Jul 5, 2021 • 43M

Episode 35 with Encampment Support Network Toronto

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Two weeks ago hundreds of police officers and parapolice descended upon Trinity Bellwoods park in Toronto to violently evict the residents living there, displacing people from their homes and severing communities. Toronto has been cruel and brutal to the people living in this city. The austerity measures put in place using the pandemic as an excuse for imposing cruelty will not suddenly dissipate after the pandemic “ends.” It is important to note how the pandemic continues to ravage other places in the world. Many are under the illusion that it is near the end because of the inequitable global vaccine rollout and apartheid. While companies thrived, many have died. 

This episode was done in collaboration with the Encampment Support Network (ESN) in Toronto. We worked with Charlotte, an outreach volunteer with ESN. We discussed the evictions at Lamport Stadium that took place in May which involved a bulldozer to forcibly remove residents. 

Throughout the pandemic Encampment Support Network Toronto has provided help for people in encampment sites. Right now in the city, there is increasing pressure to re-open, and we must reckon with what reopening and “back to normal” means for those most disenfranchised. 

Public officials informed the “general public” to socially distance, while at the same time pushing unhoused people to live in crowded shelters and shelter hotels where the virus was spreading and killing. There are a number of obscene contradictions like this that reveal how people in power intentionally make others live in deplorable conditions to die.

The lives of unhoused people do not matter to Mayor John Tory and downtown City Councillor Joe Cressy. Although many have known this for far too long, it has again become blatantly obvious this week. Who we let live and who we let die speaks volumes about our society and cities. Depredation and violence by capitalists and the governments that back them were fully demonstrated viscerally throughout the pandemic and should not be surprising. The pandemic again brought this out revealing sores in the underbelly of Toronto brought about by austerity measures. Entire populations are subjected to death and disease by choice. 

Laid bare by the pandemic are the conditions which have always existed for those marginalized by the state. Capitalism is functioning as it should be, and the pandemic has only accelerated its efficiency. The proliferation of narratives by people like high-ranking public servant Brad Ross claiming the park was “dirty” continues to push the selective disposal of human beings. They want you to imagine that people who live in encampments are unclean but also disposable; not worthy of public space or full lives.  As Zoë Dodd posted, “people are not garbage.”

As Dodd and many others have pointed out these were people’s homes. 

Dodd also reminds us how violence is a spectacle and more specifically how words like “safety” are weaponized against those who are cash poor. Parks are public spaces and necessary. Parks are a space of life, however, the City appears to only want some to enjoy parks while others must be dispossessed of public space. 

As Alex V. Green reminds us, parks are a site and space for so much life. 

The violent clearing events at Trinity Bellwoods serve as a harbinger. Austerity and privatization are in full effect as the means with exterminism as the goal. It is reasonable to expect that the new austerity and security measures are here to stay “post” pandemic. The city attempted media rehabilitation after images of the full force of their violence turned public opinion against their immorality,  claiming there were public health issues and that people in the encampment were offered housing. This is false: only one individual was offered housing. It is important that we cut to the truth and do not cast doubt on the City of Toronto’s violence and injustice by their spin and narratives. 

This episode highlights how encampments are an alternative for so many and the reasons behind that. It also speaks to the work Encampment Support Network Toronto is doing. This episode discusses the tactics deployed by the city, police, and para-police. It also highlights how people can and do care for each other.

In these moments, it is also vital to connect our discontents. We will continue to bear witness to evictions and mutations of evictions. It is necessary that we understand the global nature of clearing people. There is creative destruction in so many urban environments, but also an urbanization that has cultivated a specific desire for a specific class of citizen that the nation desires. Here, it is the rich who are desirable. 

It is impossible for low-income and marginalized populations to live in cities or centers of cities. Pulling from Henri Lefebvre, it is a necessity to think about who has the right to the city, the right to everything urban life offers. We deserve cities that offer life to all residents. These discontents should never neglect this struggle globally. Presently in Silwan village in East Jerusalem, thousands of Palestinians are losing their homes and even being forced to destroy their own homes. 

Capitalism, white supremacy, and fascism yield a massive graveyard. Criminalizing poverty is a war on people. The war on drugs is a war on people. Only through connecting our oppressions will we move forward. We do all owe each other so much, and so many deserve so much better.

This is a free episode, but we hope people who are able to consider donating to groups in the mutual aid section of the shownotes. We also hope people support Idle No More, other Indigenous organizations, movements, and people in their calls to #CancelCanadaDay. You can learn more here

Habibti Please is proud to be part of the Harbinger Media Network, this episode was graciously edited by executive director Andre Goulet. The Harbinger Media Network is working towards building a left media ecosystem in Canada and we urge you to check it out if that’s your thing! We are also grateful to partner with Canadian Dimension.


Mutual Aid & Community Support:

Although this episode is not paywalled we would deeply appreciate it if people would share or give (if able to do so) to any of the causes or groups listed below. 

The Encampment Support Network Toronto (ESN)  is an ad-hoc, volunteer-run network supporting people living in encampments in 6 locations throughout Toronto. This includes ESN Parkdale, ESN Trinity Bellwoods, ESN Scadding Court, ESN Moss Park, ESN LNP, and ESN Cherry Beach. We advocate for better conditions in encampments, report on city conditions and activity in encampments, and advocate for long-term permanent housing for people in their communities of choice. ESN also collects and compiles feedback from residents to support our advocacy efforts and continues to pressure the city to develop real solutions to the housing crisis. The only way to provide effective support and find solutions is by listening to and centring the needs of people experiencing homelessness.You can support their work here. 

website:https://www.encampmentsupportnetwork.com/

instagram: https://www.instagram.com/esn.to.4real/

twitter: https://twitter.com/esn_to

youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0ZLEEETJXZtA4kSv6W7qJA

This Way Up Collective is a group of queer and trans BIPOC youth that are on the ground providing mutual aid. Taken from their website: “our goal is to actively engage the communities that we are a part of and fill in the gaps wherever possible. We support encampments, youth in shelters, and anyone in need via care packages, weekly hot meal drops, and community arts programming.” * they are one of the groups that have been helping provide meals to encampment residents and doing amazing work. You can support their work here. 

website: https://www.thiswayup.ca/

instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thiswayupcollective/

Toronto Indigenous Harm Reduction (TIHR) emerged in April 2020 during the first wave of the COVID19 pandemic in response to a massive shutdown of frontline services and a lack of basic needs for Indigenous houseless folks in the city of Toronto. Over the past year, we have provided basic needs, access to critical health support & covid 19 testing, harm reduction supplies, sexual, reproductive health and prenatal support, traditional medicines, traditional food, expressive arts, and ceremony to some of our most vulnerable people. TIHR aims to reduce the negative impacts of substance use and other stigmatized behaviours and experiences through culture and unconditional support. TIHR is an entirely queer and Two-Spirit Indigenous collective founded by Nanook Gordon, co-led by Brianna Olson Pitawanakwat and Lua Mondor, and supported by Dashmaawaan Bemadzinjin (They feed the people) and countless volunteers.

To date they have served over 3,000 meals to the encampments and Indigenous street folks. You can support their work here.

website: https://www.torontoindigenoushr.com/

facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TorontoIndigenousHarmReduction

instagram: https://www.instagram.com/torontoindigenousharmreduction/


Additional Resources:

Some resources that complement this episode: 


Guest Information 

Guests of the Week: Charlotte Smith of Encampment Support Network Toronto

Charlotte is an outreach volunteer with the Encampment Support Network in Toronto, Ontario. 

The Encampment Support Network Toronto (ESN)  is an ad-hoc, volunteer-run network supporting people living in encampments in 6 locations throughout Toronto. This includes ESN Parkdale, ESN Trinity Bellwoods, ESN Scadding Court, ESN Moss Park, ESN LNP and ESN Cherry Beach. We advocate for better conditions in encampments, report on city conditions and activity in encampments, and advocate for long term permanent housing for people in their communities of choice. ESN also collects and compiles feedback from residents to support our advocacy efforts and continues to pressure the city to develop real solutions to the housing crisis. The only way to provide effective support and find solutions is by listening to and centring the needs of people experiencing homelessness.


Production Credits:

Hosted by Nashwa Lina Khan 

Show Music by Johnny Zapras and postXamerica

Art for Habibti Please by postXamerica

Production by Andre Goulet

Production Assistance by Charlotte Smith, Ali McKnight, Nashwa Lina Khan, and Canadian Dimension

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