December 9, 2020

The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) supports the Encampment Support Network’s call for a moratorium on encampment evictions in Toronto, and for the City of Toronto to provide encampment residents with basic survival gear and access to sanitation.

As we wrote in our letter to Mayor John Tory; General Manager of Shelter, Support and Housing Administration Mary-Anne Bedard; and General Manager of Parks, Forestry and Recreation Department Janie Romoff, access to appropriate, affordable and safe housing is a feminist issue.

Housing instability cannot be separated from gender-based violence and the feminization and racialization of poverty. For Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people, homelessness is also intertwined with ongoing colonial violence, intergenerational trauma, racism, and criminalization. Achieving substantive equality for women, girls, and gender-diverse people is not possible without tackling these structural inequalities and ensuring accessible, affordable, and safe housing for all.

COVID-19 has worsened the pre-existing housing crisis in Toronto. The emergence and ongoing existence of encampments is a brutal but logical outcome of the mix of the housing crisis and the pandemic.

Addressing this crisis requires a multi-pronged response that provides meaningful choice to meet the varying needs of people who are unhoused. Emergency interventions, including hotel rooms, have helped some people. However, they do not necessarily work for all women and gender-diverse people.

Adequate housing is a fundamental human right. Affordable, accessible housing is the goal that we should all be striving for. As part of this goal, we must support women, girls, and gender-diverse persons in their right to choose where they live.

Women, girls, and gender-diverse people best understand their own needs, and should be able to choose the safest and most appropriate housing option available to them. For some, this may be a shelter, hotel or respite site; for others, this may be in an encampment with (or in proximity to) their community. For those who remain in an encampment while waiting for appropriate housing solutions, the City of Toronto must take steps to ensure that the encampment meets their basic needs, including sanitary needs.

For Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people living in encampments, forced relocation represents ongoing colonial violence. Imposing a moratorium on encampment evictions respects their right to live on their land.

We call on Mayor Tory, Ms. Bedard, Ms. Romoff, and the City of Toronto to take seriously the calls for allowing those living in the encampments to stay where they have decided they feel most safe – but also ensure they are provided with appropriate resources to stay healthy while there.

Read our letter below, or download it here.