Anger, denunciations as St. John’s Tent City is dismantled

PV staff  

For months, resident protestors were peacefully encamped at Tent City for Change (TC4C) in St. John’s, NL. In addition to trying to provide a safe community for unhoused people, they also worked to draw attention to the housing crisis that is felt by millions of people across the country, and to advocate for long-term, accessible housing for all.

After surviving the winter – a challenge they met with the solidarity and assistance of community and labour advocates – TC4C resident protesters were evicted by government authorities and police on May 3.

The forced removal of residents and dismantling of the tent city has been met with anger and denunciations from community and housing organizations.

Just prior to the eviction, the St. John’s Status of Women Council warned that “these actions are in conflict with international human rights law and Canadian legislation. In effect, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is infringing on the human rights of Residents of Tent City through both the threat of forced eviction by destroying or removing homes made of tents or found materials, and neglecting to provide regular access to sanitation facilities, including showers.”

The Council noted that people who experience multiple forms of oppression and systemic discrimination are most likely to be without housing that is adequate, suitable or affordable. This includes women-led single parent households, racialized and newcomer families, Indigenous people, members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, young people and people with disabilities.

The organization called on the government to redirect public resources away from dismantling homes and encampments to focus instead on “creating and sustaining suitable housing options, particularly the development of new and maintaining existing public, non-profit and community housing models. Housing options must be safe, adequate and affordable. Housing is a human right.”

During the eviction, TC4C streamed video footage of the police and authorities on its Facebook page, along with an appeal for solidarity:

“SOS – We are being dismantled, destroyed and stolen from by government workers and police. Someone should tell gov that trying to make a problem caused by their own priorities invisible, does nothing to remedy the situation, or address the harm being done to resident protestors by decades of government choices which have facilitated the commodification and financialization of housing….globally recognized as being a universal human right!”

The Social Justice Co-op NL has been organizing community members to help salvage and store the resident protesters’ belongings. It is also asking people to contact members of the provincial government including Premier Andrew Furey, Housing Minister Fred Hutton and Justice Minister John Hogan, to protest the decision.

The Communist Party’s Sally and Chuck Davis Club in St. John’s issued a statement condemning the forced removal of the tent city and calling for real action to confront the housing crisis.

“The Furey government’s claim that tent city residents have been offered other options is completely out of touch with the realities of the shelter available and the physical and mental health needs of the residents involved. The forced removal also comes as an insult to the hard work of numerous community members who have volunteered their time and resources to supporting the tent city residents in their time of need.

“Standards for shelters and supportive housing are long overdue, and are a matter that could have been addressed long ago. If the government is serious about housing as a human right, it must also take immediate action to build thousands of social housing units.

“Relying on private real estate developers to build “affordable” housing through various incentives will not solve the housing crisis.

“Housing for all!”

[Photo: screenshot from TC4C video of eviction]

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