Attacks on homeless persons living in several encampments in parks
throughout Toronto have been stepped up during the summer months, in
the form of forced evictions by the police enforcing a notice of
trespass issued by the City on June 12. The notices warn the homeless
people that they could be removed and fined up to $10,000 if convicted,
as if those experiencing homelessness could afford to pay such fines.
The attacks have been met by widespread opposition from the homeless,
organizations that fight for the right to housing for all and other
The latest such use of police violence
to dismantle an encampment and evict the residents took place on July
21 at Lamport Stadium Park, where 26 people were arrested. Aliya
Pabani, a volunteer with Encampment Support Network Toronto, told CBC
News that she was pepper sprayed while several other demonstrators were
hurt by police. "People got massive injuries," Pabani said. "They were
punching people ... putting knees on people's necks." She described the
attack as "brutal" and "a disgusting display of force," adding some
people required stitches for their injuries.
videos of the eviction click
The eviction at Lamport
Stadium Park followed a police assault and evictions at Alexandra Park
the day before, where at least nine people were arrested. While a
previous eviction of an encampment was met with hundreds of people
protesting, on this occasion a temporary fence was erected in the early
morning in an attempt to keep out protestors as well as the media, so
that the police could carry out their assault with impunity. Domenico
Saxida, a resident of the encampment called the clearing of the park by
police and security "completely unnecessary." He told CBC News
that many residents had already begun to leave, with some opting to
move to city-run hotels and shelters, while others had managed to find
more permanent housing. Saxida said he didn't know where he would go
next and that he is worried for others who were forced from the
encampment. "There are a few women in this park. I would like to know,
where are they going to go? What are they going to do? The shelters are
overloaded, the hotels are all overloaded. They're unsafe," he said.
Park police assault and eviction.
On June 22,
hundreds of people rallied at Trinity Bellwoods Park to resist and hold
to account a huge police presence sent to forcibly evict a homeless
encampment from the park. An estimated 400-500 people stood up to at
least 100 police armed with tear gas, rubber bullets and worse, to
prevent the destruction of the encampment and eviction of the 25 or
more homeless people who had been living there. The stand-off with
police lasted 12 hours before the homeless were removed. A number of
those standing up for the rights of the homeless were arrested.
City staff were reported to have arrived early in the morning
to effect the evictions. Encampment residents were give a few hours to
gather their things and leave. Media reports say they were instructed
to move to designated shelter spaces.
For video of
resistance to the eviction of the homeless from Trinity Bellwoods
In the wake of these
events, five city councillors on July 23 signed and released a letter
calling for an end to violence during forced evictions at homeless
encampments in city parks, ahead of the next such action, which they
expect at Moss Park in the coming weeks. "In advance of this imminent
clearing, we demand an end to the violence and extreme show of force.
There is absolutely no need for batons, pepper spray or even guns, not
when the work should be done by the City's Streets to Home staff and
other outreach workers," they wrote.
The city councillors' letter was preceded by one sent to Mayor
Tory on July 9, entitled "A Path Forward" and signed by 207
organizations and community leaders, "demanding that Mayor John Tory
and the City end the forcible removal of encampments and police
use-of-force against unhoused people, and commit to a human
rights-compliant approach to engaging with unhoused people."
The letter was submitted for the July 15 City Council meeting, but was
not added to the agenda by the Council or the Mayor.
any given night in Toronto there are an estimated 10,000 homeless
people. The overcrowded conditions in Toronto's homeless facilities
have created a humanitarian crisis that threatens the many vulnerable
people who use these spaces as well as shelter staff and volunteers,
and local communities, according to the Canadian Civil Liberties
Mayor John Tory blames those standing
up for the rights of the homeless for creating a problem, accusing them
of using the situation to "make a statement." The Mayor holds to the
argument that encampments contravene several chapters of the Municipal
Code and are not a solution to homelessness.
city proclaims such rules and regulations, paying little or no regard
to the requirement that Canadian society uphold its commitment of
adequate housing as a basic right belonging to all people. Such "rules"
are in violation of laws and international conventions that Canada is a
The Office of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Human Rights clearly states: The United Nations
Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has underlined that
the right to adequate housing should not be interpreted narrowly.
Rather, it should be seen as the right to live somewhere in security,
peace and dignity. Protection against forced evictions and the
arbitrary destruction and demolition of one's home is explicit within
the right to adequate housing.
Canada's deeds speak
way louder than its words. Workers'
Forum condemns the forceful evictions of the homeless and
the massive police presence deployed against them. Housing and adequate
shelter is a fundamental right!
Letter to Mayor Tory -- Ending Police Enforcement of Encampment
Clearings," July 23, 2021.
2. "A Path
Forward," Letter to Mayor Tory, July 9, 2021.
Right to Adequate Housing, Office of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Human Rights, Fact Sheet 21.
This article was published in
August 4, 2021 - No.