A large group of Toronto tenants have gathered at a downtown courthouse attempting to block sheriff’s office vehicles from leaving.
On Tuesday morning, tenants formed a human blockade at the sheriffs’ parking garage at the 361 University Avenue courthouse in an attempt to prevent evictions that were scheduled to resume today to take place. According to Keep Your Rent Toronto, sheriffs perform 8-15 evictions per day.
The demonstrators, some of which were previously involved in other recent protests aimed at Mayor John Tory, reiterated the demands they’re seeking from Tory and the City: that the mayor use his emergency powers to declare an eviction moratorium; that he call on the Ontario government to repeal Bill 184; that he direct Toronto Police Service officers to not participate in the removal of Torontonians from their homes, including encampments of homeless Torontonians, and lastly, that he declares support for all Toronto tenants that cannot pay rent but refuse to leave the safety of their homes.
“Despite the continued threat of COVID-19 in our city, the sheriff’s office has been given the green light to proceed with eviction enforcement,” said Bryan Doherty of Parkdale Organize.
“We are all well aware by now that Toronto’s housing and homelessness crisis predates COVID-19 and we cannot stand by while it is exacerbated to an unprecedented level by mass evictions during the pandemic. We demand that no evictions will be enforced while the pandemic emergency is still going on.”
— John Clarke (@JohnOCAP) August 18, 2020
Toronto tenants block University Avenue courthouse parking garage to prevent evictions in their neighbourhoods. @leilanifarha @Push_TheFilm #nocovidevictions @blogTO @nowtoronto #topoli pic.twitter.com/BqYljMGd7Y
— Martin Reis (@BikeLaneDiary) August 18, 2020
Since the beginning of the pandemic, tenants in neighbourhoods from Rexdale to Parkdale, Crescent Town to Markham and Eglinton, have been organizing to defend their right to their homes.
According to ACORN Toronto, more than 6,000 applications to evict tenants for nonpayment of rent were processed by the Landlord and Tenant Board between March 17 and July 19 of this year, despite Premier Doug Ford promising that no one would be kicked out of their homes for missing rent payments during COVID-19.
For months, tenants and advocacy groups have been calling on Mayor Tory to do something about evictions in Toronto and the Ford government’s Bill 184, which they say makes it easier for landlords to evict tenants. However, the Ford government claims the act will better protect people facing eviction during the pandemic by increasing fines for unlawful evictions and push landlords to establish repayment agreements with tenants before considering evictions.
Critics say the new law actually weakens tenants’ rights and Toronto-based Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations (FMTA) says it opposes Bill 184 because the law deprives tenants of a “key safety net that protects them from eviction” and called it “a cruel attack on vulnerable tenants in a time of historic need.”
A provincial halt on evictions, put in place during the pandemic, expired at the end of July.