MONTREAL – Several dozen squatters have taken over a vacant lot in St. Henri to protest how gentrification and condo development are affecting the local community.
“City administration has rolled out the red carpet for developers,” Normand Laforce, a protester and St. Henri resident, said in a statement.
The protesters, who have been occupying the lot on Notre Dame West and St Philippe Street since Saturday, June 1, were facing eviction Wednesday.
Squatting essentially means to occupy abandoned land or property without lawful permission. It’s a form of protest that has been used in Canada and around the world to raise awareness about land issues.
Media were asked not to enter the camp and the collective, who call themselves “A qui la ville?,” issued a general statement calling on city officials to create for more social housing in the neighbourhood.
One pamphlet read: “Social housing is a right, for which we’re gonna fight. Condos everywhere I see, none of them are for me.”
The squatters are concerned about condo development in the area, which may drive out families that can no longer afford to stay.
“In 2011, we did a study of vacant lots along Notre Dame. In this corner of the street that we’re occupying, two of four lots were turned into condos in the same year,” noted Patricia Viannay, a member of the collective, in a statement.
“Social housing is a right, for which we’re gonna fight. Condos everywhere I see, none of them are for me.”
The owner of the vacant lot, local businessman Peter Sergakis, told Global News that he has asked police to intervene and evict the protesters.
He said he was prompted to call police after local residents called to complain.
“I let them pass the message,” he said. “We’re in a democratic country, but I think enough is enough.”
Montreal police told Global News that they hoped the situation could be resolved.
“We will not divulge our strategy but we want a peaceful end to this.”
Watch: Businessman and landlord Peter Sergakis shares why he’s asked police to intervene and evict the squatters