks are hereby extended to Barry Wells and the folks at Scene magazine who were the first to bravely go where no media has gone before: to tell a story that does not paint a positive picture of the media itself.

Our next task is to get Elieff's story into the hands of as many alternate news outlets as possible, in the hopes that ONE of them might have the courage to report on one of the hottest news stories that could possibly cross their paths. In the politically correct environment of our times, this too may prove to be a formidable task, but one that needs to be undertaken nevertheless.

To do the job, we need the financial support of as many people as possible, and as soon as possible. Fp members, supporters and friends are all encouraged to contribute to Elieff's legal defence fund to help him with legal costs, and to Freedom Party to help with the costs of getting his story out to the public.


Audio copies of the above-referenced radio conversations are available on request, as are other documents and media articles on Elieff's current lawsuit and past appearance before the HRC Board of Inquiry. Visit our Feedback page for details of how to get in touch with us.

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