Source: Sue-Ann Levy

Following the summer takeover of several downtown Toronto parks with homeless encampments in 2020, our weak-willed politicians ended up in court to fight the activists who didn’t want the campers evicted.

Their court submission documented “frequent” violent incidents, human trafficking, fires, unsanitary conditions and rampant drug dealing.

The city referred to significant health and sanitation problems in the encampments including thousands of used needles, garbage, rats and human excrement.

Both park users and city staff became afraid to use the public parks after being subjected to violence and threats from the drug-addicted squatters.

After considerable political foot-dragging, the parks were cleared and pretty much stayed fit for regular use by tax-paying city dwellers until Mayor Olivia Chow was elected last summer.

That’s when downtown Allan Gardens became the camping ground for out-of-control addicts and the Indigenous (who were permitted to have a sacred fire in the park).

While down there last summer I was chased by a screaming drunk woman who tried to steal my iPhone.

But it’s set to get a whole lot worse this summer.

A new lax protocol for Toronto encampments — which will be before committee on Wednesday — will no doubt return the city to 2020, if not worse.

Led by socialist Alejandra Bravo and sanctioned by the incompetent Chow, it will substitute a “human rights approach” for the enforcement of the bylaw that forbids camping in public parks.

The no-camping bylaw at least permitted those politicians with a shred of gumption and courage to clear the parks.

Now it seems squatters’ rights will take precedence over those of working Toronto residents and their children who were no doubt looking forward to using the parks for fresh air and exercise this summer.

These are the kids who have been cooped up in apartments all summer and whose parents can’t afford to get out of the city.

 It is clearly an irony considering socialists like Bravo purport to be champions for the working poor.

The protocol’s human rights approach calls for “meaningful engagement” with those living in encampments to “understand their needs” and treat them with the “same dignity, respect, kindness and compassion” as is done with normal residents.

Let me get this straight. 

City officials are being directed to “understand the needs” of the largely drug-addicted who feel they’re entitled to squat and destroy a public park — and who scream obscenities at anyone who dares come near them.

This is one huge example of a false equivalency.

In allowing encampments to fester by hugging and stroking the squatters, City Hall is not showing compassion, respect or kindness in the slightest towards lawful city residents.

The world has gone mad.

Still it seems odd that a City Hall that can’t manage the grass or weeds on city medians or in parks has an Encampment Office to “tailor” a response to each “unique״ encampment.

The new policy makes it quite clear that Sacred Fires in parks at designated sacred fire sites (Allan Gardens in downtown Toronto being one) are not encampments.

So I’m guessing the people who set up tents around these sacred fires are not squatters either.

The protocol sounds like a bureaucratic nightmare, no doubt done deliberately to ensure they never get cleared.

And the numbers say it all. According to city statistics, there were 256 encampments at 131 (!) city-owned properties including Allan Gardens as of May. 5.

Don’t be surprised if that doubles.

The encampment office, in addition to reviewing encampments as they are reported, will “lead a coordinated process” if there are safety issues — not for the surrounding community, mind you but for the squatters — that will involve a number of city departments and Toronto Fire to “assess the risks.”

The degree of risk will be determined depending on how big the encampment is, the presence of propane tanks or other heating devices, violent incidents, the presence of weapons and criminal activity and incidents of injury or death.

The protocol says the city will support the health and safety needs of the squatters by providing sanitation and hygiene facilities (toilets and sinks); garbage disposal, safety checks, fire safety education, crisis prevention supports and safe disposal of harm reduction supplies. 

My goodness, why didn’t they mention delivering them UberEats?

The protocol also states that while they will “take the time to develop trusting relationships” with the squatters and to identify indoor space “that meets their needs”, city officials recognize that they can’t force campers to accept services or supports.

”The city is committed to exhausting reasonable tools and options to support people living in encampments,” the protocol says.

The new policy makes it clear that enforcement will be the last resort and city officials will need to jump through hoops to carry it out.

The protocol says enforcement will only be executed when the encampments pose a public safety or health safety risk to other squatters or the surrounding communities or the squatters continue to decline indoor space.

It is interesting to note that it is only on the last page of the protocol does the city provide information on how business improvement areas, residents associations and the public can notify the city — by contacting 311 — of problems like noise, waste, fire hazards and safety issues at encampments.

I’m guessing they’ll do nothing about complaints just as 311 takes its sweet time to address far less important issues.

But this was to be expected under the stewardship of Chow and her ideological, out-of- touch-with-reality colleagues.

Just as Chow and her late hubby Jack Layton left squatters on Home Depot lands in Cherry Beach way back in 2002, she will sacrifice Toronto’s parks this summer (some 20 years later) to make yet another ridiculous statement about the need for affordable housing.

That’s what Toronto gets for electing a politician and a group of socialists who don’t have the first clue about governing, only care about special interest groups and have no idea what it takes to make a city great.


  • Sue-Ann Levy

    A two-time investigative reporting award winner and nine-time winner of the Toronto Sun’s Readers Choice award for news writer, Sue-Ann Levy made her name for advocating the poor, the homeless, the elderly in long-term care and others without a voice and for fighting against the striking rise in anti-Semitism and the BDS movement across Canada.