Ontario (Canada): An Interview with John from Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP)

Published in “Brisbane From Below” n°1 (Brisbane, 2011).

Justice, Dignity, Resistance: An Interview with John from Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP)

Could you tell us a bit about yourself and how you became involved with OCAP?

I was a worker at a factory in Ontario in the 1980s and, after being made unemployed, I helped form a union of the unemployed. In 1990, this organization helped out in the campaign that led to the formation of OCAP. [Read More]

Occupying housing from the Pope Squat to Occupy Toronto

It was a sweltering afternoon in late July 2002 when the armoured vehicles of the Toronto Police Emergency Task Force pulled up in front of our building. Quickly we started barricading the door with an old desk, if they were coming to kick us out we weren’t going to make it easy for them. We waited tensely as the cops approached the door with submachine guns drawn.

Our crime? We dared to take over an abandoned building in the middle of a housing crisis.

We all survived that early raid and were eventually allowed back into the building where we lived for the next three months — dubbing it the “Pope Squat” as we occupied it during the pontiff’s visit to Toronto.
[Read More]

OCAP Funding Appeal


  OCAP Funding Appeal



2002 placed huge strains on OCAP’s resources. We had to fight to defend dozens of members and supporters in the courts in the face of intensified (and unsuccessful) efforts to criminalize and destroy our organization.

It has never been our intention, however, to let them divert us from the struggle we are engaged in and, this last year saw our fight back taken to new levels. Every day, we opposed evictions, challenged the denial of social benefits, resisted deportations and fought back against other abuses thrown at people in the war on the poor. We also took the fight for housing to a new level with the months’ long “Pope Squat” that shook up the Tories and pointed the way forward for the upcoming year.

As we go into 2003, we face some very major challenges. Three of our members, Stefan Pilipa, John Clarke and Gaetan Heroux face a three month Jury Trial that starts in January. They have been singled out as ‘leaders’ of a ‘planned riot’ on June 15, 2000 at the Ontario Legislature. Prison terms of up to five years are hanging over them. (We know these OCAP members are not guilty because June 15 was a police riot and the cops don’t take their orders from us). We will approach this trial not just as a legal battle but as a political campaign and will mobilize to defeat this latest round in the criminalization of resistance.

During this next year, we intend to deepen our work in poor neighbourhoods and to organize struggles for housing that will be on a much bigger scale than that of the Pope Squat. Coast to coast housing takeovers are being worked for with OCAP spearheading a major mobilization in Toronto.

We are moving forward with all these struggles with a bank account that is down to next to nothing. Now, we know that we are going to have to carry on our work with resources that are but a tiny fraction of what the other side spends on trying to silence us but, if you could help us keep the phone hooked up and the rent paid, that would be nice. We urgently need a round of financial support to take us into the New Year. Please rush any and all donations to:

517 College Street, unit 234,
Toronto, ON
M6G 4A2

Make checks and money orders out to: Ontario Coalition Against Poverty

If you would like to receive an OCAP calendar (cost $12 with postage) please let us know this when you write and be sure to include a return address.


OCAP <ocap [at] tao [dot] ca>


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Nation-Wide Squatting Campaign Begins in Canada!

  Nation-Wide Squatting Campaign Begins in Canada!

On October 26, 2002, the cross-Canada “Give It Or Guard It!’ squatting campaign began. Called by the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP), hot on the heels of their success with the 4-month-old Pope Squat, and after squatting actions in Quebec City, Vancouver, Victoria, and the bulldozing of Toronto’s Tent City squatter camp, OCAP put out the call for a national squatting campaign. The idea is to force governments to either allow homeless people and squatters to take empty buildings, or to spend resources guarding them with lines of police.

Squatters in Halifax cracked open an enourmous empty hospital and barricaded themselves in on the 4th floor. Supporters outside blocked the front entrance to the building with their bodies. On the 27th, police raided the squat and arrested 7 people. A support demonstration outside the jail was held.

In Montreal the Anti-Capitalist Convergence Housing Committee held a march and guided tour of potential squats and chanted against the gentrification of their neighbourhood. The group occupied an old building that is slated to become a luxury condo, dropped a banner from one of its windows, and left the building without any arrests by police.

In the small town of Sudbury, Ontario, the Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty, and the Sudbury branch of the Ontario Common Front held a march for housing, put stickers on abandoned buildings, and briefly occupied an empty school, where they dropped a banner. The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty faced-off against a huge police presence and police attacks on their demonstration in Toronto on October 26. Several potential squats were guarded by lines of police, and at several points bicycle cops and mounted policemen attacked the march, beating and clubbing people. There were 5 arrests for “breach of peace”. Towards the end of the march, OCAP members managed to crack open a building through its back doors, drop a banner from an upper-floor window, and escape through the front doors into the crowd as police broke in through the back to raid the building.

In Ottawa, the Ottawa Coalition Against the Tories held a demonstration and picket of a Home Depot business, in solidarity with the Toronto Tent City squatters who had been occupying Home Depot land in that city and were brutally evicted by Toronto police recently.

In Vancouver, the tent city outside the Woodwards building continued into its 42nd day, and the Anti-Poverty Committee released to the media the addresses of 6 buildings they intend to squat.

The movement continues to grow! Squat the lot!


Canada, Toronto, Media, Michele Landsberg on the squat

  Canada, Toronto, Media, Michele Landsberg on the squat


On the first blessedly cool evening of the fall, as the welcome rain came sluicing down, I drew the curtains and thought of the Pope Squat, where the rain would be bouncing off the newly repaired roof and watering the Swiss chard, tomatoes, lettuce and marigolds now thriving in the front yard.

Toronto loves to puff itself as “world-class”, but nothing could be more inept, blinkered and junior than the way our city and provincial governments have handled the issue of homeless protesters. Just look at the clumsiness of the Tent City evictions.

As for the squatters who occupied an empty building during the Pope’s visit in July, the provincial government has been numb and dumb, in the deep silence of total uncaring. Some of our city counsellors, on the other hand, have been splutteringly apoplectic at the thought of anarchists occupying a decrepit, unoccupied, abandoned rooming house.

Chris Korwin-Kuczynski once again frothed on about the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty —the crowd that organized the protest march and occupation of 1510 King St. West. But at least he tried to get the building used for social housing. Michael Walker and Brian Ashton oppposed.

The provincial government is even more culpable. Apparently, it owns the derelict building. By default, because the house no longer has a registered owner, the property reverts to the Crown. The owners absconded in 1994, taxes and hydro bills unpaid, and left the empty building to fester with leaking roof, rotting floorboards and walls full of black mould. The homeless squatters have peacefully occupied the premises since July, unbothered by local police. They ripped up rotten floors, tore out stinking carpets, emptied the mounds of garbage, planted a garden, fixed the roof and began the interior renovations.

“We have about 15 people living here,” explained Lisa Kocsis, 20, as she showed me “the model suite” — a bedroom and alcove, newly dry-walled.

The squat is a perfect example of functioning anarchy. Whoever wants to work, shows up and works. Whoever lives there and does some work, has first dibs on a finished room. Local fast food restaurants have been stoic about allowing unfettered use of their washrooms, and neighbours turn up with donations of water, food and equipment. It’s messy, and the house is still half-wrecked, and you wouldn’t want to live there if daily hygiene is an important part of your lifestyle, but 15 people have a roof over their heads and a home address.

Which is more than the city ever offered them, with its 60,000 people on the housing waiting list. Alas, despite Councillor Olivia Chow’s constant urgings, the city never re-invested in social housing the $15 million plus it has saved in the last two years due to lower interest rates on its mortgages.

In recent weeks, Chow and city officials worked with OCAP members to prepare a brief to the province, making it clear that the province now owns the building. Their brief now sits on the desk of Attorney-General Dave Young, who has not bothered to respond.

Social conservatives of the Evesian peruasion should take a leaf from New York, where Mayor Bloomberg, a Republican business mogul after their own hearts, has just arranged to sell 11 abandoned Lower East Side buildings for $1 each to the squatters who have turned them into habitable homes.

The unions and social justice groups who are supporting the squatters might also pounce on the shining example of New York’s Urban Homesteading Assistance Board. It’s a smart non-profit that, for 30 years, has helped vulnerable slum tenants and squatters get co-op ownership of their buildings. It secures loans for them, trains them in construction skills, provides low-cost legal help and insurance, and even teaches residents how to get rid of drug dealers.

Academics who have studied the results have good news: marginal people who find stable housing at low rents (average $500 monthly) in these buildings gradually get their feet on the ground. The slow, hard collective work of reclamation also rebuilds self-confidence. Many of the tenants, even the rebellious punks who built a skateboard park in the cellar, are now earning steady wages and raising families.

Tenant control, in other words, works far better than shelters. Stands to reason, in this capitalist culture, that independence, autonomy and sweat equity (otherwise known as pulling onself up by the bootstraps) give a person an ego boost.

OCAP has done some of the city’s and province’s homework for them by tracking down dozens of abandoned buildings. Now if only our elected officials would snap out of their apathy, we might actually start housing the homeless before winter sets in. What a world-class thought.


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Pope Squat: Lobby Day and Rally at City Council Meeting

  Pope Squat: Lobby Day and Rally at City Council Meeting


With astounding success, the OCAP Pope Squat is now well into its second month. Homeless people and their allies have established a community and taken forward the whole fight against homelessness and underhousing in Toronto. Our goal, however, is not just to win the right to squat the property but to compel the levels of government to set a vital precedent by accepting a self managed social housing project at 1510 King Street West.

We are doing all we can to take this forward on our own while we pressure City Hall to act. Renovations are underway, a model suite is being prepared at the site and, with community partners, we are creating the legal entity at the site that could assume control of a housing project. The City, however, has not yet faced up to its responsibilities. The motion passed by Council calls on the Province to hand over the property and the Province will be very unlikely to admit to ownership. What we do know, though, is that the City sent all with a stake in the property a communication in December of 2000 warning that the building would be seized if back taxes weren’t paid. If they had that power then, they have it now and we demand that the City take over the property, provide housing during the renovation period to those presently there and open negotiations around the creation of self managed housing.

We have prepared (and include with this notice) a model resolution that outlines our position and we have two upcoming actions to press for City Council to adopt it. Below are the details of these.


We are preparing a mass lobby of Council members. If you would like to be part of one of the delegations that will meet with the politicians or their representatives, here’s how things will work.

* Find out who you elected member of Council is.

* Call the OCAP office and offer your help. We will assign you to a team of people meeting with a Council member.

* If you are the first person calling in from your particular ward, we will ask you to phone and make an appointment.

* On the day, we will proceed together to the lobby area of the Councillors’ offices, go to our meetings and press the demands contained in the model resolution. We will call on them to put this on the floor of the next Council meeting and to adopt it at that session.


We shall rally in front of the building to show some of the community support that exists and then go to the Council Chambers to eliminate any lingering doubt on the matter. We hope and expect, that they will be ready to discuss this vital issue. (Did not this same Council declare homelessness a national disaster?) We will be ready to go into the chambers to witness politicians who do the right thing and provide a small but important beginning in the work of dealing with the housing crisis. We are also prepared, however, for our visit to the gathering to be a restrained yet unmistakable reminder that the community will no longer accept talk as a substitute for action and that the Pope Squat is something they just can’t hide from. We need every single person available to come out and show their support on the 17th!

For more information call OCAP at (416) 925-6939 or e mail us at ocap [at] tao [dot] ca


“Given that a housing crisis exists in this City, with vast waiting lists for social housing, rampant evictions and a level of homelessness that the City Council has declared a disaster.”

“Given that an attempt is underway to turn the building at 1510 King Street West into social housing.”

“Given that this initiative is widely supported in Parkdale and by many labour, faith and community based organizations.”

“And, given that the City of Toronto felt able to seize the property as long ago as December of 2000 and communicated this to all those with a financial interest in it.”

“Toronto City Council will take over the property in question without delay and begin its transformation into social housing.”

“Council will also ensure that those homeless people who are presently living at the site be housed during the renovation period.”

“As the City moves forward with developing the site, it will enter into good faith negotiations with those presently living there and their community partners who have allocated or pledged resources to this initiative around the creation of a self managed project at 1510 King Street West.”

Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
517 College Street, Suite 234 Toronto, Ontario M5G 4A2
416-925-6939 ocap [at] tao [dot] ca www.ocap.ca

Ontario Coalition Against Poverty <ocap [at] tao [dot] ca>

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(Toronto) Push on to uncover city’s potential squats

  (Toronto) Push on to uncover city’s potential squats

Push on to uncover city’s potential squats
eye – 08.29.02

Dilapidated buildings have been sitting empty for years throughout Toronto, dumped by owners unwilling to finance their maintenance and repair.

Now, spurred by the success of the Pope Squat — in which the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) has been occupying an abandoned building at 1510 King W. in an attempt to turn it into affordable housing — the city has begun compiling a list of all the vacant properties in its south district, the area bounded by Eglinton, Victoria Park, Keele and the lake.

“This has always been an issue but it came to a head with 1510 King W.,” says Mike Leonard, the city’s district manager for municipal licensing and standards, south district. Leonard has asked his supervisors to cull a master list of abandoned properties from various computer databases that existed before amalgamation. He hopes to have a complete inventory in a couple of weeks.

“We want to know where all vacant buildings are and make sure they’re properly secured,” says Leonard. He says municipal licensing and standards officers will locate properties abandoned by their owners, list them and board up the windows with plywood and paint.

But, he says, the list is not intended to find buildings that could be turned into affordable housing. “That’s a planning issue. At my end of things we are just responsible for public safety. The use of the building is still up to the owner,” he says.

When researching the Pope Squat, OCAP uncovered a unique legal situation. The building at 1510 King W. has belonged to the province since 1994, when the corporation that held the title dissolved. Before breaking for the summer, city council indicated that it was interested in taking steps to turn the building into affordable housing.

Housing activists in New York City won a major coup recently when the Bloomberg administration turned over 11 abandoned Manhattan buildings to the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board (UHAB), a nonprofit organization that helps tenants take over and manage their buildings. It was a drastic shift in policy that ended two decades of routinely evicting squatters.

Negotiations began with the Giuliani administration in the summer of 1999 and were delayed by the events of Sept. 11. On Aug. 19 of this year, the city announced it would sell the Lower East Side buildings to UHAB for $1 each.

UHAB will renovate the buildings and turn them into limited-equity co-ops, which means the apartments will have a low maintenance of roughly US$500 per month and can’t be sold for profit. It’s a move that won’t cost the city anything and will provide 167 apartments that can house 263 people.

In Toronto, there are differing opinions about how many potential squats exist in the city. Officials in the city’s planning and real-estate departments contacted by eye say there aren’t a lot of abandoned buildings here. But OCAP says it has managed to find 35 unused properties in Parkdale alone, just by walking through the area street by street. “They’re not very hard to find,” says OCAP organizer John Clarke.

The group has also found it can get a good deal of background research done on its own. “Anybody can do a search at City Hall, this is publicly-available information,” explains OCAP organizer Sarah Vance. “You just have to do quite a lot of digging to find out what’s behind the company.”

David Hulchanski, director of the Centre for Urban and Community Studies at the University of Toronto, was surprised to learn that 1510 King W., a building with tremendous potential value, had been sitting empty for so long.

“Any piece of land, especially residential land, in the city is worth a lot,” he says. “Nobody knows how many [abandoned buildings] there are. OCAP did a lot of research and found something that put them in a good position.”

When searching for a building to squat, OCAP looks for property that will serve politically as well as functionally.

For the Pope Squat, the group says it required a classic example of poor-quality housing in an area hit hard by rent-control issues and housing standards. It also helped that 1510 King W. is in an area where many World Youth Day pilgrims stayed when they were here in July but wasn’t too close to disturb papal proceedings.

The Mission Press building at 53 Dundas E., which was squatted in March, was chosen for its location — the neighbouring parking lot for the Senator Steakhouse used to be a Salvation Army hostel — and its relation to the ongoing Yonge and Dundas redevelopment.

“[We] want a site where either ownership is murky or the owner politically is not in a good position to order an eviction,” says Clarke.

Respond to this article: Use the form at http://www.eye.net/abouteye/lte/ to send a letter to the editor, or email it to letters [at] eye [dot] net

eye – 08.29.02

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2 Pope Squat appeals: City Council (Sept 12) and renovations.


  2 Pope Squat appeals: City Council (Sept 12) and renovations.


1. Help Put The Pope Squat At The Top Of City Council’s Agenda: Sept 12th

On Thursday, September 12, OCAP is going before the Community Services Committee of Toronto City Council to call for action in response to our Pope Squat initiative. We need all who support us to be there and for as many people as possible to speak before the Committee that day. We will be calling on the City to take over the building at 1510 King Street West and to enter into good faith negotiations with the squatters and their community partners over the creation of self managed social housing at the site.

‘Good faith’ dealings are what have been missing in this whole affair. City Council has passed a motion calling for ‘affordable housing’ at this location and asking the Province to transfer ownership. While the admission that the property must be housing is a step in the right direction, this motion is problematic in a couple of major ways. Firstly, a mere call for ‘affordable housing’ means little. Recent initiatives on this front have produced housing that only the highest third of income earners in the tenant population can afford and OCAP did not take this action to house better paid professionals. Secondly, the call for the Province to hand over the property has more to do with stalling tactics than with genuine efforts to resolve things. The Province will be reluctant to accept that it owns the building and may never do so. However, in December of 2000, the City sent out word to all with a financial interest in 1510 King West that it would seize the place within a year if back taxes weren^t paid. If it had that power then, it has it now and talk about going through Queen’s Park is simply evasion.

The City has also made the vacating of the site by the squatters a precondition for any housing project. We are more than ready to move but must have two simple guarantees. The ownership question must be settled and the games over whose in charge must stop. We also make the very reasonable stipulation that we won’t abandon the homeless squatters and that their housing needs must be met when we leave.

This appearance before the Community Services Committee will be an important chance to demonstrate the depth of support for the Pope Squat. We are urging trade union bodies, faith groups, community organizations, social activists and, especially, Parkdale residents who live close by the Pope Squat, to have their names added to the list of those who will make deputations that day. The Committee will not formally set its agenda until September 3 but we are quite sure they will feel that a discussion of the Pope Squat and possible solutions to the issues it raises are entirely relevant to their work. On that basis, we urge all allies and supporters to call Tony Leo at City Hall who is in charge of booking deputations. Simply inform him that you wish to speak to the matter of 1510 King Street West on September 12. Ask him to take your contact information and call you back to confirm your time to speak once the Committee’s agenda has been formally set. It would also be very important to call OCAP and let us know that you have approached the Committee so that we can keep track of who will be speaking and can make sure all who are interested have a place that day.

We thank all those who have done so much to make the Pope Squat the success it has been to date. On September 12, we’re going to bring this community solidarity to City Hall and move the struggle for housing in this City one big step forward.



The OCAP Pope Squat at 1510 King Street West has already been a huge step forward in the struggle for housing in Toronto. One month into the action, we have a large measure of community support and we are moving forward with our demand for self managed affordable housing at the site.

The City Council has already (with considerable reluctance) passed a motion agreeing in principle to ‘affordable housing’ at the location of the Pope Squat but it is clear that considerable pressure will have to be applied in order to make this as yet vague commitment into something real.

One of the best ways we have to apply pressure to the City is to proceed with the initial phases of renovating the building. What better way to show the possibilities that exist than to have 1510 King West take on an appearance that more and more resembles the decent housing it must become once governments are made to face up to their responsibilities? Already massive clean up and repair work has been undertaken. The roof has been fixed so as to remove a major fire hazard that threatened surrounding buildings as well. Those with skilled labour abilities and professional knowledge have come forward to help. We are soliciting donations in the form of building equipment and tools. Plans are underway to turn at least one of the units in the building into a ‘model suite’ that can offer a real vision of what the place can become.

We urgently need financial donations to support this work. We must also support and sustain the squatters and meet costs involved in outreach to the local community and beyond as we build political support for this whole struggle.

We are making an urgent appeal to all organizations and individuals who support this vital struggle to mail in their cheques to help us carry on and win. Please send all donations to:-

OCAP (Pope Squat Appeal),
234-517 College Street,
TORONTO, Ontario
M6G 4A2

ph: 416-925-6939
email: ocap [at] tao [dot] ca




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Canada, Toronto, Pope Squat Update, Wednesday. August 7th, 2002.


  Canada, Toronto, Pope Squat Update, Wednesday. August 7th, 2002.


Pope Squat Update, Wednesday, August 7th, 2002.

On Tuesday August 6th, Squatters from the “Pope Squat” at 1510 King Street West, The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty and many allies made a strong showing of the wide support that the ongoing housing occupation enjoys.

Over 100 people rallied at city hall for an update on the situation around the squat and a delegation of squatters and allies, including trade union leaders, was prepared to meet with city councilors and officials and open the negotiation process to convert 1510 King St. W. into self-managed social housing.

However, one councilor that the delegation wanted to secure a meeting with, local councilor Chris Korwin-Kuczynski, was not in his office.

As a meeting at city hall was not forthcoming on this day the demonstration marched to the Provincial Land Registry office at Bay St. and Wellesley.

Police and security immediately blocked the main entrance to the building but were unable to stop the resourceful and determined crowd. Some squatters and activists gained entrance to the building through other doors before being blocked by security and police right at the inside office responsible for the title of 1510 King West.

The Province is currently a major obstacle on the road to converting 1510 King St W. into self-managed social housing. The Province has every legal right to acknowledge ownership of the property and transfer it to the city, or the squatters, for conversion into self-managed social housing.

There will be a press conference at the Queens Park media room today (Wednesday, August 7th) at 11am. NDP Housing Critic Michael Prue; John Cartwright, President of the Toronto and York District Labour Council; Steve Watson, National Representative of the Canadian Auto Workers Union; Street Nurse Cathy Crowe; and Squatters will speak to the desperate need for provincial action to cut through the red tape and turn 1510 King St. West into self-managed social housing.

OCAP and squatters will continue to pressure both the municipal and provincial levels of government and pay visits to the appropriate offices. Stay alert for emergency calls to action.

Another exciting development at the squat was the decision to name the long-term, self-managed, social housing project after Norman Feltes as a memorial. Norm was a long-time OCAP member whose fight ended on June 15th, 2000. Both his warmth towards us who had the honor of knowing him and his tenacity towards those we struggled against live on at 1510 King St. West.

Norm’s son Nick, who happens to be experienced in converting and renovating social housing, was at the squat Tuesday going through the building and making assessments and made the suggestion of naming the building after his father. Nick also re-told the well known story of Norm’s final request being that Nick attend the OCAP demonstration at Queens Park on June 15th, 2000 in his place. Nick proudly did so and the solidarity of the Feltes continues with his assistance at the Pope Squat.

As it stands, the squatters and OCAP are maintaining our position that:

1) The province has not yet claimed ownership of 1510 King St W. In order to avoid bureaucratic foot-dragging we will not leave 1510 King St. W. until it is determined that the Province of Ontario or the City of Toronto hold title of the property.

2) There are individuals living at 1510 King St. W. who are homeless and have nowhere else to go. OCAP will not walk away from these individuals and leave them in the street.

3) While it is a sad state of affairs when it takes a local organization like OCAP and homeless people to physically open an empty building to get the City of Toronto to act– they have finally but reluctantly done the right thing by stating their intention to convert the building into affordable housing. However, there are many empty buildings throughout Toronto similar to 1510 King St. W. If the City fails to act on these as well, OCAP most certainly will.

The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
“Kicking the ass of the ruling class since 1990”
517 College St. Suite 234
Toronto Ontario
M6G 4A2
Phone: 416-925-6939
email: ocap [at] tao [dot] ca
Web: http://www.ocap.ca

Ontario Coalition Against Poverty <ocap [at] tao [dot] ca>



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Toronto: CLAC Radio – Pope Squat!

CLAC Radio – Pope Squat!
“When the government refuses to build housing, people have no choice but to take it themselves.”

This program focuses on the Pope Squat an action organized by OCAP (The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty). The Pope Squat was opened on June 25th while the festivities of World Youth Day & the Pope’s visit were occurring and the eyes of the world were focused on Toronto. The Pope Squat highlights the brutal realities of homelessness & poverty in the City of Toronto.

The realities of poverty & homelessness are outlined on the OCAP website; Toronto is in a housing crisis. The cost of rent is out of control. Landlords are not being forced to make repairs. The minimum wage has been frozen for more than 5 years. Families are falling deeper into poverty and more and more people are dying in the streets.

This program features an interview and speech given by Sarah Vance an organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. This program gives an overview of the day the Pope Squat was opened, the activities & events which have been organized around the Pope Squat and the plans for the future which OCAP and those living at the Pope Squat are working toward.

– -> You can listen to CLAC Radio’s feature on the Pope Squat at: http://www.radio4all.net/proginfo.php?id=5120

– -> Previous CLAC radio programs can be accessed at: http://www.quebec2001.org/audio_en.html

– -> To find out more information about the Pope Squat & OCAP visit: http://www.ocap.cahttp://www.ontario.indymedia.org

La Convergence des luttes anti-capitalistes (CLAC)
The Anti-Capitalist Convergence
La Convergencia de las luchas anti-capitalistas
A Convergencia das lutas anti-capitalistas
clac [at] tao [dot] ca — 514-409-2049

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Canada, Toronto, Pope Squat Street Festival on Now!!!


  Canada, Toronto, Pope Squat Street Festival on Now!!!


The Pope Squat Street Festival has begun !

In the backyard of 1510 King Street West (just East of Roncesvalles in west Parkdale) the party has just started! DJs are spinning tunes and delicious free food is being served to the people! The squat is still going strong, moral is high, and renovations on the house continue, despite yesterday’s police action. Everyone is relaxed and enjoying the party! You should be there too!

So join us at the Pope Squat and check it out yourself.

DJs all day – performances by DJ Complex, DJ Pilot Boy, DJ KLC, and DJs Stress and Maxxed Out – plus special guests!

Delicious food provided by Mobilization for Social Justice (Mob4Glob) and Latin American Coalition Against Racism (LACAR)

Live performances and bands starting at 4:00 and going into the evening!

Arte e Liberdade (Art and Liberty)
Capoeira performance – not to be missed!

A free-form avant-folk collective put together by songwriter Nick Taylor. With elements of country, gypsy folk, free jazz, and the avant-garde, their performances are always unique.

Shut-In’s music integrates bass-driven post-punk, polyrhythmic pop and noir disruptions.

Fearless Vampire Killers
The deconstruction of hip-hop.

Plus: * street performers and fire spinners!
* spoken word performances!
* Graf. Art competition (on canvases) – bring your spraypaint!

If you’re not at the Summer Street Festival, YOU’RE NOT HAVING FUN!

john <john [at] tao [dot] ca>



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CANADA, TORONTO: ‘Pope Squat’ establishes new social housing in Toronto !


  CANADA, TORONTO: ‘Pope Squat’ establishes new social housing in Toronto !


With the eyes of the world currently focused on Toronto as World Youth Day events get underway here this week, attention has been brought to our escalating crisis of homelessness with a spirited march through the Parkdale neighborhood ending in the dramatic takeover of an abandoned building on King Street West.

Organized by the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, the Pope Squat aims to bring international attention to a situation where over 60,000 families are waiting for up to ten years for subsidized housing; where conditions at many of our emergency shelters fail to meet even the minimum standards established by the United Nations for refugee camps, and where upwards of 500 economic evictions happen every week. The Provincial government has stonewalled repeatedly on any new housing initiatives, and just last Thursday Toronto mayor Mel Lastman publicly expressed his wish to be able to ‘sweep’ Toronto’s homeless from the streets.

This event also highlights a growing political squatters’ movement in Canada, following on the heels of similar actions in Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec City, Vancouver and Toronto within the past year. With governments having apparently abandoned any effort to meet the needs of poor people in Canada, it has become increasingly apparent that the only way people can obtain housing is to take it for themselves.

As the Pontiff received hundreds of thousands of youthful pilgrims at the nearby Canadian National Exhibition grounds, people began to gather in a small park near Queen Street West in Toronto’s Parkdale neighborhood. The crowd quickly grew to more than 1,500 as hiphop music blared from a portable sound system and a delicious venison stew (many thanks to the residents of the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory for providing this!) was being served. A sizable cadre of helmeted cops hung back across the street, accompanied by a priest wearing a Kevlar vest. (Maybe the Boys in Black were looking for divine intervention?)

Following a number of short speeches the crowd spilled northward out of the park, quickly filling all four lanes of Queen St. W. Led by a group of drummers and a saxophonist and chanting ‘Fight for housing, fight to win!’ and ‘What would Jesus say? “Build housing today!” ‘ the crowd moved west, stopping briefly outside another abandoned building where a fire had claimed the lives of two female tenants several years earlier. Doubling back east along King Street, the march soon arrived outside a large boarded-up house. A huge banner descended from a third-storey window and a ‘no trespassing’ sign was torn from the fence as a speaker declared the Pope Squat to be open!

Speaking over a megaphone from inside the building, squatters re-stated the demands of the action, which include the restoration of rent controls, an end to economic evictions, restoring the 22% which was cut from social assistance in 1995 and the construction of at least 2,000 units of new social housing a year in Toronto. Leaflets were handed out to people with a schedule of planned events at the site, and small groups began fanning out to forage for discarded furniture in the surrounding neighborhood.

The site proved ideal for a number of reasons, being a large, attractive building located on a major street, with a sizable backyard. The place had once been a rooming house until the company which owned it arbitrarily evicted all the tenants more than ten years ago, after which the place sat empty. This company has since dissolved and has defaulted on the property taxes, which has essentially left the ownership of the place in a complete legal limbo.

Following their brutal handling of another building takeover on March 22 this year during the Tory leadership convention (during which people were tear-gassed, Tasered and more than 60 arrested) the cops appeared remarkably cautious in their approach to this event. While there was a large police presence, they kept pretty much to their own side of the street throughout and made no attempt to interfere with people. As of four AM more than a hundred people still lingered outside the building, watched by approximately a dozen uniforms from across the street. On our side, participants have handled themselves in a consistently responsible and disciplined fashion and the organization of the whole action has been outstanding.

A full schedule of community-oriented events has been planned for this site for most of the next week. including a clean-up and repair party today, movies being shown tonight, and a big street festival happening all day Saturday. Solidarity has been strong, with different organizations agreeing to take support shifts outside the building or prepare meals. The squatters themselves have affirmed they have no intention of leaving. The planned outside events will also go ahead even if the squatters are evicted. We’re not going anywhere!

Graeme Bacque July 26, 2002

Graeme Bacque <gbacque [at] colosseum [dot] com>



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