It will be hard for Toronto to ever forget the dramatic tent encampment clearings that took place last summer, during which police and city staffers clashed with protesters as homeless residents were forcibly removed from the makeshift communities they’d created in downtown parks amid COVID-19.
Not only was Mayor John Tory and his team reproached for police presence that many deemed over-the-top, but also for the extensive metal fencing that prevented people from using the parks as they were remediated. The city also hired private security personnel to monitor the green spaces for days afterwards.
As we approach the summer months, it has been revealed that the city will be taking this latter measure once again, spending an unknown chunk of change to have private companies patrol areas like Lamport Stadium, Alexandra Park and Trinity-Bellwoods 24/7.
Toronto police patrolling all parks to “increase security” in a guise to prevent houseless encampments with rapid inflation & a rental/housing crisis is nothing less than vile
— autumn ✿ (@emov3gan) May 12, 2022
City spokesperson Brad Ross told news outlets that the move is, obviously, to prevent encampments from populating public outdoor spaces again, and that the focus will be on parks where encampments have been largest and most common.
“We want to make sure that those individuals know that they have access to services before they set up an encampment,” he said to the CBC on Wednesday.
Serious question: Why is the City of Toronto spending money on security guards to keep unhoused people from living in encampments in parks? They’re ok with spending on security guards. So why not just spend on housing?
— Dr. Amit Arya (@AmitAryaMD) May 12, 2022
Mayor Tory reiterated in response to the clearings last year that “public parks are not places people can legally, safely or in a healthy way live and that everybody is entitled to the use of those parks.”
He and Toronto Police Service also defended their actions and use of force, saying that the number of activists far outnumbered encampment residents, “creating an increasingly unstable and unsafe environment” for everyone involved and necessitating de-escalation.
Many made their feelings on the issue known, whether over social media, by physically demonstrating at the sites, or through some more creative ways, such as the anti-City of Toronto signs that popped up around parks where encampments were dismantled.
“The contracted security guards will help ensure that city parks are safe and accessible to all residents of Toronto, including unfettered access to green space for safe outdoor recreation”
Unhoused people aren’t ‘residents of Toronto’?
— Krantzstone Ⓐ⚑🍞 (@Krantzstone) May 12, 2022
So far, people seem pretty disgusted with this recent news, and are wondering how many millions it will end up costing, and why the city doesn’t use those funds to better helps those experiencing houselessess instead.
The city has stated that the security will be cheaper than the alternative as a preventive measure before a repeat of last year. During that ordeal, approximately $2 million was spent on policing, landscaping and fencing at the three aforementioned parks.