alexandra park

Toronto moves ahead with another tent encampment eviction at Alexandra Park

The City of Toronto is moving forward with the further clearing of tent encampments in public green spaces today, as it said it would, despite the drama that unfolded last month when police, city staffers and private security showed up to enforce trespass notices issued to a small group of individuals residing in Trinity Bellwoods Park.

Residents generally did not take well to that eviction, with many criticizing the city for its heavy police presence as protesters advocating for people's right to reside in encampments if they so choose clashed with authorities, making for an overall tense scene that lasted hours.

"Protestors out-numbered encampment residents, creating an increasingly unstable and unsafe environment for them and for City staff," Toronto Police Service explained in a statement after the fact. "Our goal is always a proportionate response, with an emphasis on de-escalation, in order to maintain the safety of everyone involved."

Today's focus is Alexandra Park at Dundas and Bathurst where, like in similar spaces across the city, residents experiencing homelessness have opted to establish temporary housing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kids' day camps and other summer activities have apparently had to be cancelled as a result of the encampment, which the city believes poses health and safety risks for all residents, including the risk of fire.

A total of 146 calls have been made to emergency services for incidents in Alexandra Park this year, the city reports, while there have been 130 fire events in various encampments so far in 2021.

The city estimates that among 60+ makeshift structures in the park there are between 28 and 35 people living there, all of whom will be offered " safe, indoor space, with access to meals, showers and laundry, harm reduction, physical and mental health supports, and a housing worker."

By 8:34 a.m., TPS already reported three arrests on the scene as they assured the public that "when requested to do so by @cityoftoronto staff, officers will respond with the least amount of force necessary."

An hour and a half later, that number jumped to nine arrests, while journalists report not being able to access the space to properly cover the events.

Aside from the arrests — which were for public intoxication, trespass to property and an outstanding warrant — accounts from the park early on cited a "fairly quiet" scene with little violence, though the area has been fenced off and dozens of officers have arrived on bike, foot and horseback.

A security team is also present as a small crowd of citizens gathers at the park's edge. Volunteers are allegedly being "grabbed and removed" for getting too close to the fencing.

It has also been noted that encampment residents have not requested defence from protesters, who Mayor John Tory, when speaking of the Bellwoods encampment action, described as "hundreds of people who showed up and involved themselves who were not the people that we were trying to help" and "people who were trying to make a statement."

"The city remains focused on providing a human services response to encampments and peaceful, voluntary referrals for people sleeping outdoors to safer, indoor accommodation," a release about the Alexandra evictions published Tuesday morning states.

"As outlined in the City Manager's report to City Council in June, encampments contravene several chapters of the Municipal Code and are not a solution to homelessness... city parks also must be ready, safe and accessible to all."

Lead photo by

Lauren O'Neil

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