Toronto: Poor people swept into jail as city cuts services



April 2, 2008

Yesterday, the Metro Toronto police announced almost 300

arrests in a sweep of one of this city’s poorest neighbourhoods. The arrests took place in the area bounded by Gerrard St. E., Queen St. E., Church St. and Parliament St. Developed through the 51 Division “Community Police Liaison Committee”, the sweep involved undercover officers in a 6 week operation, code named “Project Roundup” and “Project Revival”.

The priorities of cops, city officials, and the gentrifying forces of this neighbourhood are clear. The downtown East End is being remade and ‘revived’ through crackdowns on the poor people who call it home. It is our friends, our neighbours, the people who use the rapidly disappearing services in the East End, who are being swept into jail through operations like this one.

According to Det. Sgt. Howie Page of 51 Division, “When the community came to 51 Division … it was a project aimed at improving the quality of life of people in this area.” And we must ask: Which community? Whose quality of life? We must also ask: When demands are made for affordable housing, detox or harm reduction programs, shelter beds, and better welfare rates, the basic right for people to live in dignity and safety, what kind of response do we get?

The City officials who pay and oversee this police force are the same ones who, over the past year, allowed three large rooming houses in the neighborhood to be shut down, and five major shelters to be closed. $2 million dollars worth of CCTV cameras have been installed in the downtown core, two of them outside the biggest men’s shelters in the east end.

Homeless people are being targeted, fined thousands of dollars in Provincial Offense tickets for minor infractions like encumbering the sidewalk, or camping in a park without a permit. Poor and homeless people are being dispossessed, displaced, and destroyed.

We condemn this latest, blatant attack on the people of the downtown East End. We condemn the police for sweeping the streets, criminalizing people who are fighting to survive. We need housing, shelter, food and income to address the issues in the neighborhood, not more police harassment and intimidation.

For more information contact OCAP at 416-925-6939

Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP):


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