Toronto protesters block sheriffs from deporting amid COVID-19

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Activists and protesters gathered outside a Toronto courthouse on Tuesday morning to physically prevent rent police units from carrying out evictions.The blockade, which began at 7 a.m., saw dozens of protesters occupy two ramps leading to the Ontario Superior Court parking garage.

The event was hosted by tenant advocacy organizations People’s DefenseTO and Keep Your Rent Toronto – both of which fought landlord efforts to evict tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kabir Joshi, an organizer for both groups, said the protest was just one in a series of events organized by the community to prevent property management companies from evicting vulnerable tenants.

“This conversation has been going on for six months,” Joshi said, noting calls from housing activists to freeze rent payments dating back to March.

“The people who just hold on to the skin of their teeth to continue to exist in this city… this pandemic was going to drive them out. ”

The Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Queen’s Park last month passed Bill 184 – the Protecting Tenants and Strengthening Community Housing Act – which was widely condemned by housing rights activists who say the law gives landlords power excessive eviction of tenants.

Under the new law, landlords can offer a direct repayment plan to tenants who are behind on rent without going through the Landlord and Tenant Board.

The province said the bill was actually helping tenants, but critics and legal analysts warned the law would allow
landlords use a tenant’s refusal to sign a repayment plan to justify eviction.

At the end of July, Toronto City Council voted 22-2 to mount a legal challenge against the bill, citing concerns over the potential for vulnerable tenants to be forced into an interest-rate repayment plan high or being deported and potentially homeless.

Toronto tenants demonstrated at city hall on Tuesday morning over what they said was a failure by Mayor John Tory and the city to take action to stop the evictions. (John Sandeman / CBC)

Paterson Hodgson, tenant of Westlodge Towers in Parkdale and organizer of housing rights, is not convinced elected officials will make a big difference in the fight against evictions due to a pandemic.

“Politicians always have the opportunity to support their constituents, but in my relatively short life I haven’t seen them
do a lot, ”she said.

“Community organization, regional organization shows results that we don’t get from politicians. We don’t have to wait for them to mobilize, we can do it ourselves. ”

Although she has yet to receive an eviction notice, Hodgson said she is currently behind on rent and has been repeatedly asked by her landlord to sign an unreasonable repayment plan.

Hodgson, an illustrator working from home, said it was difficult to get in touch with everyone in her apartment building due to physical distance restrictions due to COVID-19, but she believes dozens of her neighbors are in a similar situation.

She said she may eventually have to bite the bullet and move to another city altogether.

“For me personally, being deported would probably mean leaving Toronto. “

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