Riot police violently evict housing rights activists from Montréal park

[MONTRÉAL] On July 5, 2003, approximately 400 housing rights activists and the homeless set up camp in Parc Lafontaine–one of Montréal’s larger parks, situated in the heart of the Plateau Mont-Royal. Prior to setting up the camp near the western edge of the park, the group staged a short march along the park’s perimetre before entering and raising tents.

In 2003, Montréal faced a housing crisis. The city had rapidly declining and extremely low vacancy rates. The average for the city was at 0.5% with the lowest rate being in Côte-des-Neiges 0.1%.

Condominium construction and rental unit conversions into condos was on the rise, leaving fewer affordable places to live. François Saillant, president of FRAPRU, a Montréal-based housing rights group, refers to the 1994 cuts in federal spending on social housing by the Liberal government left the city with a shortage of 22,500 units.

July 1 is an important date in Québec. It is the day when most yearly leases in the province expire if they are not renewed. It’s “moving day”. In 2002, 750 people in Montréal found themselves without an appartment to move to on moving day, leaving them relying on family, friends and the Red Cross to offer them temporary shelter.

The 2003 film (below), captures the initial positive mood of the camp. A 1-watt radio transmitter was set up to offer music and information to the tenters, soccer games were organized, and free food was served for supper. Claude, a homeless man who otherwise sleeps under bushes in Parc du Mont-Royal, said that his favourite part of the day was eating lunch. When asked if he was still hungry, he replied, “Yes, but I’ll leave a chance for others.”

Montréal parks, including Parc Lafontaine, are officially closed between midnight and 6:00am. After midnight, a warning is given to the one hundred activists who decided to stay after the park’s closure. Sometime before 1:00 am more than 125 police in full riot gear move in formation and violently expel those who remained. One activist argued that during a housing crisis when hundreds have yet to find an appartment, then public spaces like parks should be available to camp in. At least one person was arrested.

Tent City – Collectif Les Lucioles- 11:32

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