Toronto advocates furious after dozens of cops show up to a residential eviction
Intense video footage emerged over the Easter weekend showing dozens of police officers at the scene of a west-end Toronto apartment building where a single father and his two young daughters had been ordered to vacate their home.
According to the advocacy group People's Defence Toronto, which describes itself as an "organization fighting to build political power for our class in the GTA block by block," a staggering 23 police cruisers carrying more than 40 cops arrived to enforce an eviction order near Keele and Eglinton on Friday.
"Today, on the eve of yet another lockdown, over 23 cruisers of cops showed up at 33 Gabian Way to enforce the eviction of a single father and his two young daughters," reads an update posted to the group's Facebook page on Friday night.
"Over 50 neighbours and supporters were there to defend him and keep him in his home."
.@TorontoPolice roll in full force—in 23 cruisers—to threaten and attack neighbours and supporters, and to enforce the eviction of a single father and his two young girls in a pandemic. @JohnTory, we thought you said TPS doesn’t enforce evictions??? #NoCovidEvictions pic.twitter.com/Zsdwav7097— PeoplesDefenceTO (@Peoples_Defence) April 3, 2021
A now-viral video from the scene, viewed nearly 170,000 times on Twitter, shows police entering the residence and telling everyone inside to leave.
People can be heard shouting "shame" and "how dare you!" in the background as an officer approaches the tenant, who is stationed off-camera next to a filming protester.
The police officer escorts the protester away, stating that he will have a conversation with the tenant alone, and noting that the tenant is in the apartment illegally.
"He has the money to pay, he has the money to pay," pleads the protester filming. "He has a six-year-old and a one-year-old, he has nowhere to go, don't do this!"
A representative for People's Defence tells blogTO that "the tenant who was facing eviction was given until Monday March 29th to procure all arrears owed in a verbal agreement with his landlord."
However, "when he put together the money, and brought it to his landlord, they had said they did not want the money and that they will follow through with the eviction."
It is of note, says People's Defence, that the tenant is currently paying less than market value for his apartment unit after living there for 7 years, and that the landlord could increase rent on the unit if he is moved out.
"The tenant still has the cheque, and still asking his landlord to take his money and normalize his tenancy," says the representative. "It is a predicament more and more tenants are finding themselves in — finally finding the ability to pay and landlords forcibly removing them to make more money on their units."
Officers on site said they were there to enforce a court order to evict the tenants. 🧐 pic.twitter.com/PMHZkfUDJR— Stephen Punwasi (@StephenPunwasi) April 3, 2021
As the video picked up steam, Toronto Police tweeted that they had "responded to a call about a large group of people in the building who were refusing to leave."
Protesters in the video can be heard asking police if they are enforcing the eviction — something that the Toronto Police Service maintains it does not do, as eviction enforcement is technically handled by the Sheriff's Office.
"Officers attended for the purpose of keeping the peace," read the tweet, issued Saturday morning. "The TPS does not enforce evictions, this is the responsibility of the Sheriff's Office."
While true, many anti-eviction advocates claim that there's a discrepancy between what police tweeted and something that an officer at the scene was caught saying on camera in another video.
"We have a court order, signed by either a judge or a JP [Justice of the Peace], enforcing the eviction" the officer says to protesters in the video. "The sheriff is already here."
When asked directly if police are enforcing the eviction, the officer repeats that he is "enforcing a court order."
@TPS @TPSOperations how much did it cost the TPS & the City of Toronto to evict one man & his 2 daughters?— (((B. Traven))) (@btravennt) April 2, 2021
This is why defund the police needs a full debate in #TOcouncil # Topoli @JohnTory @joe_cressy @anabailaoTO
This is not the first time police have been accused of interfering with or facilitating residential evictions since the pandemic hit, affecting the livelihoods of so many Toronto residents who've now lost both their jobs and their homes.
In the case of the family at Gabian Way, People's Defence reports that the father and his daughters were given permission to stay in their home until Tuesday, at which point "negotiations will begin around regularizing his tenancy."
"As COVID evictions kick into high gear in Toronto, neighbours must get organized with one another to defend our homes — from greedy assed landlords, and their pig army," reads an update from the group on Facebook.
People all over the city are nonetheless incensed to see videos from the incident, noting that they'd rather not see their tax dollars spent forcing families into homelessness.
Even longtime Toronto-Danforth City Councillor Paula Fletcher weighed in publicly to voice her disapproval.
It would cost less to help a family pay their rent than to evict them and pay the cost of their stay in a family shelter. And lets also look at the cost of 23 police cars attending. https://t.co/2R4B07Byu3— Paula Fletcher (@PaulaFletcherTO) April 3, 2021
"Whatever the rent on this place was, the city just paid a lot more than that for a large force of police to throw out its occupants," noted one person in a similar vein on Twitter.
"Hey city of Toronto, you do realize that when you evict ppl from their homes with nowhere to go they become ... homeless," wrote local homelessness advocate Jennifer Evans.
"After eviction where do they end up? Yep, you got it. No room at central intake (called 6 times this week), probably one of the encampments, which you were also planning to evict people from, to put them in COVID-overun shelters. It would be comical if it weren't murderous."
"On the eve of a long weekend and in the middle of a pandemic, the police sent 23 cruisers to evict a father and his two young kids into homelessness," said Toronto physician Naheed Dosani of the situation.
"This is inhumane. This is wasteful. This is senseless."
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