Arts featured Poverty

Thrown out of Peace and Friendship, a poem by Thibault Jacquot-Paratte

Photo Robert Devet

In the morning,
the police came;
although we were outside
rent was due

We were in tents
that’s one thing we had left
we weren’t on the sidewalks
it was a disquieting perspective yet
to have no roof left at all
to be homeless, hopeless.

The Halifax Police,
handed out fines:
$300 to pay, for illegal camping
when they weren’t for kicks
but for survival, these camps
we were refugees without fleeing our motherland
the weapons against us were rising costs
we were out of work, and rents unbound
had, with no foreboding, doubled or tripled.

We who had not
a family as a lifeboat
such good friends nearby
that we could have begged for a couch…
we who knew not where to go
were in the city parks.

In Peace and Friendship park
near where the cruise ships dock
or by the Waegwaltik
where the nice yacht clubs are
or in front of the empty old library
in the heart of downtown.

There, charities had placed shelters
plywood shacks, isolated against the cold
the friends who had been surviving there
for a couple of rough months
and, we too, got two days notice
they were from city hall, and barked “get outta here”
Where to go? God only knows!
We were there, not too joyous
but since we had no other solutions
and no one had any suggestions!
If the city didn’t like our resolution
they could at least give us another option!

If rents had stayed frozen
after hearing about housing crises for four or five years
if the empty buildings, numerous as they are
were turned into bunkhouses…
or if the infamous Shannon Park became
an affordable housing complex
instead of allowing for the city council
to fantasize about a football stadium…

The morning after two days of dread
the police came, told us to break camp
Our people, the more desperate ones
they were arrested
and the rest of us, where do we go?
To cardboard boxes on Spring Garden Road?

The city claims to have “tried to work with us”
we would like to work, but where’s the work at?
The city told us to leave, with no substitute to our misery
(not even a different misery, just as bleak)
no unemployment, no recruitment aid, no lodgings
“tried to work with us”, it’s the city’s way of saying
that it doesn’t stand by its actions.

Let Halifax admit “we don’t like to see bums”
the city could have kept the name “Cornwallis”
if it was all just to deport folk from the park
which is now called Peace and Friendship
pretty words, diplomatic language
Let Halifax admit that the city doesn’t give a damn
about solving social problems,
treating people with dignity
Let Halifax admit that the city’s actions
say “when you’re down, we’ll kick you down”.

In the morning of the 18th of August
Halifax police threw us out
of Peace and Friendship
and proceeded to emptying other parks
of all the “undesirable people”
who during a pandemic of lockdowns
lack of work, bills to pay
and got washed up
with a tent, and a backpack, on a public lawn
with no water, no showers, no heating, no washing, no toilets
and all that was taken from them
while in their ears they screamed :
“Go be homeless someplace else!”



Thibault Jacquot-Paratte started publishing poetry in 2010, has since published poetry, short stories, essays, and theatre in both English and French, in Canada, Europe and India. See his profile on the Writers Federation of Nova Scotia website.

Originally published in French in : Le courrier de la Nouvelle-Écosse, Aug. 27 2021. Poem translated from French by the author.

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