Tent City “residents” make Charter challenge to live in public parks

Dozens of Toronto parks have been taken over by “tent cities,” occupied by homeless people and, sometimes, political activists. Where there should be greenery, there are now filthy tents, some of which are occupied by violent people and, in some cases, vicious animals.

Apparently, Toronto was poised to act by finally getting around to cleaning up the numerous tent cities that are now in the city's public parks — the idea being to house homeless in shelters and even hotels. But apparently... that's not good enough.

Last week, a group comprised of activist organizations and tent-city dwellers sought an interim order to allow the individuals to stay in Toronto parks until — and I'm not making this up — a constitutional challenge of the city’s bylaws pertaining to parkland can be heard. 

Their argument? The trespass act should not apply to public parks. Though housing is being offered to the homeless, they believe vagrants have a “constitutional right” to camp out overnight, to cook, and presumably, to urinate and defecate on parkland.

A CBC report notes how the group’s lawyer, Selwyn Pieters, has said that attempts to remove the tent cities violate the occupant's “charter rights.” Furthermore, Pieters said the city's attempts to clear the camps are “cruel.”

Cruel? How about what happened to me at Trinity Bellwoods Park last month when a vagrant by the name of Dean Eidse decided I didn't have a right to film in the park and assaulted me! My cameraman and I weren't bothering him, just using the backdrop of a filthy tent to shoot the introduction to my report. 

Eidse tried to destroy our camera, steal our microphone, and sent his large mastiff after me, leaving me with some serious bites that required attention at the hospital. The mastiff was already on the dangerous dogs list for biting other people, so why was he allowed at the park? Fortunately, Eidse and one of his tent-city colleagues are being charged for their attack on me and my cameraman. 

These days, the city is actually offering the tent-city people hotel rooms. Yet, apparently, that’s not good enough either. CBC's report notes how a man named Derrick Black was offered a hotel room, but he declined the offer because his “social connections and services” are near the tent city at Moss Park.

His lawyer, Mr. Pieters, said the following: “If the city offers him the appropriate accommodation and housing support, I'm sure Mr. Black will gladly accept it.”

“Appropriate accommodation”? So much for that old adage of “beggars can’t be choosers.” And why is Mr. Black unable to use public transit to visit his “social connections and services"?

The City of Toronto says more than 10,000 used needles were collected by staff this summer alone in and around these parks. This poses a serious health risk to the public. 

City spokesman Brad Ross rightfully said, “City parks are for everybody. It's not appropriate to be camping in parks. It's safer to be inside where you have access to water, to facilities like washrooms and showers and the services we provide, like meals, and wraparound health services.”

Personally, I thought the tent city's legal demands were going to be thrown out of court on day one. But no! A judge actually heard their argument, and he will render his judgement in a few weeks. If he rules in favour of the tent-city people and their advocates, then the city’s parks will be surrendered to a cabal of squatters that include drug addicts and the mentally ill while law-abiding taxpayers will have to avoid the parks if they value their safety. Sad!