- John Tory, Mayor, City of Toronto
- Mary-Anne Bedard, General Manager Shelter Support & Housing Administration
- Janie Romonoff, General Manager Parks, Forestry, and Recreation Department¬†
- Toronto City Councillors
- Joe Cressy, Councillor, Spadina-Fort York
- Deputy Mayor Ana Bailao¬†
- Chief Housing Officer Abi Bond
We, the OCAD Student Union, demand that the City of Toronto immediately halt the forced evictions of encampment residents and removal of their belongings. We call for the immediate repeal of all by-laws that make it illegal to camp, and for the City to instead focus their time, effort, and public funds towards providing encampment residents and all unhoused people with adequate fire safety, sanitation, survival gear, and permanent, affordable housing.¬† ¬† ¬†As the OCAD Student Union, we are roughly 5,000 Toronto based students, artists, makers, and creators, many of whom have personally experienced the impact of this housing crisis that has plagued the city for too long; displacing our communities, evicting our loved ones, and leaving many of us in precarious living situations. This year, we have witnessed the many ways that COVID-19 has worsened the living conditions of our neighbours, while their basic human rights and safety have been ignored by those who claim to protect us.¬† The programs we offer providing advocacy and legal support, food security and emergency funding continue to be in high demand, our leaders continue to ignore the very real fact that Toronto is in crisis.¬† ¬† ¬†Instead of prioritizing the safety of its residents, the City of Toronto has chosen to criminalize unhoused people and allow for mass evictions during a global pandemic. The City continues to underfund a shelter system that has been at capacity for years, and under-reports the number of houseless people living in Toronto. The City of Toronto planned to accommodate 560 houseless residents this winter, but groups like the Encampment Support Network know the number of people living outdoors is over 1,000. Alternatives proposed by the City like Shelter Hotels or the Better Living Centre Shelter ¬†remove residents from their communities and away from vital supports. These temporary measures lack privacy, sanitation, saddle residents with regulations (curfew, spot checks, visitation policies), limit access to personal belongings, provide no safety from COVID-19, and rob residents of their dignity. Unhoused residents of Toronto should not have to choose between surviving adverse weather conditions or surviving COVID-19.¬† ¬† ¬†Encampment clearing does nothing to keep the people of Toronto safe or combat homelessness; it does the opposite, destroying the personal property of residents and removing what is essential for survival. These evictions are in direct opposition to the Centre of Disease Control‚Äôs COVID-19 recommendation that cities do not clear encampments ‚Äúunless individual housing units are available,, because doing so can ‚Äúincrease the potential for infectious disease spread‚Äù. In addition, forced evictions of homeless encampments in Canada is not permitted under international human rights law, ‚Äúeven if those homes are made of improvised materials and established without legal security.‚Äù Coercing residents into unsafe, temporary shelters through the destruction of personal belongings and police enforcement is not providing shelter. Until residents can access housing choices that provide dignity, humanity, and access to basic privacy, hot showers, and safety; the City of Toronto cannot destroy encampments and leave their residents to die.¬† ¬† ¬†We call on the City of Toronto to immediately invest in truly affordable housing; 10,000 units of Rent-Geared-To-Income (RGI) permanent housing options in the next three years. We demand the City provide encampment residents with basic survival gear and ensure them unfettered access to sanitation and washrooms. The COVID-19 pandemic is not over, and the continued evictions of both housed and unhoused people are unethical and dangerous. We call on the City of Toronto to protect its residents and establish a moratorium on all evictions. Not another person should be removed from their home. ¬† ¬† ¬†We, the OCAD Student Union condemn the city‚Äôs cruel and inhumane attack on residents and stand in solidarity with encampment residents, housing advocates groups including the Encampment Support Network (ESN), Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP), and all Artists Against Encampment Evictions.