With Toronto Police on scene, city workers clear a small encampment in a downtown park

City workers, with Toronto police officers on standby, cleared a small encampment in a downtown park early Sunday.

The city confirmed in an email that there were 10 structures in Clarence Square Park, near Wellington Street West and Spadina Avenue, and its workers cleared eight tents.

He said one tent and structure remain in the park, two people have agreed to be referred to indoor spaces, and one person has returned to where they were staying before staying in the camp.

According to the city, the eight tents were unoccupied and only four people lived in the park. However, an advocate claims at least six people lived in the park.

The city said campsites are not permitted in city parks under its park regulations. “Any tent or structure that encroaches on a city park or right-of-way for the purpose of living or occupying space is considered an illegal camp and subject to the application of trespassing measures,” he said. he stated in an email.

But homeless advocates say the city’s shelter system is full, people are being told there is no room in shelters at night and those without homes have zero somewhere to go.

The city issued eviction notices dated June 4, giving residents 72 hours to leave the park.

According to the city, its Streets to Homes staff provided indoor spaces for people living in the park. Since January, he said his staff had visited Clarence Square 152 times and referred 17 people from the site to indoor accommodation.

Land clearing violates human rights, lawyer says

Doug Johnson Hatlem, a street pastor for Toronto’s Sanctuary Ministries, said Sunday that the cleanup of the encampment was a violation of human rights.

“It’s not in line with a strategy to get people housing as the most important thing. It’s a strategy that creates serious mistrust among the townspeople and causes fear and an added sense of violence and exclusion from the city that should be for everyone,” he said. said.

He said he thinks the city is determined to eliminate encampments from its parks this summer and doesn’t care about the safety of homeless people.

“They want people to die in overdose ravines with no support. They’re okay with people seemingly sleeping on sidewalks, freezing to death in bus shelters, burning to death in remote parks. It’s not not a security issue,” he said. .

Johnson Hatlem said he was informed of the clearing of the camp at around 8:40 a.m. He said two homeless people living in tents in the park had accepted offers of spaces in shelter hotels, that a resident of a small shelter remained and the other homeless people lived there. packed their things and left quickly. He said this is the first time he knows the city has cleared an encampment on a Sunday morning.

“The City’s response is the opposite of a response focused on health, safety, reducing homelessness and upholding the law, especially the legal right to housing,” he said. declared.

Here is a photo of the encampment in Clarence Square Park taken on June 7. A tepee is visible in the middle of the camp. (Provided by ESN Parkdale)

The city disagrees, saying it thinks living in an encampment is unhealthy and that its parks need to be safe and accessible to all Toronto residents.

Johnson Hatlem said six police officers were in the park when the encampment was cleared.

Police say officers were there but ‘unused’

Police inquired about clearing the camp to the city, saying officers were in the park but had not cleared the tents.

“The city is the leader in roaming and encampments, so please tell them about any clearances,” Const. Toronto Police Service (TPS) spokeswoman Laura Brabant said in an email.

“Only as a last resort, and in partnership with City staff, would the police do the enforcement,” she said. “Please note that officers were in the park area, but were not used.”

The city added that it has asked police to be in the area to be contacted if necessary. “When staff arrived on site, they determined that the TPS had a duty to maintain public order,” he said.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said the city will continue to try to find indoor spaces for people living outdoors.

“As an elected political leader, I don’t direct law enforcement,” Tory said. “But I have repeatedly stressed that the encampments are unsafe, they are unsanitary and they are illegal. And we have made strenuous efforts in all these different places to find indoor accommodation for those affected. who find themselves homeless. . And these efforts will continue.”

ESN Parkdale, which describes itself as a “group of housed and unhoused neighbors supporting and defending each other”, said the camp clearing was “brutal” and “unexpected”.

“The city has started their summer of violent encampment evictions again, and this time they are doing it quickly and quietly so their brutality goes unnoticed,” ESN Parkdale said in a tweet.

David H. Henry