allan gardens

Toronto has started installing signs forbidding tent encampments in city parks

Toronto will not soon forget the chaotic encampment clearings that rocked the city in summer 2021, leading to standoffs between police and protesters as authorities began dismantling, in the words of then-Mayor John Tory, "unsafe, unhealthy and illegal" communities that had taken over parts of public green spaces during the pandemic.

The drama led to widespread criticism of Toronto Police Service's heavy-handed presence and the city's problematic tactics for dealing with thousands of houseless residents who had during the peak of the health crisis turned to the outdoors rather than overpacked shelters.

Despite the bad PR, the city fenced off portions of Trinity Bellwoods and other areas for "remediation" after-the-fact, and hired 24/7 security to enforce local bylaws that prohibit dwelling, camping or lodging in a park, as well as the erection of temporary or permanent tents or other shelters.

Now, it appears that the city is taking a less aggressive approach to reminding residents that encampments are not permitted.

allan gardens

We could only find two of the new signs, both located on the west side of the park, where there were fewer tents.

Allan Gardens is one place where residents can still be found living in makeshift shelters. Though it is technically not allowed, it seems that police have mostly left these individuals alone, though security on the scene told blogTO that they have come to remove vacant tents and that those living in the park have been asked to remove their garbage and keep debris to a minimum.

But, passersby have noticed this week that some new signage has popped up around the green space, passively reminding people of the rules.

The City of Toronto signs provide the park's opening hours — which are 5:30 a.m. to midnight — and state that visitors may not erect a tent or structure or camp in the park, citing Municipal Code 608.

Despite these notices, a handful of tents remain in the park in clusters around the conservatory on the property (which is in the midst of a restoration), with their inhabitants quietly keeping to themselves as they started their day when we stopped by early Saturday morning.

Two individuals sitting outside their tents told blogTO that even in light of the catastrophe of the 2021 clearings (or maybe because of it), they don't fear that the police will be forcibly removing them anytime soon.

Security, too, seemed to suggest that there is no immediate push to boot residents, and it appears that they have been able to patrol the premises and keep it in order for the rest of the public while also respecting those who are temporarily living there.

allan gardens

A handful of residents remain temporarily living in the green space.

The signs have prompted a ton of discussion on social media, where some people referred to the park as a "drug filled shanty town" and wished the city "good luck" with enforcing the bylaws, while others condemned the concept of tent encampments and the city's continued treatment of the houseless.

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice set the precedent in January that if municipalities clear encampments without providing a sufficient number of accessible beds in the shelter system, it can be considered unconstitutional.

A spokesperson for the city tells blogTO that the signs are indeed to prevent further encampments this summer, and are new in Allan Gardens, but not unique to that public space.

"The City has posted signs at parks that have experienced multiple encampments since 2020. The signage put up on the west side of Allan Gardens is also in use at various other locations including the University Avenue traffic islands, Trinity Bellwoods, Lamport Stadium, Moss Park, Alexandra Park, Bellevue Square and other identified sites across the city," they say.

"The signs reaffirm that camping or erecting a tent or structure for the purposes of camping or occupying a park is illegal."

Photos by

Becky Robertson

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