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Protesters interrupt Mayor Tory’s speech during groundbreaking ceremony

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TORONTO, ON., July 23, 2020 — This morning, Mayor Tory was delivering a live speech at the ground-breaking of T3 Bayside – a 10-story waterfront development at 261 Queens Quay East — when he was interrupted mid-sentence by a group of protesters with megaphones making several demands with one being that Tory implement an emergency eviction moratorium to prevent COVID-19 evictions.

The action was put together by Parkdale Organize and People’s Defense Toronto, as a reaction to Bill 184 that was passed by the province on Tuesday. Protest organizers have dubbed it the “Mass Eviction Bill.” Earlier this month the same organisations staged a march from Queen’s Park to Tory’s Yorkville condo to convey that when the bill is passed they want him to act.

The groundbreaking was near the parcel of land that Gooogle’s sister company Sidewalk Labs was planning to develop as a “Smart City.”

Parkdale Organize say that Bill 184 puts more power in to the hands of landlords and could speed up the eviction process for an estimated 13,000 tenants who will not be able to catch up on rent payments due to the COVID crisis.

Mayor Tory receives police protection from protesters as he leaves the groundbreaking ceremony

“Landlords of Toronto have already been ruthlessly pushing tenants out of their homes leading to rates of homelessness doubling over the last ten years. COVID evictions could see those numbers double again,” said Sam Nithiananthan of Parkdale Organize.

“We’re here to tell the mayor that he needs to stand with the half of this city that rents…the truth is that is it well within the Mayor’s emergency powers to declare an eviction moratorium in the city, ask the province to repeal Bill 184, and direct Toronto Police Services not to participate in the enforcement of evictions, including evictions at homeless encampments,”said Nithiananthan.

The groups are also calling on the mayor to declare support for all tenants in Toronto that cannot pay rent, but refuse to leave the safety of their homes.

When Tory’s speech was interrupted he stopped while the protesters stood behind him live on CP24 with large posters explaining their concerns, as some of the organizers standing on a hill behind the press gallery expressed their views through megaphones.

Eventually, Mayor Tory left the podium and the groundbreaking ceremony was brought to a halt. Then, after the mayor walked off the stage the protesters followed him shouting while he took a short walk to a nearby building along with the group of officials from the groundbreaking ceremony.

He then went inside while the protesters waited for him out front and answered questions from the media.

Tory later received a police escort off the premises while members of the press continued to interview some of the organisers.

The protest was heard loud and clear by Mayor Tory, so much so that following the event, he released a statement saying he has “fought throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for tenants – both residential and commercial tenants who have been hit hard by this crisis.”

“Today’s groundbreaking which was disrupted by protesters was for a project which includes 20 percent affordable housing and a child care centre, and through its construction will create much-needed jobs,” said Tory. “I am willing to work with anyone who wants to consructively work with me to help the residents of Toronto. I repeatedly offered today to meet with the protesters after the announcement to hear their concerns but they chose to continue their public protest instead and not let the event proceed,” Tory said.

Tory then addressed the four main issues raised by the protestors. The first issue being for the mayor to use emergency powers to implement an eviction moratorium in Toronto.

“Although City Legal staff have advised that the City has no legal authority to impose a ban on evictions, I have spoken out against residential and commercial evictions throughout this crisis and will continue to do so. I have been clear in stating that no eviction should take place without a hearing,” said the Mayor.

On the second issue demanding that the Mayor calls on the Ontario government to repeal Bill 184 and take eviction and forced rent payments off the table for unpaid rent during the months of the COVID-19 crisis, Mayor Tory said “I disagree with some of the changes outlined in Bill 184.”

“The City Solicitor is reporting directly to City Council with advice on the possibility of legally challenging those provisions of Bill 184 which undermine the rights of tenants to a fair hearing. The same matter on which I have already spoken out.”

The third issue raised by protesters was a request for the mayor to direct Toronto Police Services to no participate in the enforcement of evictions including the evictions of encampments.

“City staff are working with homeless residents in encampments to help provided more stable housing options,” said Tory. “Toronto Police do not conduct evictions and are only contacted when there are public safety concerns. No elected official is permitted to direct the daily operations of the police service. The City has dealt with encampments in a sensitive manner, finding housing for hundreds of people while at the same time being consistent in saying these encampments cannot remain on public property indefinitely,” Tory affirmed.

Lastly, Mayor Tory was also asked to declare support for all Toronto tenants that cannot pay rent due to COVID-19 that refuse to abandon their homes.

“I have repeatedly called on landlords to find ways to help tenants affected by COVID-19 and have supported the provincial ban on evictions,” said Tory.

“I continue to be focused on addressing the ongoing challenges with affordable housing and homelessness in our growing city and would urge those who share those concerns to join me in continuing to advocate to the other levels of government for assistance,” concluded Tory.

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