World News – CA – LEVY: Judge clears way for park evictions


On Wednesday, a Superior Court judge ruled that encampments should not have carte blanche to squat in Toronto parks during the COVID pandemic

Justice Paul Schabas has dismissed demand from 14 people who resided in Toronto’s tent cities and two activist groups asking that any evictions from parks be stopped until a city bylaw is challenged banning tents or camping in public parks

Schabas ruled that any ordinance would « unduly tie the hands of the city » to deal with the settlements « which raise serious health and safety concerns » and « unduly prevent the use of the park by others « 

Now that the request has been rejected, nothing prevents the city from deporting the 400-500 people who are said to still be living outside in city parks, on boulevards and in city ravines – nothing but a lack of political will

The city argued in its October 2 court submission that public parks are not « places to live » and that there have been « frequent » incidents of violence, human trafficking and « unsanitary conditions »

According to the city’s legal statement, visitors to the park – including seniors and parents – also told city staff that they were afraid to enter or walk near parks with camps

As the weather turned colder, bonfires were reported in the larger camps in Dufferin Grove, Alexandra and Trinity Bellwoods parks

City officials said in a statement that the Toronto Fire Department had responded to 189 fire calls to camps to date, including a massive blaze that destroyed a tent and spilled over dangerously close to the houses bordering Alexandra Park

However, I would like to take the issues reported by the city in its legal submission further and refer to the ideas of a city employee redeployed from Parks and Recreation to work at some of the downtown shelters.

The customer service agent told me earlier this week that drug trafficking is rampant in parks and overdoses regularly occur from heroin combined with drugs like fentanyl

He said people shot each other in Alexandra Park, then returned to surrounding shelters « all messed up »

When I visited Alexandra Park at the end of September, I saw for myself the number of needles picked up in a day by a city employee

I also spoke to some tent dwellers at Lamport Stadium who freely admitted that they were addicted and couldn’t get in because of it I saw other highs like kites in their tents

My source told me that as soon as the tents are removed by the city, others take their place

Instead of cleaning up the parks before the tent cities got out of hand, city officials have been sitting all summer, which has essentially enabled growth

Street workers at houses in town distribute harm reduction supplies and, as my source indicated, clean needles provided in shelters are carried to parks and given to tent dwellers

In early October, city public health officials announced that more needle boxes were being installed in parks such as Trinity Bellwoods, sending another clear message that it is okay to use hard drugs in the open. air in front of an ordinary park users

The bylaw that defenders contested – Chapter 608 of the municipal code – prohibits people from setting up tents and staying in city parks

For months it was ignored at the expense of the quality of life of tent dwellers and others who just wanted to use their neighborhood parks

It is too late to recover what was lost this summer, but for the sake of the health and safety of all – both the tent dwellers and the residents of the neighborhoods around the parks – it is time that the tent dwellers move inside

I hope it won’t take a massive fire or a freeze-out to get the city to act

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News from around the world – CA – LEVY: Judge paves way for evictions from parks



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