Stop Use of Police Powers to Address Homelessness
and Attack Human Dignity!

Brutal Ongoing Evictions of Residents of Toronto Encampments

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 supporters.

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.

For videos of the eviction click here.

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.

Alexandra 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 encampment click here. 

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.[1]

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."[2] The letter was submitted for the July 15 City Council meeting, but was not added to the agenda by the Council or the Mayor.

On 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 Association.

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.

The 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 signatory to.

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.[3] 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!


1. "Open Letter to Mayor Tory -- Ending Police Enforcement of Encampment Clearings," July 23, 2021.

2. "A Path Forward," Letter to Mayor Tory, July 9, 2021.

3. The Right to Adequate Housing, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Fact Sheet 21

(Photos: Hamilton ESN, SHJN, S. Punwasi, M. Reis, C. Leung, S. Jama)

This article was published in

August 4, 2021 - No. 65

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