TENT CITY BULLDOZED, BELONGINGS DESTROYED, BY THE NATIONAL CAPITAL COMMISSION

OTTAWA – On December 10th, International Human Rights day, residents of Tent City and their supporters stood by as their tents and belongings were bulldozed by employees of the National Capital Commission under the supervision of the Ottawa Police Service.

On Monday, some residents of Tent City were provided with temporary accommodations – a motel room – in Vanier so they could shower and sleep somewhere warm. Residents accepted this offer with the understanding they had 48-hours to come back to the site near Bayview Station to collect their belongings, which included items the community generously donated to support their survival. Unfortunately, residents woke up 7am Tuesday morning to news that the NCC and the Ottawa Police were already at the site, dismantling their tents. 

“This is what the criminalization of poverty looks like,” says Leila Attar, advocate and member of Overdose Prevention Ottawa. “[The city has] no resources to actually support people who are homeless, but they have resources to come in, kick them off, forcibly remove them” said Attar as she shared distressing images of personal belongings being bulldozed and tossed into large bins. 

The forced eviction of Tent City is a violation of international human rights and the displacement of residents from their community puts them at serious risk. Amid all the chaos yesterday, many residents missed long-awaited and life-saving medical appointments because of this needless and preventable distress. They will now likely miss out on more appointments and supports as their temporary “housing” is located outside of their community, far away from medical and social resources. This isolation exacerbates their already harsh experiences of chronic homelessness. 

When residents of Tent City were informed on Sunday, December 8th that they would be forcibly evicted by the NCC, they quickly organized and compiled a list of demands. These demands include things like “being treated at all times with dignity and respect by city officials, NCC officials, police officers, and any other government representatives.” They also requested that emergency shelter be provided “in the neighbourhood or as proximate to the neighbourhood as possible.” Most importantly, residents wanted to be consulted directly by the City of Ottawa and NCC officials on any decisions made about their living situation. 

Unfortunately, this list of demands was ignored and the City of Ottawa, the National Capital Commission, and the Ottawa Police chose to distinguish themselves as champions of the heartless on a day when we were meant to recognize the importance of human rights.

“My heart aches for my neighbours,” said Samantha McAleese – supporter and advocate – on Twitter yesterday. “This dehumanizing and cruel display… on International Human Rights Day is a new low for Ottawa.” 

Today, December 11th, Councillor Catherine McKenney will bring a notice of motion to City Council to declare housing and homelessness an emergency in Ottawa. This motion, and all actions that stem from it, must keep the people experiencing homelessness at the forefront. The demands made by residents of Tent City echo the needs and concerns of others living outside, living in shelters, and experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity in its many forms. Overdose Prevention Ottawa, residents of Tent City, and other neighbours and advocates are requesting to sit down with City officials to share their recent experiences and discuss the best way forward. 

STATEMENT FROM TENT CITY: Our Demands and calling for our Human Rights to be Respected

Ottawa- On Sunday, December 8th at about 5:30 PM, we were informed through a news story that we will be forcibly evicted from where we are living.  Shortly after, a notice, issued by the NCC, was found posted to a tree just outside tent city. It states “This notice means that all persons who are camping must stop doing so, and that all tents or unauthorized structures must be removed”.  It also embellishes and lies about the reality of our homeless status and the progress in our housing situation.

This attempt to push us further into insecure homelessness, is contrary to the governments (city and NCC) obligations under international human rights law.

As rights holders, not beneficiaries of charity, we the residents of Tent City residents demand the following:

1. We be provided with a focal point at the City of Ottawa and within the NCC with whom we can communicate and  meet on a regular basis. We request that all communication is provided in written notice. 

2. We be treated at all times with dignity and respect by city officials, NCC officials, police officers and any other government representatives. 

3. We require emergency shelter in motels in the neighbourhood or as proximate to the neighbourhood as possible.

4. If we have to stay at Tent City, while we find housing, we demand better and livable conditions. Our right to safety is paramount and must be upheld. We demand electricity, toilets, non flammable heaters, water, tents, waste management services, and blankets. We have not been provided with this to date and this is contrary to our entitlements under international human rights. 

5. Stop threatening evictions and our right to exist in public space. 

6. Immediately make use of the many empty housing units available in the city to address desperate housing needs. 

7. Reduce barriers on potential tenants and the requirements needed for them to successfully obtain housing. 

8. Implement policy to ensure landlords that operate multiple properties and rental units designate a % of said units to be used for not for profit housing. 

9. Increase penalties for landlords abusing their power and treating tenants unfairly. 

10. Increase social assistance to match rent market. 

11. Accelerate the development of low-income housing units that are currently underway. (For example: Gladstone + Booth + Baycrest.)  

12. Refuse the sale of low-income housing units to private owners. 

13.  Implement oversight committee to regulate landlords to stop renovictions from happening. 

14. That the City of Ottawa formerly acknowledge the right to housing.

Cards from a class of grade 5 students.

These demands are not radical. These are modest demands to preserve human life and our right to not be pushed further into the periphery of being invisible. Housing is a human right.

On Friday, one of our sisters living at tent city was hospitalized due to serious medical conditions. Yesterday, we received the news that a friend of ours in the neighbourhood had died.  Today, children from a class of grade 5 students met with us to present us with Christmas cards and express their hope for our cause and that they support us.

In the midst of all this, the NCC was plotting to post an eviction notice threatening our very existence, combined with a series of embellishments and lies about our homeless status.  This is unacceptable.

We are requesting our supporters join us, at 7am at Tent City, to stop the threat of eviction and stand in solidarity with their homeless brothers and sisters.

NCC Threatening Eviction AGAIN!!

AGAIN, residents of Tent City are facing eviction tomorrow. How do you evict someone who is homeless and living outside already? The truth is, they may be arrested for being homeless tomorrow and have all of their belongings thrown out.

Show up at Tent City (just north of the Bayview LRT stop) tomorrow at 7am to support residents.

Forced evictions are illegal! Every level of government is failing these members of the community.

Rally/ Press Conference to Defend Tent City

STATEMENT FROM TENT CITY: Rally/Press Conference to Defend Tent City

OTTAWA – We, the residents of Tent City, call on all supporters to join us at Tent City at 10am Monday, December 2nd to defend our homes. We will be listing our demands for the City of Ottawa and NCC who have stated they will be forcibly evicting Tent City at 10am. 

Please join us as we fight for our right to housing and to exist in public space, and as we call attention to the national housing crisis being experienced by communities across Canada. We stand in solidarity with tent cities enduring ongoing displacement, like Sanctuary Tent City in Surrey, BC.

We are holding this rally/press conference to assert our human rights to stay in the encampment and to not be evicted without adequate alternative short and long-term accommodation as agreed upon by the residents.

The City of Ottawa and the NCC have human rights obligations that are not being met.  We are calling on the City of Ottawa and the NCC to implement their human rights obligations – to provide adequate emergency accommodation and long-term housing options. 

Residents of tent city and their supporters, Leilani Farha, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to housing, Alex Neve, Secretary-General of Amnesty International (English Canada), and Prof. David Wiseman of the Housing Justice Project (UOttawa Law), will be in attendance.

We stand in solidarity with all our homeless brothers and sisters sleeping rough and homeless tonight.

#HousingIsARight #HomesNotHate #HousingIsHarmReduction #CommunityNotCriminalization

Tent City Under Attack

STATEMENT FROM TENT CITY:  City moving to displace encampment!

OTTAWA-  at 4PM Friday, November 29th, we received news that in less than 72 hours we must vacate tent city.  We must move our homes by 10am on Monday, December 2nd, or a trespass order will be enforced. If we are not gone, they will dismantle our homes.

Last week, on Sunday, November 24th, there was a fire at tent city. It was a targeted arson. The fire was intentionally and purposefully started by someone who was not a resident and wanted to displace those of us who reside here. The Nationafirel Capital Commission and the City of Ottawa are now saying that because of this fire we are no longer allowed to make this place our home. They are using this attack to force us to disperse and displace us into the dangers of isolation. We have nowhere else to go.

In the ongoing crisis of housing in our city, we found a home; a home that was supported by those in the community who have one, a home that was supported by community organizations, a home that we called home while we work to gain housing.

Imagine having your home burnt and the City of Ottawa saying you can’t rebuild it. One of our community members who lost their tent to the fire was collecting presents for their family for Christmas. All of these belongings and the shelter they had constructed are now gone. This loss has rattled our sense of belonging.

The National Capital Commission claims to be “building strong relationships with people” as part of its mandate. The City of Ottawa administers housing related supports. Instead of public-health informed support and advocacy, both parties are now insisting that tent city residents cannot rebuild or stay.

There is an irony, that the City and the NCC are forcibly removing us from this community based on claims of “safety.” And yet, the question resounds, remove us to then go where? Relocate us to where? Exist where? Jim Watson, where do you want us to exist?

We know that this is not really about the fire. We know that yet again, the City of Ottawa is choosing the criminalization of poverty and homelessness over community-based supports. This approach is a program of disenfranchisement that our government implicitly and explicitly wages upon us every day. We have been denied the streets, we have been denied a common space to exist, and yet when we carve one out, it is burnt.

We are grateful to so many in the community whose overwhelming generosity has been a rallying point in knowing that this isn’t just about us, but about all of our brothers and sisters that are living with nowhere to lay their heads peacefully at night.

While different levels of government fight over who has to pay, we are burnt, occupied, and displaced.

Stay tuned to updates as the weekend evolves & how you can help.  To the many of you who support us, thank you for your ongoing support.

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Request from Residents of Tent City

People struggling with homelessness in Ottawa are requesting your support. See below a statement from residents of Tent City and a list of supplies they need.

In solidarity,

OPO

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As many of you know, a number of us have been struggling with homelessness in the past year. This precarious housing situation is rooted in increasing rents, discrimination, low vacancy rates, several mass evictions that recently occurred in the neighbourhood, and a rooming house fire that occurred this late spring.

Local health and social services are doing what they can to support us to secure housing however this is a bleak time and a process fraught with multiple barriers, especially in lieu of the current housing crisis.

Facing this, some of us have organized ourselves in a tent city, a gathering place for safety from violence, overdose, harassment and the other dangers facing us when we are homeless. We are active members of the community and have provided many hours of volunteer labour and community service to the community and the neighbourhood we live in.

As residents of tent city, we are currently in need of your support to increase our daily wellbeing and living situation, and require essential food, water, equipment and supplies.

The following are some items that could help.

·     Fire extinguishers

·     Water bottles

·     Water Keg

·     Kerosene Oil (#1 Canadian Tire)

·     Blankets

·     Hygiene supplies

·     Utensils, paper plates and cups

·     Jugs (Juice/Water)

·     Zip Ties

·     Tents

·     Bike Rack

·      BBQ

·     Winterized Sleeping Bags (-30)

·     Food

·     Hot water containers

·     Coffee/Tea

·     Ice Tea/Orange Tang

·     Batteries (AA, AAA, C)

·     Dry Firewood

·     40ft x 40ft tarp

·     Camping Chairs

·     Bundles of Hay

·     Inflatable Mats/Beds

·     Oil Lamps

·     First Aid Kits

Thank you in advance for your contributions. The donated supplies will be greatly appreciated. Donations can be dropped off with staff at St. Luke’s Table, Monday – Friday 9am-2pm. Please label items “Tent City”.

Thank you again for your time and consideration.

 

Ask Ann: An Evening of Social Justice and Community Building

In 2018, we hosted Ann Livingston, co-founder of VANDU and the Overdose Prevention Society, in Ottawa to learn from her experience organizing with people who use drugs. Watch here to learn from Livingston’s experience working towards drug user liberation, which includes a framework for addressing community needs, listening to local knowledge, and traditions for remembering those we have lost.

 

Thank you Ann, for your generosity, love, and tenacity in this fight for social justice.

 

Thanks also to Bobby J for opening the event by acknowledging our presence and work on unceded and unsurrendered Algonquin territory, and Leila for hosting the interview.