Protesters assembled outside a downtown Toronto courthouse Tuesday morning, attempting to block sheriff’s office vehicles from leaving to enforce evictions.
The demonstrators, some of whom have been involved in other recent protests aimed at Mayor John Tory, reiterated a call on the mayor to enact an eviction moratorium within the city’s bounds.
Tory has previously rebutted that request, and claimed that doing so would be beyond his authority; city spokespersons say their legal team warned that any attempt to do so would “encroach upon provincial jurisdiction and would not withstand judicial scrutiny.”
A provincial halt on evictions, put in place during the pandemic, expired at the end of July.
As previously reported by the Star, more than 6,000 applications to evict tenants for nonpayment of rent were processed by the Landlord and Tenant Board between March 17 and July 19 of this year, despite Premier Doug Ford promising in the spring that no one would be kicked out of their homes for missing rent payments during COVID-19.
The eviction orders that protesters aimed to block from enforcement on Tuesday morning were ordered before the pandemic hit, demonstrator Cole Webber acknowledged.
“We know that the housing crisis in Toronto also predates COVID, and so tenants are taking this action on the basis that no tenant should be evicted during the pandemic, and this is the beginning of an escalation of an existing housing and homelessness crisis,” he told the Star.
“Evictions, under these conditions, are unacceptable.”
Bryan Doherty, a renter from Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood, said in recent years, rent in his neighbourhood had risen to a point where he’d seen neighbours struggle to make ends meet.
“They will not be leaving here to go to neighbourhoods across our city to pull people from their homes,” he said Tuesday morning.
The demonstrators also called for a repeal of Ontario’s new tenant and landlord legislation, Bill 18, which the province has presented as a way to strengthen protections for tenants — pointing out that it increases compensation for renters and encourages the mediation process.
Tenant advocates, meanwhile, have charged that the law will lead to speedier evictions — largely, due to a portion of the new legislation that allows landlords to seek eviction orders without an LTB hearing if their tenant falls behind on an agreed-upon repayment plan.
The changes in the new law are retroactive to the start of Ontario’s state of emergency.
Late last month, city council voted to launch a legal challenge of the legislation, on the basis that portions of the law are “contrary to the rules of procedural fairness and natural justice.”
Victoria Gibson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star