What used to be a gem of a park situated in downtown Toronto is now a no-go zone thanks to dangerous squatters

Toronto’s Allan Gardens is a piece of urban parkland that comprises the Allan Gardens Conservatory. This edifice, dating back more than a century, is truly a gem, featuring tropical plants and exotic flowers.

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But what isn’t so gem-like is the parkland of Allan Gardens itself. It has been taken over by a tent city, and for whatever reason, the city is doing nothing to remove dozens of illegal squatters. Many who dwell here are drug users; it is not unusual to see someone imbibing on a crack pipe. There is also a criminal element at play here. Others struggle with mental illness issues.

The councillor for the ward that encompasses Allan Gardens is Chris Moise. He posted the following on social media in May: “This public park has become a private party grounds with music blaring, regular campfires, and rampant open drug dealing day and night. The park is unsafe for everyone. There have been sexual assaults, stabbings and overdoses happening regularly. Residents have reported to me that they have witnessed and experienced racist, sexist and homophobic verbal attacks, intimidation, as well as aggressive and violent behaviour, including physical assault. I have personally experienced this as well on my own walks through the park.”

And yet, the squatters of this encampment, breaking several sections of the Trespass Act, continue to camp out unmolested. We did reach out to Moise for comment but never heard back. We also reached out to the media relations team at the City of Toronto. We wanted to know why the city was tolerating this illegal encampment and whether it had plans to do anything about it in the near future. Hopefully, the city will reply.

In the meantime, allow us to speculate why politicians and police are hesitant to do clear out Allan Gardens: this inaction is likely due to a report by Toronto Ombudsman Kwame Addo. Last year, Addo criticized police and firefighters who cleared out the illegal encampment at another Toronto park, Trinity Bellwoods.

That’s right. Addo went to bat for the dangerous criminals and drug addicts occupying Trinity Bellwoods. Keep in mind while this filthy encampment was being tolerated, the city mandated that law-abiding visitors to Trinity Bellwoods remain in so-called “social distancing circles” – or receive an $880 fine. Bottom line: Ombudsman Kwame Addo is a woke disgrace; by condemning law enforcement for doing the right thing, Addo is clearly part of the problem, not the solution, when it comes to returning Toronto parkland to the law-abiding taxpayers who pay his salary.

Another complication is that Allan Gardens is one of the three parks designated by the City of Toronto as a Sacred Fire site. It’s part of reconciliation with Indigenous people: So it is that the city actually provides firewood, a fire bowl, an ash bin and other accoutrements. Maybe the intentions are good-willed, but look at the end result is gasp-inducing.

So it is that as politicians and law enforcement turn a blind eye to the illegal occupation of Allan Gardens, the city is investing millions of dollars into the renovation of the Palm House pavilion. But we must ponder if this is money well spent. Certainly, the flora within this gorgeous historical structure is a feast for the eyes and stands in stark contrast to the garbage-strewn parkland that surrounds it. Yet the question arises: who are the families that will visit Palm House when it reopens in the winter of 2024 given that Allan Gardens continues to exist as a no-go zone?

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