Toronto renters create human blockade to stop eviction enforcement
Toronto tenants and advocates gathered outside city hall this morning to protest the resumption of residential evictions, and they later created a humane blockade in front of the parking garage at the courthouse at 361 University Ave. to stop sheriffs from being able to enforce evictions.
Regular eviction enforcement is scheduled to resume today following the end of the provincial residential eviction ban, but many have warned that allowing evictions to proceed while we are still in the midst of a pandemic will lead to a housing and homelessness crisis like we've never seen before.
Working class neighbourhoods have been hit the hardest by COVID-19 and the economic lockdown. Our communities will be destroyed by COVID evictions. We won’t let that happen. (3/4) pic.twitter.com/LL0AT5svLL— Markham and Eglinton Unite! (@mneunite) August 18, 2020
"Despite the continued threat of COVID-19 in our city, the sheriff's office has been given the green light to proceed with eviction enforcement," said Bryan Doherty of Parkdale Organize in a statement.
"We are all well aware by now that Toronto's housing and homelessness crisis predates COVID-19 and we cannot stand by while it is exacerbated to an unprecedented level by mass evictions during the pandemic. We demand that no evictions be enforced while the pandemic emergency is still going on."
The new bill, which was recently passed into law, makes it easier for landlords to evict tenants by giving them the ability to do so without a formal hearing, and all changes made under Bill 184 apply retroactively to when Ontario first declared a state of emergency in response to COVID-19.
As a result, advocates have been calling upon Mayor John Tory to use his emergency powers to declare an eviction moratorium in the City of Toronto, along with a number of other demands, and they arrived at city hall to reiterate those calls at 7 a.m. Tuesday morning.
Tenants are holding it down at the 361 University courthouse, preventing sheriffs from leaving. We’ll stop 40 evictions today - but there are thousands coming. It’s imperative that we organize our hoods and make sure no one loses their home because of COVID. #nocovidevictions pic.twitter.com/gGz0N7zlc6— Maryam Laal (@LaalMaryam) August 18, 2020
In addition to the moratorium, tenants called on the mayor to demand that the Ontario government repeal Bill 184; direct Toronto Police Services officers to not participate in the removal of Torontonians from their homes, including encampments of homeless Torontonians; and that he declare support for all Toronto tenants that cannot pay rent, but refuse to leave the safety of their homes.
Tenants then marched to the courthouse in order to form a human blockade at the entrance of the parking lot where sheriffs' vehicles are deployed for the purpose of enforcing eviction orders.
BODIES NEEDED: the community has blockaded the driveway at 361 University Ave. (Armoury St., between St. Patrick and Osgoode stations) to keep sheriffs from carrying out evictions. While politicians want to throw tenants out during the pandemic, the people say #NoCovidEvictions https://t.co/eogm5Muk8r— Climate Justice Toronto (@CJusticeTO) August 18, 2020
According to KeepYourRent Toronto, a tenants organization fighting against evictions, Toronto sheriffs typically enforce eight to 15 evictions a day.
"The federal government failed to protect us, the provincial government was actually the only district in North America to weaken protections for renters and the city's efforts to challenge Bill 184 are falling way short of what is actually needed," said Sam Nithiananthan of People's Defence Toronto, in a statement.
"Renters, understanding that our best protections are each other, are forced to take up the work of keeping people housed ourselves. If our government won't act to stop evictions, we will."
BREAKING: Today, sherrifs resume regular eviction enforcements in #Toronto. Tenants are blocking the parking garage at the 361 University Avenue courthouse to prevent sherrifs from leaving. There will be no evictions today. #NoCovidEvictions pic.twitter.com/w6rB7UgQ5d— PeoplesDefenceTO (@Peoples_Defence) August 18, 2020
Despite repeated calls from tenants and advocates, Tory has stated that it is not within his power to place a moratorium on evictions as it is under provincial jurisdiction.
But activists insist otherwise, and they say they have no intention of backing down anytime soon.
They're also encouraging anyone who has been formally threatened with an eviction to input their data on the new Toronto COVID evictions website.
"Tenants organized in their buildings and neighbourhoods will continue to do the work to stop evictions long after today's action, but first we need to know where those eviction attempts are happening," said Doherty.
"Ultimately, a neighbourhood that is organized and prepared is a healthy and safe one."
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