Protesters interrupt Toronto mayor's press conference to demand no COVID-19 evictions
Protestors just interrupted a ceremony for a new luxury office development called T3 Bayside on the east Waterfront where Toronto Mayor John Tory was speaking in order to demand an emergency moratorium on COVID-19 evictions.
The mayor was speaking to a crowd near the site where Sidewalk Labs was originally set to build its "Smart City" when Toronto tenants approached him with signs and a megaphone.
Today @JohnTory attempted to hold a ceremony with developers breaking ground on a new luxury office facility.— Keep Your Rent Toronto (@KeepYourRent) July 23, 2020
Instead, he was greeted by the demands of #Toronto tenants.#NoCovidEvictions pic.twitter.com/dfii4y1se0
The action, which was organized by community groups Parkdale Organize and People's Defense Toronto, comes following the passing of the province's controversial Bill 184 into law earlier this week.
And while Ontario municipalities don't actually have control over the provincial Landlord and Tenant Board or the Residential Tenancies Act, renters are calling on Tory to stand up to the province and use his emergency powers to create a moratorium on evictions in Toronto if Premier Doug Ford won't cooperate.
"Bill 184 puts more power into the hands of landlords and could speed up the eviction process for an estimated 13,000 tenants who will not be able to catch up on rent payments due to the COVID crisis," reads a statement from KeepYourRent Toronto, a group formed to encourage struggling tenants to keep their rent throughout the pandemic.
This event also comes after another recent protest where tenants rallied outside the mayor's Yorkville condo, leading Tory to admit he hadn't actually read Bill 184 at the time.
"It took hundreds of tenants paying a visit to Tory's condo for him to read the Bill which had its first hearing back in March as the pandemic was unfolding and the province declared a state-of-emergency," said Bryan Doherty of Parkdale Organize in a statement.
"Surely by now the mayor understands the disaster that will unfold if Bill 184 is allowed to be carried out in the city as intended."
BREAKING: #Toronto tenants confront Mayor John Tory during his remarks at groundbreaking ceremony for luxury offices, T3 Bayside.— Keep Your Rent Toronto (@KeepYourRent) July 23, 2020
Tenants demand Tory use his emergency powers to declare an eviction moratorium.
Evictions are set to resume as soon as Aug. 1. #NoCovidEvictions pic.twitter.com/g2LiGQaVFl
During this morning's photo op, protestors communicated their demands via megaphone before standing behind Tory with giant placards calling on him to declare support for tenants that cannot pay rent.
The mayor initially asked the protestors to wait and said he would speak to them after the event, but protestors demanded he hear their demands immediately and he eventually left the scene while being escorted by police.
"Landlords of Toronto have already been ruthlessly pushing tenants out of their homes leading to rates of homelessness doubling in the last ten years. COVID evictions could see those numbers double again. We're here to tell the mayor that he needs to stand with the half of this city that rents," said Sam Nithiananthan of People's Defence Toronto.
"While politicians like to pass the buck, the truth is that it is well within the Mayor's emergency powers to declare an eviction moratorium in the city, ask the province to repeal Bill 184, and direct Toronto Police Services not to participate in the enforcement of evictions, including evictions at homeless encampments."
Following this morning's events, the mayor issued a public statement in response to protestors' demands.
"Although City Legal staff have advised that the City has no legal authority to impose a ban on evictions, I have spoken out against residential and commercial evictions throughout this crisis and will continue to do so. I have been clear in stating that no eviction should take place without a hearing," Tory said.
He said he does disagree with with some of the changes outlined in Bill 184, and he added that the city solicitor is reporting directly to city council with advice on the possibility of legally challenging those provisions which undermine the rights of tenants to a fair hearing.
He also addressed protestors' demand for him to direct Toronto Police Services not to participate in the enforcement of evictions including homeless encampments, to which he said that "city staff are working with homeless residents in encampments to help provide more stable housing options."
He added that Toronto police don't actually conduct evictions unless there's a public safety concern, and that no elected official is permitted to direct the daily operations of the police service.
"I have repeatedly called on landlords to find ways to help tenants affected by COVID-19 and has [sic] supported the provincial ban on evictions," Tory said.
"I continue to be focused on addressing the ongoing challenges with affordable housing and homelessness in our growing city and would urge those who share those concerns to join me in continuing to advocate to the other levels of government for assistance."
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