Toronto police clear homeless encampment from park, former UN Special Rapporteur says City lacks a right to housing approach

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Video of police clearing the encampment.

Housing is a human right.

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes the right to housing as part of the right to an adequate standard of living.

And yet there are more than 8,700 people experiencing homelessness on any given day in Toronto, Canada.

Between 14 to 17 people were living in an encampment at Lamport Stadium Park which is located at King Street and Dufferin Avenue in the city’s downtown area.

Joey Mauger, who has been living at the encampment for the past six months, said: “Me and my friends, we don’t bother anybody. We like it here. We don’t want to go. We don’t know where we’re going to go.”

Those without housing have stated they prefer the park to the city’s crowded homeless shelters over fear of contracting COVID-19, the rise in violent incidents in the shelters over the past five years, and the spot-checks that happen in shelter spaces.

The Centre for Disease Control says: “If individual housing options are not available, allow people who are living unsheltered or in encampments to remain where they are. Clearing encampments can cause people to disperse throughout the community and break connections with service providers. This increases the potential for infectious disease spread.”

Hundreds of police officers dismantled the camp today as a mobilization to stop the forced eviction formed in the park.

More than 25 people were arrested.

Encampment Support Network Toronto tweeted: “People just got beaten, pepper sprayed, kettled and violently arrested at Lamport.”

The clearing of the encampment at Trinity Bellwoods Park last month and Alexandra Park earlier this week also drew criticism for the disproportionate use of force by police.

Long time street nurse Cathy Crowe writes: “The City of Toronto knows how to throw a military operation: employ a police drone and heavy surveillance methods, erect a fence to secure and close a park or kettle people inside, limit journalists’ access, threaten hefty fines or arrest people if they don’t leave, and bring in security guards and police to ensure city staff can remove homeless people plus their belongings and then bulldoze their tiny shelters.”

Leilani Farha, the Ottawa-based former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing (from 2014 to 2020), tweeted:

“Trespass Notices. Barricades. Police. Violence. [The City of Toronto] has lost its way. @Make_TheShift proposed a dialogue driven #humanrights approach. Instead the City fueled the fire + took a response that lacks proportionality.  [Toronto Mayor] @JohnTory there’s still time to de-escalate.”

The Shift is a global movement to reclaim and realize the right to housing, which calls housing to be approached as a human right, not a commodity.

Numerous organizations in Toronto have also proposed this 15-point human rights compliant approach towards residents in encampments.

The current UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing is Balakrishnan Rajagopal.


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