CUPE Ontario condemns the City of Toronto’s decision to clear encampments at Trinity Bellwoods Park where unhoused Torontonians have been living.

The use of over 100 police officers and dozens of private security would be a completely unjustified display of forced removal at any time. Toronto’s one of the most expensive cities in the world and far too many of our neighbours can’t afford the available housing. And shelter space is few and far between, with people understandably preferring to live in their communities, close to their friends, family, and their supports.

But today, when we’re still in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis; when people are still reeling from the economic impacts of loss of income; when rents in Toronto are rising beyond all reason: forcibly removing 20 to 25 unhoused people from the encampment they’ve made their home is unacceptable and demands our complete opposition.

In solidarity with our unhoused neighbours, we remind front-line workers who find themselves directed by their employer to take part in this removal that they have the right to refuse work that endangers their life or someone else’s. And we remind front-line workers and everyone that forcibly separating people from their homes undeniably endangers lives.

But we should also be clear – the focus here is not the way working people are forced into conflict with one another in this and so many other circumstances.  The focus must be those in power who make these decisions. It’s time for all levels of government to act. Toronto’s city council must resolutely refuse to engage in such clearings and must immediately reverse the clearing begun today.

The Ford Conservatives must develop a provincial housing strategy that provides housing as a basic right. The Federal Government has responsibility here too, and the Trudeau Liberals must do more than make hollow promises – they must move on a comprehensive national affordable housing strategy.

It’s long past time we make the decision to ensure the best and safest possible conditions for those who are still unhoused and ensure robust investments, from all levels of government, in the chronically underfunded public services that our members deliver in support of the most vulnerable people.

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