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Photos captured by Martin Reis show the large Toronto police presence forcing out encampment residents
A large Toronto police force along with private security swooped in to forcibly evict encampment residents at Trinity Bellwoods Park early on June 22.
The Toronto police tactical units, some on horseback and others equipped with drones and facial recognition technology, joined private security and city staff to set up a large fence barricading the encampments at Trinity Bellwoods. Advocates supporting the people experiencing homelessness rushed to the scene and formed a human chain around the tents and tiny shetlers.
Lorraine Lam, an outreach worker with Sanctuary Toronto, tweeted that the scene was reminiscent of police “kettling” protestors during the G20 summit in Toronto in 2010.
“They’ve done exactly what I asked them not to do,” tweeted Leilani Farha, the global director of housing advocacy agency The Shift, in response to the city’s actions. “The City knows they’re infringing [on] human rights [and] they know only dialogue will lead to lasting durable solutions. The intention here is a show of force so [people] in homelessness know who’s in control.”
Farha previously condemned the city’s action after city staff attempted to clear an encampment at Lamport Stadium on May 19. “People living in encampments are not trespassers, nor are most of them criminals. They are rights holders and they are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect,” she said at the time.
North side of the park cleared with police marching in formation. South side 400+ people are sitting down outside the fence, some residents are receiving rapid housing options. Residents don’t want the violence. How come they couldn’t do these housing options earlier w/o police— Zoë Dodd (@ZoeDodd) June 22, 2021
In a statement, the city said it was enforcing trespass notices issued on June 12. Officials estimated there were 20 to 25 people living in the park, and 65 structures. Residents had to pack two bags of belongings and vacate the area. Any other belongings would be collected and stored for up to 30 days for future pick-up.
Police said there were “several arrests” made during the day, including a protestor for allegedly assaulting a peace officer and another for assault with a weapon.
City officials said they were offering residents indoor accommodations with meals, showers, laundry, harm reduction, physical and mental health supports and a housing worker. Six people accepted the accommodations, the city tweeted this afternoon.
The city has said the encampments violate chapters of the Municipal Code and are unsafe. However, encampment residents have countered that they don’t feel safe in the shelter system and that temporary accommodations, such as shelter hotels, have curfews and other restrictions. Many residents have been holding out for permanent housing.