Residents protest clearing of housing encampment in Kitchener (update)
Posted Nov 28, 2021 03:35:00 PM.
Armed with signs that said things like “being homeless is not a crime,” and “housing is a human right,” concerned citizens in the Region of Waterloo held a protest this afternoon at the former site of a housing encampment at the corner of Charles Street East and Stirling Avenue.
That encampment was cleared by regional bylaw enforcement on Friday afternoon, seeing the deployment of heavy machinery including a backhoe that had allegedly run over the belongings of those that had been residing in the space for the past few weeks.
At the protest, Amy smoke said Indigenous people are “well aware of what that feels like.”
“We are unsheltered, we are unhoused on our own lands… And we need to disrupt those systems. We need to stop allowing colonial enforcement, militarized state violence against people who are just trying to survive,” she said.
“On the coldest day so far, the region thought it was a good idea to bring bylaw, the police and heavy equipment to run over people's shelters to run over their belongings and just displace them further into the region. So we are angry,” said Jude Oudshoorn, who also spoke at the protest.
“But we are also full of love, because we love the people who are staying here, and we want to have a bigger heart as a community,” he said, getting the crowd to chant “we love you” to those who have been displaced.
Regional police have since confirmed they were also on scene to assist bylaw officials with their eviction.
Sharing a statement on the matter with CityNews 570, the Region of Waterloo had indicated that they'd worked throughout the week to “support individuals in the encampment,” notifying those that had been residing in the space that they could not remain there, and would need to find access to other housing services by Friday.
The region's decision to remove those individuals from the property at Stirling and Charles Street East has since drawn strong reaction from some members of the community, as concerned citizens group ReallocateWR calling for an immediate reallocation of police funding to a “community led response” to the housing crisis, likening the clearing of the camp with heavy machinery to “state violence.”
Several local dignitaries have also spoken out against the region's response to the encampment, as Green Party MP for Kitchener Centre called the eviction “disgusting”, while NDP MPP Laura Mae Lindo wrote on Twitter that “criminalizing poverty doesn't solve anything,” arguing that the decision to “invest in policing vs. upstream supports naturally criminalizes poverty.”
At the protest, MPP Mae Lindo said she spends much of her time “as an elected official talking about the importance of putting more love into the universe of leading with love. That means treating every single person with love, care, compassion, and recognising their dignity.”
She added that we need to be able to rely on “upstream services” to treat people with love and care.
“That's who we have to be able to call. If we can't call them, if we don't have enough people to be able to provide that care and support for those that are the most marginalized, we are not electing the right people,” she said.
Throughout the protest, donations were also collected for ACCKWA, a non-profit working with un-housed individuals.
The Region's CAO, Bruce Lauckner, has since indicated that the region is “conducting a review” on the process to clear the encampment, again emphasizing that regional staff “worked with community partners to support individuals in the encampment.”
A statement from the CAO on the encampment at Charles and Stirling, in Kitchener. pic.twitter.com/obmHnQVeRV
— Region of Waterloo (@RegionWaterloo) November 27, 2021
Vehicles passing on Charles Street sound their horns, with some waving to demonstrators. pic.twitter.com/2ZsOPY5bDq
— Luke Schulz (@lukeontheradio) November 28, 2021