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Slumlord Blocks Family from Recovering Property of Tenant Found Dead in a Trailer During Winter, 2022

This is the deepening story of negligence and fraud committed by a Barrie slumlord against a disabled man. On February 26th, 2022, Jay Marche, known to his friends as Bear, was found dead within a poorly heated and uninsulated camping trailer that was rented to him during sub-zero temperatures for the cost of $700.00 per month, paid for by the Ontario Disability Support Program. The original story, viewed by more than 50,000 mostly local people, can be found at https://www.fivepointsmedia.ca/landlord-abuse-bear01.html and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ocanetwork.ca/posts/3123613381214935.

Yesterday, Tuesday, March 1, 2022, I met with Diane Marche, the mother of Jason (Bear) Marche, along with several other members of his family. They came to 306 Innisfil St. to collect whatever belongings their son, uncle, brother, and stepson had left in the uninsulated trailer for which the Ontario Disability Support Program had paid the landlord, Jason Hejja, $700.00 per month so this man could endure temperatures below -30 degrees without adequate heat and no insulation.

They then came to our studio looking for help after learning that the negligent landlord had padlocked the door with an entirely new latch that was not there when Bear was found nearly dead in the cold metal box he was forced by poverty to call home.

The family played it smart and called the police, as they had documentation to show that the ODSP had paid the rent in full for February and March and that the last month, for April, remained on deposit. This meant that the landlord illegally locked the trailer, evidently with the intent being to restrict the family from gaining access to the truth of his negligence. Diane informed me that she had advised Jason Hejja of her intent to sue him and his partners for negligence or other liability that led to Bear’s untimely passing. It seemed obvious to all that the landlord had locked the trailer to prohibit the family from attaining evidence against him.

When police arrived, they called Jason Hejja to ask for the padlock combination. He refused to provide it and said he would come to the trailer in about 40 minutes. The officers also seemed unable to understand the obvious stalling tactic. We have a well-equipped in-studio workshop for building props etc., and I offered if necessary to provide any tools needed by the family. Together, we all waited.

When Jason Hejja eventually arrived, he met first with the police on the street. He was clearly none too impressed to see me standing in the shared driveway, as he frequently pointed at me while turning his masked face away from my camera. He then told me that I could not come onto his property because I was ‘good at twisting the truth’. This is the story of how a man with disabilities was found dead in a grossly inadequate uninsulated summer trailer during sub-zero temperatures which Jason Hejja rented as a room for the price of $700.00 a month that he collected directly from ODSP. The facts speak for themselves.

I ignored his false claims of authority and followed the slumlord to the trailer where Hejja and the police were told by members of Bear’s family that I was there as media at their invitation. Then Jason Hejja tried to coerce the officers to charge me with trespassing and to remove me from the site. At that point, Robbie, Bear’s best friend, who is also a tenant within the house, stepped up and told Jason Hejja and the police that I was there as his guest.

Under current law, as administered by the Landlord and Tenant Board under the Ontario Residential Tenancies Act, a landlord cannot deny a tenant the right to have guests, and they cannot legally demand a limit on how long a guest can stay. Regardless, I was told by Robbie and by members of Bear’s family that after I had left the site for about a minute to obtain a pry bar from my studio workshop, Jason Hejja called Robbie “a traitor” for saying I could stay against his wishes.

We recorded as the landlord, Jason Hejja, tried to bully my camera and me off site, going so far as to threaten me with arrest. He also tried to coerce Bear’s family members to bust open the trailer. After I left, I am told the slumlord tried to buy off Bear’s mother with an offer of transferring ownership to her.

Robbie lives in the recently exposed-as illegal basement apartment that Jason Hejja is now required to make safe for occupancy following our complaint to the City of Barrie that included details of Bear’s rental ‘housing’ conditions. We consider Robbie a friend, and he has been welcomed at our home for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Unfortunately, Robbie suffers from sporadic cognitive limitations due to a past brain injury. He was also Bear’s best friend, so he is grieving. Bear’s mother, niece, step-father, and sister were also all present. For Jason Hejja to make such a self-serving comment given the circumstances demonstrates a level of callousness and self-absorption normally reserved for narcissists and sociopaths.

Further, the only time we heard Jason Hejja suggest the family should be considered is when he tried to coerce me not to record the opening of the trailer, which is what the family had asked me to do. Of course, that transparent attempt at manipulation was only tried after the police told Jason Hejja he could not legally stop me from helping the family by recording the truth of his illegal activities and negligence that might have contributed to the death of Jason (Bear) Marche.

Jason Hejja removed his padlock but then claimed not to have a key to the trailer that had been mysteriously double-locked immediately after Bear’s death. We all saw this as an obvious attempt to delay the matter further, so I offered the use of my pry bars. With the police present and cameras rolling, Jason Hejja had little choice but to accept the offer and force open the door.

At first, Jason Hejja asked Diane or one of her family to pry open the door, but they were all smart enough to see the ploy for what it was. The police officers also recommended strongly that the slumlord do his own dirty work. After considerable delay, the door finally opened, and it became obvious why Jason Hejja did not want the family or our cameras to gain access before he could sanitize the living hellhole that Jason Marche had endured throughout the winter before ultimately losing his battle.

Jason Hejja asked to be able to take pictures before the family entered the trailer, and he insisted that I not go inside. Both demands were vetoed by the police and the family who saw his motivations as self-serving. Bear's niece had to argue vehemently with the slumlord, raising the level of emotional strain for all.

The trailer was cold, the plumbing was frozen, there was obvious evidence of mice and rats, and there was no insulation other than the silver-backed Styrofoam my partner and I had given to our friend. Diane found a pee jar under the sink that Bear had been forced to use as he had no plumbing. There was also a bucket, apparently filled with saltwater, on the floor next to the frozen toilet that required no explanation as to its purpose.

I photographed everything that seemed in any way relevant to the civil and hopefully criminal cases that are soon expected to be levied against Jason Hejja and his partners. I then recorded an emotional appeal on camera by Diane who is seeking both real justice for her son and changes in laws that will protect others who have been abused by landlords like Jason Hejja.

I will state that when it comes to Jason Hejja I saw neither remorse nor any sense of responsibility. He was clearly interested in one thing only, covering his own best interests. Upon leaving the site, I asked the slumlord if he wanted to say his piece on camera. I thought maybe he would express some remorse, or perhaps try to make people understand how he felt justified in charging $700.00 a month for a fellow human being to live in an uninsulated metal and cloth coffin that was devoid of adequate heat, had no insulation, no working plumbing, and no functioning cooking facilities. His only response was to say, “I have no time for this” and “I simply don’t care”.

Those of us who knew Jason (Bear) Marche will forever miss him, and we will continue to demand justice against the slumlords who own 306 Innisfil Street.

John Ironside

Producer, Ontario Community Awareness Network

PS: This morning I received a phone call from Diane Marche. She advised us that a service is to be held for family and friends of Jason (Bear) Marche on March 12, 2022, between 11:00 and 1:00 in Angus. Details will be posted here as they become available. The family requests that any donations made in Jason’s name be sent to the Busby Centre in Barrie, who Diane told us had helped Bear when he was in need.

Bear’s mother also advised me that the toxicology report had not yet come back, but all of Bear’s vital organs were undamaged from any kind of trauma. There were also no signs of drugs in the trailer other than prescription pills. While I was in the trailer watching the family recover his worldly possessions, the strongest ‘controlled’ substance I saw was an empty can of beer.

Please share Bear's story to demand the prosecution of the slumlord who abused this good man while defrauding the public funds of the ODSP.

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