City of Toronto, police face lawsuit over removal of homeless camps
Oct. 25, 2021
Five people who say they were injured in a violent clash that erupted as the City of Toronto cleared a homeless encampment at Lamport Stadium in July are suing the city and the police.
The lawsuit claims damages for traumatic brain injuries, lacerations, injuries inflicted by police batons and post-traumatic stress.
The plaintiffs’ lawyer said the lawsuit is one way to ensure some public accountability for police and city officials since Mayor John Tory has opposed calls for a public inquiry.
The tent encampment that grew on the Lamport grounds after the start of the pandemic in March, 2020, exposed the city’s housing crisis and became an unwanted eyesore, the plaintiffs argue, leading the city to respond by trying to push out the homeless.
“There are people unhoused in this city. Militarized clearing of these places is not the way to go,” said the plaintiffs’ lawyer, David Shellnutt.
Mr. Shellnutt said video and photographic evidence of police confronting protesters that day will form an important part of the case.
“The general public saw what happened,” Mr. Shellnutt said, referring to videos of violence involving police and protesters. “If this is how we’re going to deal with these kinds of things, we have a problem.”
Ollie D’Agostino, a 31-year-old data analyst who uses the pronoun they, alleges their face was pushed into a wood crate by a Toronto police officer and then suffered repeated blows from a baton despite being “otherwise pacified,” the lawsuit states. They suffered serious physical and psychological injuries, the suit claims.
Skyler Williams, a 38-year-old steel worker, alleges he was hit in the face with a steel police baton. Callisto Durose-Moya, a 25-year-old dancer, alleges she was thrown to the ground by a police officer and hit her head on the concrete, suffering injuries for which she was treated in hospital.
Ellie Adekur, 29-year-old food bank employee, and Keith Cameron, a 31-year-old who works as a bike courier and in film production, also allege they suffered assaults at the hands of police.
“Housing is a human right. We shouldn’t have to be brutalized to make this point clear to bureaucrats,” Ms. Durose-Moya said. “Homeless people and their allies are not criminals and shouldn’t be treated like them.”
The city spent more than $2-million in staffing, security and restoration costs on clearing encampments in three city parks, Lamport included, over the summer.
Mr. Tory and city officials defended the move to dismantle the encampments, saying they were unsafe and posed a fire risk. The city said staff went to some lengths to convince residents to leave of their own accord.
More than 20 people were arrested when Toronto police cleared the Lamport encampment. At the time police said three officers were injured.
Many of those living in tents at Lamport were once housed in city shelters, but after the onset of the pandemic, some felt unsafe because of the risk of disease transmission in a communal setting.The lawsuit names the City of Toronto, the police services board and four Toronto police officers as defendants. The plaintiffs are seeking more than $100,000 each in damages.