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novotel shelter toronto

Violent encounter caught on video as Toronto police evict shelter residents

A standoff between police and residents of the controversial Novotel shelter in Toronto has persisted through late November, and things appeared to finally boil over in a tense confrontation captured on video Monday evening.

The Novotel hotel on The Esplanade has been the subject of headlines since Feb 2021, when the city leased it to act as an emergency support shelter as part of its pandemic response.

Almost two years later, the city closed new admissions for the site at 45 The Esplanade on Oct. 12 and began the process of relocating all 251 residents.

The City of Toronto has purchased a pair of other hotels to provide temporary housing, but not everyone is ready to leave the former Novotel shelter, and a handful of residents have engaged in a tense standoff with the police officers ordered to evict them.

Videos have been emerging since the weekend showing police officers forcibly removing shelter residents from the premises in scenes reminiscent of the encampment evictions that generated similar outrage in 2021.

Clips show residents dragged by officers, literally kicking and screaming.

The scene at the hotel-turned-shelter appears to have escalated on Monday, when a group of protesters supporting the shelter residents clashed with police.

"Residents want the individualized housing plans they were promised by Gord Tanner at the city," says Rachelle Friesen, a community organizer and advocate for shelter residents.

"They've called Gord's office and were ignored."

Friesen tells blogTO that residents "had a meeting with Gord and were lied to. And after the brutal police eviction of a resident last week, residents and housed allies came together to ensure that the violence stops and these demands be heard."

"But again, instead of listening, the city sent over 40 police officers. And that has been the city's consistent response: first ignore houseless folks, but when they stand up for their rights, send in the militarized police."

A Toronto Police Service representative says that while TPS does not technically enforce evictions, "police officers can carry out enforcement, at the city's request, if someone refuses to leave the premise. They may be issued a ticket for trespassing and removed."

"Yesterday at approximately 3 p.m., officers attended a demonstration at the Novotel involving approximately 60 people."

"Shelter staff confirmed the demonstrators were not residents and asked them to leave. Some complied, while others refused and were escorted off the premise by police. There were no arrests or injuries reported and the crowd dispersed."

Police report that there were no injuries, but videos of the encounter appear to show police throwing demonstrators to the ground.

Protestors posted a list of demands, and are seeking a pledge from the city to:

1. Stop police evictions
2. Provide individualized housing plans
3. Respect the right to refuse relocation
4. End the 2 bag limit per person
5. Give compensation for the disposal of personal belongings

The decline of travel and the hospitality industry in 2020 and 2021 made for favourable conditions to lease the property out as a shelter, and the return of travellers means the owners are looking to revert to hotel uses in 2023.

The city is required to turn over the property by the end of the year.

But there is already a redevelopment plan on the horizon, with a proposal now working its way through the approvals process to tear down the existing hotel and replace it with a pair of 36-storey towers.

Lead photo by

ESNParkdale


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