i'm jolted from sleep by the sound of snow-shovelling. Opening my eyes, I panic -- someone is filling in my escape tunnel. I'm about to be entrapped in the snow dome, or quinzee, that Jean and I have spent two hours building just outside the front doors of Toronto City Hall. I'm confused and vulnerable. The roof caves in on my head, covering me, my sleeping bag and my other belongings in snow. Then the laughter and taunts begin.
Two police officers are responsible. Badge number 3281 and his partner chuckle that they're concerned for my safety. The structure might collapse and suffocate me, they say.
And besides, there's a bylaw prohibiting the erecting of structures in public spaces, they tell me.
Of course, they've missed the point. Our monthly camp-out at City Hall is a protest against homelessness in a city unable to create housing but desperate for Olympic glory.
The quinzee is a quintessentially Canadian structure. In a pinch, it may save you from freezing to death. Just pile up a large mound of snow, let it sit for a couple of hours and hollow it out. With an empty croissant box we scooped and piled the snow till it was 5 feet high and over 6 feet in diameter.
But my chilled dwelling isn't the only thing that has collapsed. So has my plan for a court challenge against attempts to prevent these kinds of protests. In October, when a group of us were camping out in the square (tents this time), we were all ticketed for trespassing.
Last Friday I had my day in court. When my name was called, I was asked if I was prepared to proceed. The justice of the peace ignored the letter I had written requesting the postponement of my trial as well as the disclosure of all the notes of the police officers involved.
I intended to defend myself with the Canadian Charter Of Rights And Freedoms, notably Section 2 (b). (Or was it not 2 (b)?).
Never forget 2 (b): "Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression." Pitching a tent or building a quinzee or just sleeping under the stars to protest is a fundamental right.
But the Crown foiled my plan, withdrawing the ticket. It was over before we even had a chance to respond. Why are they dropping the charge? I blurted out to the justice of the peace. "The case is withdrawn,' he said. "You're free to go.'
I was off the hook, but how many others are woken up at night, harassed, forced to move on, beaten? And how can those councillors pushing for the Olympic Games sleep at night when they know they're trading away the essentials of the poor for sports arenas and cocktail parties for the elite?