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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Toronto Pope Squat Raided, then retaken !

  Toronto Pope Squat Raided, then retaken !

The Pope Squat in Toronto was raided on friday and the 25-odd occupants were forcibly evicted, on the grounds that the building was a fire hazard, and unsafe for human occupation. Even though Parkdale, the area of the city where the Pope Squat is, is riddled with tennement housing which notoriously contravene fire regulations that slum-lord owners neglect to alter. The eviction took place during the first snowfall of the year.

Three residents were arrested.

The following morning, a few hundred (very angry) retook the building at around 11:30 Am, and held it for about 4 hours. Numerous police arrived, along with much media, and after negotiations the building was relinquished, after it was agreed that a meeting would take place monday in which the changes needed to make the building ‘safe’ would be described, and further negotiations would take place. It remains to be seen whether the city is capable of bargaiing in good fith, however, given previous gross dishonesty on their part.

marque <marque [at] wiznet [dot] ca>


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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Canada, TENT CITY – an international call for solidarity

  Canada, TENT CITY – an international call for solidarity

On Tuesday, September 24, 2002, Home Depot Canada sent a small army of private security guards backed by a small army of Toronto police to forcibly evict about 125 people from a homeless encampment on their unused property in downtown Toronto, Canada. Home Depot needs to be held in account for its actions. Due to the urgency and seriousness of this matter, please respond immediately to our international call for solidarity and action against Home Depot.

Please find below, an action pack that includes:
1. Background guide (includes info on our demands and what you can do)
2. A tip sheet on how to organize your own information picket.
3. Sample text for flyer that can be distributed at your information picket.

For formated copies of the materials, visit our website at www.tdrc.net. Due to the urgency of this matter, please participate right away in this international call for action against Home Depot!

Any questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 416-599-8372 or email tdrc [at] tdrc [dot] net. Thanks.

Toronto Disaster Relief Committee

1. BACKGROUND GUIDE: An International Call for Solidarity

Here’s why – and how – you should take action against Home Depot.

On Tuesday, September 24, 2002, Home Depot Canada sent a small army of private security guards backed by a small army of Toronto police to forcibly evict about 125 people from a homeless encampment on their unused property in downtown Toronto, Canada. The site, known as Tent City, has been the home to Canada’s largest homeless encampment for several years. There were about 55 structures in Tent City, most of them built by the residents. The Toronto Disaster Relief Committee has been working with residents for more than two years. We moved several pre-fab homes onto the site, supplied portable toilets, fireplaces and even showers. Just three days before the raid, TDRC organized a clean-up day with 60 volunteers (from university students to seniors) who worked alongside Tent City residents to improve the site.

Home Depot has spent tens of thousands of dollars to move against the homeless residents of Tent City. Within minutes of occupying the site, they had erected a new, nine-metre high barbed wire fence, a new security road around the perimeter and high-intensity search lights, not to mention the private security staff and construction crews brought on site. Home Depot removed the residents so quickly that they didn’t have a chance to gather medicine, identification or other personal items. It took hours of intense pressure to arrange for residents to have access to their homes and their belongings. And even then, access was very restrictive. Home Depot has said that it will only guarantee to protect the dwellings and belongings for seven days. And it made no plans for relocation of the residents, not even for temporary shelter. After a great deal of pressure from TDRC and others, the City of Toronto has made an offer to help Tent City residents find proper housing. But Home Depot offered no help at all.

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights says that “forced evictions are a gross violation of human rights”. The International Convenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Canada has signed, guarantees the right to housing. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Canada has also signed, says that everyone has the right to be protected against “arbitrary or unlawful interference” with their homes. The U.N. says that if people have to be moved, they should be given enough notice so that they can prepare for the move, new homes at another location and practical help in relocating.

Home Depot didn’t do any of this. They spent a lot of money to throw 125 people who had been peacefully living in Tent City off the land without any thought as to where they would go. Home Depot says that the site was unsafe, but the streets of Toronto are even more dangerous. And there were only 14 beds in homeless shelters in the entire city of Toronto (population 2.4 million) on the night that the Tent City residents were forcibly evicted – another sign of the city’s overcrowded and unhealthy shelter system.

Here’s what Home Depot needs to do:

1. Treat Tent City residents with respect. They should have access to their dwellings. Their property and their homes should be protected – not bulldozed after seven days. The portable structures may be moved. Home Depot should help with transportation and storage. They should help residents salvage as much as possible of the structures which cannot be moved.

2. Acknowledge the error of their ways. Home Depot was wrong to evict the residents without any notice and without any help in relocating. Home Depot can make amends by offering $50,000 per unit in capital funding for construction of 55 units of new social housing – the same number of units that were on the Tent City site – for a total bill of $2.75 million. That’s small change for a company that boasted in May of 2002 that it had “a record $5.2 billion in cash on the balance sheet”. An apology is not enough. Home Depot should pay.

3. Adopt the One-Percent Solution. A growing number of groups, including socially responsible corporations, are calling on the Canadian government to restore housing programs that were slashed in the 1980s and cancelled in the 1990s. Home Depot should be an active partner in the One Percent Solution, the campaign for a fully-funded national housing program.

You can make a difference:

The Toronto Disaster Relief Committee is calling on individuals and community groups, unions, faith communities and all others in Canada and the United States to join in a campaign against Home Depot. This is not a boycott, although consumers of conscience may decide to shop elsewhere. This is a mobilization to force Home Depot to take the specific actions outlined above. The TDRC has already talked to senior officials at Home Depot. But they need to feel community pressure before they will respond seriously.

Some tips for action:

1. Contact Home Depot and tell them to meet our demands. Make sure to ask for a response. Organize a letter-writing party in your neighbourhood, union local or faith community. Send a letter directly to

Annette Verschuren, President, Home Depot Canada, 426 Ellesmere Road, Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, M1R 4E7.

The telephone number is 416-609-0852 and follow the prompts to get to her office. Or send a fax to 416-412-4215.

2. Organize a Homeless Depot solidarity group in your area and arrange for an information picket of a local store. TDRC has tips for organizing an action on our Web site, along with a flyer that you can copy and hand out to customers.

3. If you are a customer of Home Depot, or know others who might be personal or commercial customers, then contact the store to tell them that you expect corporations to show social responsibility. Tell them that you want them to take action on the basic demands.

Stay in touch:

Look for updates on the Homeless Depot action on the TDRC Web site at www.tdrc.net. Call us at 416-599-8372. Send an e-mail to tdrc [at] tdrc [dot] net. Or write to Toronto Disaster Relief Committee, 6 Trinity Square, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5G 1B1. Send us copies of any letters that you sent to Home Depot. And make sure to send us copies of any replies that you receive.


Tips for organizing a Homeless Depot information picket

1. Look for a Home Depot store in your community. Check out the site. Most stores won’t allow information pickets on their property, but entrances to parking lots can be effective places to hand out flyers. If you have trouble with private security officers or police, call the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee.

2. Round up a handful of supporters. You don’t need a big crowd (although the bigger the numbers, the less likely you will experience trouble from security). Three or four people per parking lot entrance is enough.

3. Make up some picket signs with snappy slogans: Homeless Depot, honk if you hate forced evictions, and so on. Check out our Web site for some ideas. If your group, union local or faith community has a banner, bring it along.

4. Download the information flyer from our Web site. Feel free to make some changes and add local contact information.

5. Pick a day for your event. You might want to send a news release to local media. It’s a good way to build support and get the message out. Send a letter to the president of Home Depot Canada (with a copy to the TDRC) explaining why you are picketing the store. Send a letter directly to Annette Verschuren, President, Home Depot Canada, 426 Ellesmere Road, Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, M1R 4E7. The telephone number is 416-609-0852 and follow the prompts to get to her office. Or send a fax to 416-412-4215.

6. Politely offer the flyers to customers as they come and go from the store. Don’t get into extended arguments with angry people. It just raises everyone’s blood pressure. Be prepared with a quick response when people ask why you are there.

7. Local, provincial, state and national laws on information pickets and trespassing can be different from area to area. If you have any doubts, contact a local legal clinic or progressive lawyer. In most places, if you are not blocking traffic and not on private property, then you have the right to an information picket.

Stay in touch. Look for updates on the Homeless Depot action on the TDRC Web site at www.tdrc.net. Call us at 416-599-8372. Send an e-mail to tdrc [at] tdrc [dot] net. Or write to Toronto Disaster Relief Committee, 6 Trinity Square, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5G 1B1.

Send us copies of any letters that you send to Home Depot. Make sure to send us copies of any replies that you receive. And, please send us copies of any newspaper clippings, if you manage to make some news in your area.

3. SAMPLE TEXT FLYER (Visit our website for formatted copies of this.)

<< side one >>

Home Depot didn’t cause homelessness, but they shouldn’t make it even worse

On September 24, 2002, Home Depot ordered a small army of private security guards, backed by a small army of police officers, to forcibly remove about 125 homeless people from some unused property they own in Toronto, Canada. The people lived peacefully in a community they called Tent City for several years in 55 dwellings, most of which were built by the residents. Home Depot – which boasts “a record $5.2 billion in cash on the balance sheet” didn’t give them any warning, they didn’t offer any help in relocating and they even tried to stop residents from collecting medicine, identification or other personal belongings.

An apology is not enough. Home Depot should pay for the error of its ways. The Toronto Disaster Relief Committee is calling on Home Depot to:

1. Treat Tent City residents with respect. Give them access to their dwellings. Protect their property and their homes. Help them move or store portable structures. Help residents salvage the homes that cannot be moved.

2. Acknowledge the error of their ways. Home Depot should make amends by offering $50,000 per unit in capital funding for construction of 55 units of new social housing – the same number of units that were on the Tent City site – for a total bill of $2.75 million.

3. Adopt the One-Percent Solution. A growing number of groups, including socially responsible corporations, are calling on the Canadian government to restore housing programs that were slashed in the 1980s and cancelled in the 1990s. Home Depot should be an active partner in the One Percent Solution, the campaign for a fully-funded national housing program.

<< side two >>

Tired of big corporations that push around poor people? Here’s what you can do. . .

Tell Home Depot that, as a customer, you expect them to be a good corporate citizen. And that means treating homeless people fairly.

You can make a difference – if you raise your voice!

When you shop in a local store, tell the clerk, the store manager or other employees about your concern regarding the company’s actions in Toronto. And ask the employee to pass those concerns along to the Canadian head office in Toronto.

Send a letter directly to Annette Verschuren, President, Home Depot Canada, 426 Ellesmere Road, Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, M1R 4E7. The telephone number is 416-609-0852 and follow the prompts to get to her office. Or send a fax to 416-412-4215.

For more information about the Homeless Depot campaign, you can log onto the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee Web site at www.tdrc.net. Call us at 416-599-8372. Send an e-mail to tdrc [at] tdrc [dot] net. Or write to Toronto Disaster Relief Committee, 6 Trinity Square, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5G 1B1. Send us copies of any letters that you sent to Home Depot. And make sure to send us copies of any replies that you receive.

Or contact << add local contact information here >>

Toronto Disaster Relief Committee
6 Trinity Square, Toronto, ON M5G 1B1
Phone: 416-599-8372, Fax: 416-599-5445
NEW EMAIL: tdrc [at] tdrc [dot] net
NEW WEBSITE: www.tdrc.net


TORONTO: Tent City Evicted!

  TORONTO: Tent City Evicted!

This has been a really bad week for squatters in Canada. First the crew occupying the old Woodward building in Vancouver were brutally evicted after eight days, then last Friday another squatted building in Quebec City (occupied since last May) was cleared out by the cops.

This morning, Canada’s largest and oldest squatter community, the so-called ‘Tent City’ located on Toronto’s waterfront, was forcefully evicted in a massive sweep-and-clear operation involving dozens of city cops and private security guards. The hardware giant Home Depot (which owns that tract of land) had earlier this summer bailed out of negotiations aimed at re-settling Tent City residents and creating interim housing on another nearby piece of city-owned land. Instead, earlier today without any warning at all to residents, they decided to proceed with the eviction of more than 120 people who had been calling that place home.

It had apparently been leaked to the media that an eviction was likely to happen this week. Over the past couple of months police harassment of Tent City residents had been escalating, with cops shining lights through peoples’ windows in the middle of the night, photographing residents, entering homes unannounced and dropping ominous hints that the folks living there ‘weren’t going to be doing so for much longer.’

When I arrived outside the site at about 11 AM today, most residents had already been forced off the land by the cops. People weren’t even being allowed back in to collect personal possessions at this time and a couple of people who had balked at leaving had been arrested. One woman who needed medication for a heart condition was stopped from going in to get her pills for more than seven hours. Other people who had left their personal identification and other essentials in their homes were likewise prevented from obtaining their belongings.

About fifteen minutes after I arrived a whole caravan of large trucks hauling bulldozers, dumpsters and assorted other heavy equipment including spotlights and rolls of fencing were escorted through the western gate by the police. There was something like twenty of these big vehicles altogether. Immediately after their arrival, a roll of heavy-duty mesh was deployed across the driveway, sealing it shut.

Supporters kept trickling in and by about one o’clock something like 75 people had assembled. We learned at that point that Home Depot was planning a press conference at a downtown hotel for two o’clock. Toronto’s Mayor Mel Lastman had already gone before the media to spout off that a ‘blight’ had been removed from the city’s waterfront, and that there were ‘200 beds available’ in the shelter system for those who required them (A poll done of shelters in the Toronto downtown that morning revealed that in fact, exactly seven male and seven female beds were all that was free). Many of the people present headed in the direction of the Holiday Inn on King St. to intervene in Home Depot’s media event.

A few of us who had bikes arrived ahead of the main body of people. We headed into the meeting room where the media were assembling, only to be accosted by hotel security and escorted right back out. We waited outside for the rest of the folks to arrive – then went right back in, some fifty strong. Outmaneuvering the hotel security, we went back up to the conference room, chanting loudly and demanding an explanation from Home Depot. There was media crowded around on both side of the meeting room’s glass doors, that by this time had been closed and locked. Dozens of press people were there. We ended up controlling the agenda, with word coming back to us that Home Depot had in fact cancelled the press conference not long after we arrived.

Next stop: City Hall. People (and the cops) gathered in Nathan Phillip’s Square, than proceeded in a noisy group toward Mel Lastman’s second-floor office. More folks had been arriving as the word got out and by this time nearly a hundred people were present. Predictably, Mel’s office had been closed off and the only people inside were police. A group of people marched around the rotunda area inside City Hall, angrily demanding that The Mayor stop hiding and deal with us. From there, we proceeded as a group to Council Chambers, where a meeting was underway to discuss (if you can stomach this one) Toronto’s ‘official city plan.’

Well, their ‘plans’ changed at that point. People were majorly angry by this time, and made no bones about it. After some heated back-and-forth between Council members and Tent City residents and their supporters, a meeting was set up with the City’s Chief Administrative Officer in a committee room downstairs. The angry debate continued there until nearly four o’clock, when the CAO suggested a separate meeting with a smaller group to try and resolve things at least temporarily. This proved agreeable to most folks, who made their way back toward the Tent City site, where an emergency rally had been called for five o’clock.

Back outside Tent City, 5 PM. I arrived at the west gate, which was still sealed off. The existing six-foot chainlink fence fronting most of the property had been increased to a height of ten feet, with struts across the top where barbed wire was to be strung. There was not much happening in this area – a few cops and assorted other hangers-on were all that was in the immediate area. I headed east along the bicycle trail that bordered the land, only to spot what looked like every media vehicle in Toronto parked close to the eastern gate, located near the mouth of the Don River. Peoples’ houses had not been disturbed as of this time, but a wide band of brush had been cleared inside the entire length of the fence.

A sizable crowd was gathering and a small army of police and oversized private security guards had been amassed. Two helicopters whirred around overhead. A group of volunteers were distributing sandwiches and bottled water from a table they’d set up nearby. Finally, a sign appeared on the fence stating the hours when people would be permitted to return to pick up their belongings. As the rally proceeded, residents started going onto the site in groups of two or three, and returning with their stuff. Near as I could tell about 250 people were assembled outside the site by then, although it was occasionally difficult to distingiuish between some of the protesters, the media and undercover police. The situation was chaotic to say the least.

Folks hung around until a little after seven, at which point we learned that the city was preparing to invoke their emergency response protocol, meaning that various relief agencies would come together with city officials to seek a means of accommodating the numerous people who had suddenly found themselves displaced. A local community centre was pressed into service as a site for co-ordinating this effort and transportation was being set up to get folks there. Many people were drifting off by then as the sun set and the early fall evening began to turn cooler.

A meeting has been called for noon tomorrow outside the western gate of the former Tent City site to discuss possible strategies, which are likely to involve some form of campaign tatgeting Home Depot for their act of extreme bad faith. I mean, prior to today’s events the Tent City residents had essentially been staying on the land with H.D.’s consent, and had even received some donations of building materials from the company. (‘Tent City’ had actually become a misnomer, what with most residents eventually constructing their own small cabins and shacks, mainly using found materials).

Negotiations had been ongoing for over a year following a resolution made by City Council that would have involved re-settling these people on another piece of land the city owned nearby, and possibly constructing some form of transitional housing project there. The City of Toronto, Home Depot and a non-profit property management outfit called Homes First Society were involved in this process along with the Tent City people and their supporters from the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee. Unfortunately, thanks to stalling by the city and now Home Depot’s treachery, these plans currently appear to be extremely uncertain at best.

Graeme Bacque September 24, 2002

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


(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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City inspectors visit the Pope Squat.


  City inspectors visit the Pope Squat.


On Friday August 17th and Monday August 19th City fire and health inspectors paid a visit to the ongoing occupation of the previously abandoned building at 1510 King St. W. known as the ?Pope Squat?. They inspected both the interior of 1510 King St. W. as well as the property lot and while they didn?t give us any certification papers one inspector named Mr. Pong said, ?There?s no problems here that I can see, everything looks fine to me.?

We are however concerned with the possibility that the City will continue to send inspectors to 1510 King St. W. as a form of political harassment. Clearly, it would be an unacceptable situation for people working and living at the squat to be continually harassed by City officials as we work to continue making the improvements that the City itself has refused to do on the building and live a normal life in our new home.

We would like to stress that the solution to the situation at 1510 King St. W. is a political one and not one that revolves around technicalities of City inspectors.

We call on the City to begin good-faith negotiations with the squatters, who are actively renovating the building, in order to bring a self-managed, social housing project on the property into existence.

We urge the City to not try and side step a beneficial political solution to the building by using inspectors as a pressure tactic against the squatters who have nowhere to go but the shelter system or the street. Which are notorious health hazards in themselves with people facing infection of lice and tuberculosis in overcrowded shelters or death by exposure on the street.

The fact that the city is sending inspectors to the Pope Squat while not engaging in good-faith negotiations with the squatters is disturbing for a number of reasons.

It is disturbing because of the fact that, along with the previous private owners, the City itself was responsible for allowing the building to fall into disrepair in the first place. A lot of the damage that we have been busy repairing obviously existed long before the City evicted the previous tenants in September 2000. Unfortunately, as we?ve seen time and time again, the City is unwilling to ensure that repairs are done on buildings owned by slumlords often choosing to evict people from the only place they can afford and leave empty buildings to rot instead.

It is disturbing because of the huge number of apartment buildings, rooming houses and other housing in Parkdale and across Toronto that are in dire need of city inspections and work orders being given to landlords who are getting rich off tenants living in deplorable conditions. Surely, the City?s resources for inspections would be better spent in a massive drive to inspect and order repairs on buildings where, unlike the Pope Squat, there aren?t already serious renovations underway and people are paying rent to landlords while being provided with substandard housing.

Finally, it is disturbing because it fits with a pattern that the squatting movement in Canada is becoming familiar with. That pattern, as evidenced by the evictions at both the Prefontaine Squat in Montreal in October 2001, and the ?7 Year Squat? in Ottawa in July 2002, is that City and fire inspections are often the first step in manufacturing a pretext for the City to throw people into the street. We sincerely hope that this is not the strategy that the City is engaging in with the recent visits by inspectors to the Pope Squat.

On the upside, renovations continue at the Pope Squat and we are well on our way to making the building safe, up-to-code, self-managed, social housing. Last weekend a volunteer work crew spent some long hours doing extensive renovations throughout the building filling a couple of industrial bins with old rotting drywall and insulation that will be replaced with new material shortly. Again, we would like to mention that the work of the squatters and volunteers in fixing the leak in the roof has been credited for ending a major risk of fire not only to 1510 King St. but also to the surrounding apartment buildings. In three short weeks, on a shoestring budget and volunteer labour, we have accomplished significant physical improvements on the building. Certainly more improvements than the City ever did in the years that it allowed 1510 King St. W. to sit in legal limbo, rot and pose a fire hazard (now fixed) to our neighbors.


The occupants of the Pope Squat
1510 King Street West
Toronto, Ontario Canada
M6K 1J5

The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
517 College Street, Suite 234
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
M6G 2A4
Ph: 416-925-6939
Email: ocap [at] tao [dot] ca
Website: http://www.ocap.ca




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Canada, Media, The Hope Squat.


  Canada, Media, The Hope Squat.


With the Pope Squat – The ongoing occupation of an abandoned rooming house at 1510 King St. W. – the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty has done more than just give a handful of Toronto?s homeless new digs, if only temporarily. With this phenomenally successful occupation (success, of course being measured by days activists delay being tear-gassed by fed-up politicians, multiplied by the amount of media stories run by Big Media) OCAP?s direct action in Parkdale is slowly gaining momentum like few of the Coalition?s strategies before.

Remarkably 1510 King St. is the longest OCAP squat in the organization?s twelve-year history.

They chose Parkdale because as organizer Sarah Vance said, the neighborhood is notorious for derelict rooming houses that are cut adrift by the municipality, and only revisited to evict tenants when a buyer comes sniffing.

Such was the case with 1510 King St. in October 2000 when the City and 459105 Ontario Ltd. A Mississauga firm with title to the building booted everyone out. Almost two years later 1510 was empty and the City still has over $15,000 in liens against the firm and close to $40,000 is owed in back taxes.

OCAP?s success in Parkdale is due to the meticulous research conducted by the group prior to occupation. This preparation has exposed the indifference of ostensibly pro-housing authorities who prefer to yell about the dearth of affordable housing while ignoring – or not even being aware of – prime properties that sit empty.

For years OCAP?s disruptions haven?t made them many government friends. And the usual cast was out for the Pope Squat, dismissing the action as yet another pain-in-the-ass OCAP protest. Parkdale-High Park Chris Korwin-Kuczynski called OCAP ?a violent organization that tries to do things the wrong way? as he put the motion forward to council asking the province for ownership of the building so it could be turned into affordable housing.

Despite the group?s bad reputation, the only nastiness during the march to the Pope Squat from Masaryk-Cowan Community Centre on July 25 came from a police officer. The fresh-faced cadet used his mountain bike to cut off an OCAP supporter on a low rider. The girl was knocked down hard and the cop – – looking to impress his superiors – cycled away with a smug grin.

It?s pretty difficult not to side with OCAP?s Pope Squat, be you politically apathetic, or Parkdale new money, just waiting for a Starbucks at Queen and Sorauren.

Through the beautifully simple art of street protest and relentless investigation the Pope Squat demonstrates that municipal and provincial posturing about a new deal for Toronto is little more than hot air unless it?s supported with tangible action. And you can?t get more tangible than listening to the grateful tenants at 1510 as they mull about looking forward to not sleeping 15 to a room at the shelter.

And OCAP isn?t finished. In a July 29 letter to Mayor Lastman, OCAP said they are ?currently investigating the legal situations of other dormant properties in the neighborhood.? They also call upon Mayor Mel to ?do the same and enter negotiations regarding all properties in a similar situation.?

When and where the next squat opens up is unclear. But when it does, you can all but guarantee a bigger turnout for the march – by activists and politico-backed police alike.

Mick <mickblack47 [at] yahoo [dot] com>



Canada, Toronto, MEDIA, Squatters clean, repair building


  Canada, Toronto, MEDIA, Squatters clean, repair building


Squatters clean, repair building Poverty activists won’t end protest until city takes over By Kerry Gillespie

A group of anti-poverty activists – long vilified by politicians and police for its attention-grabbing antics – is working overtime to turn the occupation of an abandoned Parkdale building into more than that. Using donated materials, supporters of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) are cleaning and repairing floors, walls, ceilings and everything in between in their bid to turn 1510 King St. W. into affordable housing. But the group hopes professionals, with government money, will soon take over.

Dubbed the Pope Squat, OCAP occupied the building while Pope John Paul II was in town two weeks ago, to draw attention to the city’s housing crisis. Yesterday, the squatters laid down the terms under which they would leave: The province must turn the building over to the city, so it can make good on its promise to use it for affordable housing; and four people who have been living in the building since July 25 must be found homes. But the councillor for the area has other ideas. “The longer they stay, the bigger risk they take that there won’t be any social housing there at all,” said Chris Korwin-Kuczynski (Ward 14, Parkdale-High Park).

He is determined not to let occupation of abandoned buildings become a trend – OCAP has already identified 35 others in his Parkdale ward. That’s why he crafted the motion, overwhelmingly approved by council last week, to ask the province for ownership of the building to turn it into affordable housing only if the anti-poverty group leaves immediately.

“If they think they’ll leave it and we’ll double cross them, that is not the case,” Korwin-Kuczynski said.

But he warned if they stay and are eventually forced out by the police, and the building still falls into city hands, it won’t be used for affordable housing. “We’ll sell it.

“You have to make a stand,” he explained. “This can’t become a trend; anarchy can’t decide the future of anything.” As far as Toronto police are concerned, the squatters can stay until the building’s owner asks for them to be thrown out under the Trespass to Property Act.

“Until the owner comes forward and says, `I don’t want them there’ … there’s nothing we can do,” said Sergeant Robb Knapper. The owner appears to be the province, according to Brendan Crawley of the attorney-general’s office.

The building was defaulted to the crown when the owner disappeared and didn’t pay his mortgages or debts.

But there are “numerous issues that muddy the title of the property,” Crawley added. And until those are dealt with – including the numerous mortgages and liens on the property – the province isn’t prepared to comment on what it will do with the property.

“We’re working to clarify this as quickly as we can,” he said. If it is converted to affordable housing, the building could hold up to 26 people.

“This is the perfect opportunity for (Premier Ernie) Eves and his cabinet to show that they are somehow different from the Mike Harris government (that) did all this social destruction,” said NDP housing critic Michael Prue, during OCAP’s news conference yesterday at Queen’s Park.

“The purpose of this is to call on Mr. Eves to react, to do something, to show that he is different from Mr. Harris, to show that he cares about the plight of the homeless in Toronto. It is a simple act.”

When asked whether letting OCAP win this showdown would encourage activists to take over more buildings, Prue said the confusion over ownership makes this building different.

“You’re not going to see hundreds of buildings being occupied,” he said. But OCAP spokesperson Sue Collis admitted the group is planning future occupations.

“We’re in the process of identifying other buildings,” she said. In the Parkdale neighbourhood alone, OCAP has identified 35 abandoned buildings.

Collis said they are doing title searches to see if any are government owned and therefore potential sites for future occupations.

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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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