Hands Off the Poor! Filipino Youth Solidarity with Toronto’s Encampment Residents

Anakbayan Toronto condemns the City of Toronto and the John Tory administration’s threats to forcibly clear encampments, leaving Toronto’s unhoused population in the cold amidst a global pandemic. These threats come after months of advocacy demanding the City of Toronto’s Shelter, Support and Housing Administration consult with encampment residents about their housing needs. As a progressive, militant, Filipino youth and student organization, we support the ongoing struggle of advocates, volunteers, and outreach workers fighting for shelter, housing, and self-determination of Toronto’s unhoused.

In lieu of sufficient consultations with encampment residents, the City devised a winter housing plan that is grossly inadequate. In response, the Encampment Support Network and other allied individuals, groups, and organizations organized to support the residents living in these encampments. The City is actively trying to stop these efforts and shut them down.

Khaleel Seivwright, a carpenter who built small insulated shelters, was threatened with legal action if the structures are not removed from parks. A community fridge, stocked with essentials and operating on a “take what you need, leave what you can” principle, was shut down by the city for being allegedly “abandoned”. Several groups have been constructing foam domes made of insulated foam and built-in carbon monoxide detectors. City officials have been tagging them for removal and in some cases seizing them altogether, citing “fire hazards”–despite evidence that they are more fire-proof than regular tents and sleeping bags. 

As Filipino youth in Toronto struggling for national sovereignty and genuine democracy in the Philippines, we see the strong parallels of neoliberal attacks against the poor and underhoused and the quelling of efforts led by the organized masses. In the Philippines, the urban poor constantly face threats of demolition. Not only homes, but also entire communities are routinely demolished to make way for luxury condominiums, shopping malls, and other commercial projects.

Residents of Sitio San Roque in Quezon City, the Philippines’ most populous city, live in fear of being evicted from their homes to give way for development projects proposed by the Quezon City Central Business District (QCCBD). Sitio San Roque is a neighbourhood that sits on government-owned land. It has 5000 residents, majority of whom are precariously underemployed.

Formations such as Kadamay San Roque (an urban poor organization) and the Save San Roque Alliance (a network of academics, professionals, students and writers) continue to organize and mobilize the residents of San Roque against neoliberal, anti-people policies. 

Not only do the urban poor of the Philippines face the constant threat of displacement and demolition, they are also criminalized and labelled as terrorists by President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration. Earlier in April, 21 residents of Sitio San Roque were arrested at a protest action demanding food and financial aid amid the government’s militarized COVID-19 lockdown measures. Duterte also did not hesitate to order police and military to “Shoot them dead” and kill citizens who defy lockdown orders. Currently, Solaire Resort & Casino threatens the San Roque residents with the US-Duterte regime’s Anti-Terror Law to quell and intimidate volunteers and residents highlighting human rights violations done onto them by Solaire.

As militant Filipino youth in Toronto, we call for an end to repressive policies, cuts, and band-aid solutions which ultimately hurt the poor and exploited masses, from Tory’s inadequate winter plan to Duterte’s Anti-Terror Law.

We stand with the Toronto’s encampment residents and the Encampment Support Network in their unwavering fight for the people’s right to housing, dignity, and self-determination and we abhor any attempt to intimidate or disenfranchise any member of the community or their volunteers.


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