Filed under: Canadian Tire Fire, Featured
This week our main stories cover ongoing fights against deportations in Ontario and Quebec, as well as housing struggles, rent strikes, and evictions in both Toronto and Montreal.
This past week, a gender studies professor and two of her students were stabbed at the University of Waterloo in a homophobic and transphobic attack by a former student. All three survived and the attacker was arrested. The event speaks to the ongoing rise in emboldened anti-trans and queer sentiments and violence, and the need, as ever, for communities to be ready to defend themselves.
— haudenoshouty (@MOHAWKEMOTIONS) June 29, 2023
In April of this year, the Kanien’kehá:ka Kahnistensera succeeded in ensuring further archeological investigation would be done on the site of the former Royal Victoria Hospital before McGill University could carry out further construction. On June 29th, as part of the investigations, search dogs found evidence of human remains at the site. The discovery confirms what the Kahnistensera have been saying for years: that the area may contain unmarked Indigenous graves that risked being excavated at the site, as well as archeological remains from a pre-colonial Haudenosaunee settlement.
In some rare positive legal news, three Haudenosaunee land defenders who have been facing charges for defending Land Back Lane have been granted absolute discharges!
Now on to this week’s news!
After 18 days of protest outside the Canada Border Services Agency offices in Brampton, hundreds of former international students learned that their pending deportations would be postponed indefinitely. Some of those people would otherwise have been deported that week. The students were victims of an scam that went undiscovered by both themselves and the Canadian government for years, before it was uncovered and around 700 Indian international students were notified that they’d likely be deported as a result (for more details, check out our last column).
For 18 days, the students, many of whom have now graduated and work in Canada, and their supporters, camped outside CBSA head office, held rallies, are communal meals and prayed in a last-ditch effort to force the government to stop the deportations. The protest camp ran on donations from community members and local businesses, many of whom are part of the GTA’s Sikh community.
Finally, on June 15, the Liberal government announced that all deportations would be postponed until they had been investigated. Community organizers, some of whom began organizing for the first time around this action, have vowed to continue the fight until the deportations are permanently dropped.
ਮੋਰਚਾ ਫਤਿਹ: After 18 days of protesting 24/7 in front of the CBSA headquarters in Mississauga, int'l students have secured an important win: the government is postponing all of their deportations until investigations into cases of misrepresentation are complete.
Our statement👇 pic.twitter.com/0wLyBKPYW5
— Naujawan Support Network (@NSNPeel) June 15, 2023
Meanwhile, the Montreal-based migrant rights organization Solidarity Across Borders recently posted a warning to community members that government activity around deportations has recently increased, including at least two visits to the homes of undocumented people who did not know the government had their address. Their post included safety tips for people who may be at risk of deportation, and a call for collective action:
While it’s vital to prepare individually, it is important to remember that you are not alone in confronting an unjust immigration and refugee system, whose laws are used to justify violently forcing people to leave. We have to continue to organize, mobilize and collectively fight back against detentions and deportations, which tear apart lives, families and communities. Political victories are possible.
Toronto Rent Strikes Going Strong
Breaking! 22 John St. tenants join their neighbours at 33 King St in rent strike against corporate landlord Dream
33 King tenants have been on strike since June 1st against rent increases 3 times higher than the guideline pic.twitter.com/VjmebJtn1z
— YSW Tenant Union (@YSWtenants) June 30, 2023
One month into the rent strike at corporate landlord-owed 33 King Street in Toronto, and a second building has joined the strike. Tenants at 22 John Street, another large building owned by Dream Real Estate, have announced they will be joining the strike and withholding their rent. Because 22 John Street opened in 2018, the building is not rent controlled, based on a decision by the Ontario government in 2018 to eliminate rent control for all the new buildings. As a result, tenants have faced rent increases of 7% to 10% each year since the building opened. Between the two buildings, over 300 Dream tenants are now on rent strike.
Tenants at 71, 75, and 79 Thorncliffe Park in Toronto are on rent strike to protest above guideline rent increases that price us out of our homes and community.
You can support us in our fight by donating to our rent strike fund.https://t.co/vQPmDqtnJL
— Thorncliffe Park Tenants (@tparktenants) May 16, 2023
Another rent strike in Toronto has been going strong since May – as tenants at 71, 75, and 79 Thorncliffe Park Drive have been withholding their rent to protest above-the-guideline rent increases from their landlord, PSP Investments. PSP is a Canadian crown corporation that manages pension funds for federal public service workers and others.
Housing Struggles in Quebec
In Quebec, July 1 is observed not as Canada Day but as moving day, when thousands of tenants move into new apartments or, increasingly, find themselves with nowhere to go. This July 1st, it was reported that over 100 people in Montreal found themselves newly without longterm housing. In all of Quebec, around 700 were left homeless. These reported numbers are likely vastly lower than the reality and, despite the city encouraging those without leases to reach out for assistance, only 25 families have been provided temporary housing by the city after doing so.
This is just one angle on the housing crisis in the province and in its largest city specifically. Rents are rising rapidly, and while some politicians have been making pitiful pleas for help from the provincial government, the crisis is likely only to accelerate. This is in part because the Coalition Avenir Quebec, the provincial ruling party, has recently tabled Bill 31, which notably would allow landlords to stop their tenants from transferring their lease. Lease transfers have long been a crucial, if limited, tool to prevent massive rent increases. Landlords associations have been grovelling to the CAQ to make this change, and they are now attempting to do so. If Bill 31 passes, it will make the housing crisis even worse than it already is. The CAQ housing minister France-Élaine Duranceau was forced to apologize after claiming that “tenants have been misusing lease transfers to keep rental rates low” and that tenants should, “invest in real estate if they want to control their costs.” On June 25th, thousands of tenants took to the streets in the Parc Extension neighbourhood against the bill.
In other Montreal housing organizing news, the Montreal Autonomous Tenants Union (SLAM-MATU) has been calling for support and solidarity at their recent and ongoing pickets of the Cucurull landlords offices. The tenants union recently beat a court injunction and have returned to mobilizing against the real estate family, who own 29 buildings and 446 units.
According to a text published on Montreal Counter-Info:
An open letter was signed by about 20 local, national, and international organizations. It was published by the collective Premiere Ligne, called “La justice fait taire les locataires! – Communiqué.” The letter explores the reprehensible actions of the landlords, Ian Cucurull & Martha Cucurull, against members of the SLAM delivering an innocent petition. Hair was pulled, a SLAM member was choked, a tenant of the landlord was trapped in the landlord’s office as the landlord, on video, smiled out their window, waving a knife.
Lastly, following months of back and forth in the courts, the Quebec Court of Appeal has ruled that the eviction of a longstanding encampment under the Ville Marie underpass in Montreal will be allowed to proceed. This marks the final decision after months of successful delays in the court and multiple public demonstrations in support of residents. While no date has been stated publicly for the eviction, news reports state that some residents have already packed up to leave despite still not having stable alternative housing.