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(en) Canada, Quebec's Housing Battles: Tent City begins in Montreal; Resistance continues at Guindonville - UPDATE

From Jaggi Singh <jaggi@tao.ca>
Date Sun, 6 Jul 2003 08:57:22 +0200 (CEST)


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MONTREAL, July 5, 2003 (7:05pm) -- On a muggy and hot mid-summer
afternoon, hundreds of housing activists and their supporters have
occupied a section of Montreal's Parc Lafontaine, where a Tent City has
been constructed. Hundreds of people continue to occupy the site,
enjoying food, drinks, conversation and music, while others are erecting
tents and tarps and arranging the site. A pirate radio station is
broadcasting about the Tent City (104.9fm in Montreal), and a Tent City
website is online, with web streaming and updated information
(http://tentcity.taktic.org). A general assembly of Tent City participants
is planned for tomorrow, and a full schedule of workshops and activities
are planned for the entire week. A large crowd is expected to be at the
Tent City this evening in support.

The Montreal police have made three announcements with a special sound
truck, reminding Tent City participants of various municipal by-laws:
parks must close at midnight, no outdoor fires are permitted, and tents
are not allowed to be erected in public parks. Police vans and cars are
located nearby the Tent City site, but have not intervened. A potential
intervention is possible if the police decide to enforce the municipal
park closure by-law or remove tents.

Today's action -- organized jointly by the Comite des sans-emploi, CLAC
Logement and the Housing Committee of Ahuntsic-Cartierville -- is in
response to Montreal's housing crisis, which is marked by vacancy rates of
less than 1%, increasing gentrification of formerly low-cost working class
areas, as well as increasing homelessness. Every July, hundreds of
Montreal residents with expired leases are rendered homeless by the lack
of affordable housing, while potentially thousands more are forced into
substandard or unaffordable apartments.

The Tent City organizers have three principal demands: Decent housing for
all; the end of the criminalization of poverty and homelessness; and the
repossession of empty buildings for community use. They are stressing the
anti-capitalist nature of their action, critiquing the root causes of the
housing crisis in Montreal. According to a flyer being passed out at the
Tent City ("Decent Housing for Everyone"):

"Behind the evictions and rent hikes, the homelessness and police, there
is a logic -- the logic of capitalism. Under capitalism, things are
produced, not because they are needed, but because they can be sold for a
profit. It's not that there simply isn't enough roofs to cover everyone in
Montreal that there is homelessness. There are unused buildings all across
the city. But under capitalism, houses are only made available to people
who can buy (or rent) them. The poor don't factor into the equations of
supply and demand. When landlords evict their tenants, it is because they
want tenants who can pay more -- they want more profit out of their
property. When police harass, brutalize and jail the homeless, it is in
order to raise the property values of the area."

The flyer ends on the following note:

"Of course our demands won.t be welcomed by the slimeball politicians who
run this city, or the scumbag landlords who profit off the housing crisis,
but that's only natural. They are the enemy. And we look forward to the
day when each of their mansions in Westmount will house 30 people, not a
few rich bastards."

[Westmount is one of Canada's wealthiest neighbourhoods, and the target of
a protest in May organized by CLAC Logement after Montreal's Anarchist
Bookfair this year, as well as a protest organized by the Comite des
sans-emploi on May 1, 2000.]


-- Previous, Current and Upcoming Housing Actions in Montreal and across
Canada

One of the co-organizers of today's protest, the Comite des sans-emploi
(The Committee of the Unemployed), has been active for a decade in
fighting against poverty, centred mainly in the poor Centre-Sud
neighbourhood of downtown Montreal. In 1997, members of the Comite entered
the Queen Elizabeth Hotel and removed steaming platters of food, which
they proceeded to serve to the poor outside. More recently, in the summer
of 2001, the Comite initiated a housing action that squatted an abandoned
downtown building. The squat, known as Overdale, lasted for several days
until it moved to an empty municipal building (the Prefontaine Squat) that
lasted for three months until a police intervention. [Squat article links
are included below.]

There have been several squat projects across Canada in the past two
years, including the Pope Squat in Toronto, the Woodwards Squat in
Vancouver, the Chevrotire Squat in Quebec City, the Seven-Year Squat in
Ottawa and many other actions. These public squat actions have sometimes
lasted for several months, but in the end, the police or city have always
intervened -- sometimes quite brutally -- to prevent autonomous groups and
projects from reclaiming abandoned buildings.

CLAC Logement (the Housing Committee of the Anti-Capitalist Convergence),
is a relatively young group, and has been focussed on opposing
gentrification in the St-Henri neighbourhood of Southwest Montreal. Last
fall, CLAC Logement organized a campaign against a local condo developer
-- Quai des eclusiers -- that is developing upscale condominiums on the
Lachine Canal. Due to the campaign, Quai des eclusiers was forced to take
out a temporary court injunction against protests by CLAC Logement.

Organizers of today's Tent City action expressed their solidarity with an
ongoing Tent City in downtown Vancouver, as well as a squat action in
Peterborough, Ontario. Meanwhile, another Tent City is planned for
Sherbrooke, Quebec later this month. Earlier in the week, another squat
was cracked temporarily in Kitchener, Ontario (the "Robbie Guest Squat",
named after someone who died in the custody of Family and Children
Services).


-- Lockdown continues in Guindonville ...

Montreal Tent City participants were joined today by supporters of
Guindonville, a community several hours north of Montreal near Val-David
in the Laurentians. Residents of Guindonville are resisting the razing of
their low-rent and low-cost homes. The homes are slated for demolition by
local municipal authorities in order to build a parking lot to allow
access to local hiking trails and provincial parks.

Some of the homes at Guindonville are more than 60 years old, and are made
of stone and wood. Municipal authorities decided to raze the homes because
they were the cheapest to expropriate, and because some officials
considered the unique homes an eyesore (presumably in comparison with more
modern condos, cottages and parking lots).

The struggle at Guindonville now involves tree and roof occupations.
Several residents have set up shelters on treetops beside their homes,
while one resident -- Kathy Pitre -- has settled on her roof, ready to
attach herself to a 600 pound barrel of concrete to prevent any sort of
police intervention. One observer joked that "monkey police" will be need
to remove the resisters at Guindonville.

---> For updated info about the situation in Guindonville, visit:
http://www.guindonville.ca.tc

---> For updated info about the Tent City in Montreal, visit:
http://tentcity.taktic.org

---> Pirate Radio about the Tent City is accessible at 104.9 FM in
Montreal

---> For previous articles on the Overdale and Prefontaine Squats (Summer
and Fall 2001), consult the following links:
http://www.cmaq.net/fr/node.php?id=6474
http://www.cmaq.net/fr/node.php?id=6482
http://www.cmaq.net/fr/node.php?id=6497
http://www.cmaq.net/fr/node.php?id=6507
http://www.cmaq.net/fr/node.php?id=6835

[by Jaggi Singh (jaggi@tao.ca) for act-mtl, Indymedia Montreal and CMAQ.]


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