As I write this there is a heavy Toronto police presence in Trinity Bellwoods Park aimed at removing the encampment residents and the tents and structures they have been living in. This is profoundly wrong. It is also wrong that in our City people find themselves living in tents.
This crisis has deep roots. In part it is the result of decades of Federal housing policy that treats where we live as a profitmaking commodity, and not as a human right. In part it is the result of a Provincial social services policy which sets welfare rates and social support levels scandalously low making it impossible for many in to live in secure, safe and healthy housing. In part it is the result of a City Council which has over and over again voted down proposals I and others have made to treat homelessness as an emergency and bring the full weight of government to creating good housing. At our latest Council meeting we tried again. We proposed a human rights based negotiation with encampment residents to get them into housing they want. Instead of supporting this proposal the Mayor and his allies voted to simply clear the encampments. The use of force taking place now is the result.
Going forward we have to redouble our efforts to change our housing system, build real supports for people in need, and create good faith human rights based negotiations to get people housed. State violence is not the answer to homelessness, nor is leaving people outside in encampments.