December 2, 2020
Dear Mayor Tory and Councillor Joe Cressy,
Images Festival is one of Toronto’s longest-running media arts festivals, operating out of 401 Richmond St. at the corner of Richmond and Spadina in Ward 10. For over 30 years, Images has been a site to present and celebrate the work of local and international media artists, and to encourage critical discourse around the politics of the moving image and our sector.
As an organization dedicated to serving and collaborating with artists, audiences, and arts professionals, many of whom are at various intersections of marginalized identities and experiences, we feel it necessary to respond to the City’s efforts to evict and displace people living in encampments across the city. Housing advocates have criticized these tactics, which are projected to leave approximately 1,000 people unhoused through the winter months.
By forcefully displacing people living in encampments, the City is demonstrating a fundamental lack of care for those who have been most affected by a decades-long housing crisis. The council’s public policies have done little to support Affordable housing and long-term solutions for those experiencing housing precarity. Furthermore, the City has failed to actively engage with or consult encampment residents and advocates, and has ignored individuals’ needs alongside their right to self-determine the safest housing conditions for them and the members of their community. The City’s campaign exacerbates the risks to health and wellbeing that these individuals live with daily and needs to stop now.
We are asking for a moratorium on all encampment evictions. We are asking the city to provide resources to support those living in encampments as outlined in the Faulkner Inquiry, including survival equipment and supplies (sleeping bags, fire-retardant blankets, and safe heat sources), as well as access to safe sanitation facilities. We are asking that the City support members of our community and neighbours who are working to provide solutions to this crisis, such as Khaleel Seivwright and the Encampment Support Network. Finally, we are asking that the City listen to the unhoused and their advocates, who are experts on their own needs, to develop longer-term solutions for safer shelters, affordable housing, and Rent-Geared-to-Income options across the city.
Images Festival’s Board of Directors:
Samuel La France, Executive Director
The ESN Toronto has prepared a list of resources, petitions, and templates to learn more and get involved in contacting city officials. Visit ESN’s Patreon page to contribute to the project of supporting those in need, and follow them on Twitter to stay up to date on news and progress.
Khaleel Seivwright’s project to build durable, insulated shelters for homeless people across Toronto. Visit Khaleel’s goFundme page to support this project, and consider signing this petition to demand that the project continue.
A templated letter and additional resources that you can use to contact City officials to voice your concerns.