On November 25, the UN Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, an OCAP delegation of five women went into a Shelter and Housing Support office of the City of Toronto while a rally of hundreds gathered in the adjacent park. These women were demanding that the City act on its promises to reduce overcrowding in the shelters and, in particular, to open two 24-hour safe space drop ins for homeless women and trans people who face an especially high threat of violence on the streets.
The City not only refused to open any discussion with the women's delegation, but chose to deal with the issue as a police matter. Cops were called and, with shocking unneccessary violence and mysoginistic behaviour, arrested the five women. They were charged with 'mischief to property' and 'forcible entry', taken to the 53 Division and released some hours later.
To date, the charges have not been dropped. We are mounting a legal defence and a political challenge to these charges. The first court appearance on the matter was attended by a large gathering of supporters who packed the courthouse. Ironically, while the 5 women were in one courtroom charged with challenging violence and sexual violence that women and trans people face on the streets, former CBC radio broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi was in another facing three new charges of sexual assault.
The issues that the City tried to ignore on November 25, and have repeatedly tried to ignore, have not gone away and will not go away without immediate and long term action. There have been four known homeless deaths over the last month while shelters operate beyond capacity, turning people away nightly. The City has finally agreed to bring occupancy down to 90% across each sector, increase shelter beds and include the women's and trans people's 24-hour drop ins in the 2015 Budget. In the meantime, however, it will be necessary to ensure legal representation and support for the five women who were charged and to continue support for further organizing efforts.
We are seeking donations to help cover legal costs. Donations can be made here through gofundme.
Or cheques can be made out to- Ontario Coalition Against Poverty and earmarked 'Legal support' and mailed to OCAP.
In the event that we raise an amount beyond what is needed to fight the court case, we will allocate the rest of the funds to future organizing efforts related to issues of homelessness and to women and trans people who are homeless, or precariously housed, specifically.
If you would like to join the fight or to keep updated please contact:
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- Sean Major
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