KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Some 200 people gathered in front of Halifax City Hall this morning to demand a moratorium on the evictions of unhoused people all across urban HRM.
It’s been a month to the day since Halifax police, using pepper spray and often with their name tags removed, evicted unhoused people living in tents and crisis shelters at several locations in Halifax and Dartmouth.
The harassment and evictions haven’t stopped since and promised hotel rooms for all have proved to be a lie. When a hotel room did materialize they were often of short duration.
It is terrifying not to know whether or not you’re actually going to have a place
Malcolm was told to leave the Comfort Inn where he was placed by the city after he was evicted from an encampment.
“It is terrifying not to know whether or not you’re actually going to have a place,” a soft-spoken Malcolm told the crowd. “On Sunday I was told, yes, you’re good, you’re here until we can get you a place, and then on Monday. I found out we’re going to be out on Tuesday. You don’t know what’s going to happen next,” he said.
Where the government fails, the community must step in
“Where the government fails, the community must step in,” said Campbell McClintock, speaking for Halifax Mutual Aid.
“Over the past year and a half of the housing crisis during the pandemic, we’ve seen that landlords, city councillors and politicians at all levels of government are at best indifferent to the suffering of people living in poverty. At worst, all these powerful people are capable of mobilizing over $100 million per year for armed police officers to harass, target and violate our most vulnerable neighbours,” McClintock said.
“Why is it that the rich are safe from the police and from homelessness yet commit far more serious crimes than the poor. You can’t avoid harassment from police by being a good person. You can only avoid police harassment by being rich.”
Rights are meaningless unless they are asserted
The evictions were counter to United Nations protocols about the right to housing signed off on by Canada, said Asaf Rashid, a human Rights lawyer. What that means is that forceful evictions are in fact illegal, and the municipality has an obligation to provide a supportive infrastructure for the residents of the encampments.
The City must ensure that they’re providing adequate facilities for clean drinking water, hygiene and sanitation, waste management, cooking and fire safety and harm reduction measures,” Rashid said.
“Rights are meaningless unless they’re asserted. And that’s the importance of people fighting, fighting back, fighting for dignity, and asserting not only that they have no other place to go, but that the city must provide these resources. That’s an assertion of rights, and that is the only way to win the right to housing,” said Rashid.
When the government needs help, they turn to the nonprofits. Meanwhile they refuse to fund these nonprofits
Sara Tessier is a social justice advocate with lived experience who has been working with the Elizabeth Fry and John Howard Societies, as well as with Coverdale Courtwork.
“It’s funny how when the government needs help, they turn to the nonprofits. Meanwhile they refuse to fund these nonprofits because they claim they don’t have the data to support the need for the funding,” Tessier said.
“ We’ve had countless meetings, but where’s the support you promised? Instead what we have is a cycle of homelessness, criminalization, jail, over and over and over.”
“We the people elect these people to run our governments. What if we say no? Do your job! Start looking at the people you serve.”
You’re the big cheese, Mayor Savage!
“I’m here today, because unfortunately, we live in a racist, sexist, ableist society. I’m also here because of the brutality I witnessed on August 18. The cops were thugs. I have a message for Mayor Savage. You have failed this city. I call for anybody who is a part of those evictions to resign immediately,” said disability advocate Vicky Levack.
“I learned from Google News the other day that you’re unaware that the hotel rooms would only be for two weeks. What the hell are you doing. You’re the boss, you’re the big cheese, you’re supposed to know these things.”
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