City of Toronto staff say no connection between community centre film shoot, park encampment removal

Click to play video: 'City of Toronto shuts down Alexandra Park homeless encampment'
City of Toronto shuts down Alexandra Park homeless encampment
WATCH ABOVE: Nine people were arrested on Tuesday as City of Toronto officials and police worked to clear out a downtown homeless encampment. Shallima Maharaj reports – Jul 20, 2021

Just two days after City of Toronto officials and the Toronto Police Service enforced trespass orders and cleared out a homeless encampment at Alexandra Park, a film crew has begun shooting a production at the adjacent community centre while the entire nearby green space remains fenced off.

However, questions were raised on Thursday after multiple film trucks and crews were seen at and near the Scadding Court Community Centre on Dundas Street West near Bathurst Street.

When asked about the production activity, municipal staff insisted there wasn’t a connection between the film shoot and the timing of the operation to remove homeless individuals from the park.

“The production has been there all week, prepping and have a film permit issued by the film office on July 15 to shoot inside the community centre,” a spokesperson told Global News in a statement Thursday evening.

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“Neither the film office [or] the production had any knowledge of the City’s enforcement of the trespass notice at Alexandra Park this week, nor did the City’s decision to enforce the trespass notice on Tuesday have anything to do with the film shoot. Staff involved in planning and enforcing the trespass notice had no knowledge of the film shoot or permit.”

Despite the filming activity at the community centre Thursday evening, Global News observed fencing was still in place around the perimeter of Alexandra Park.

It was during the early morning hours on Tuesday when a large contingent of City of Toronto crews, security guards and police officers arrived at the park to remove more than two dozen people who were living on the grounds. Only 11 of those people accepted offers for housing indoors. It was estimated there were up to 60 tents and structures at the park site.

“Camping in parks is not only unhealthy and unsafe, but is also illegal and so we have given ample notice to individuals who are encamped that they cannot camp there,” City of Toronto spokesperson Brad Ross said on Tuesday.

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“We have engaged with people living outside in encampments some 20,000 times since the start of this pandemic, making offers of safe indoor accommodation and ultimately housing. In fact, we have successfully referred more than 1,700 people inside since the start of the pandemic and housed some 5,800 people from shelters since the start of the pandemic…

“The parks need to be available to everybody, including people experiencing homelessness, but you can’t camp in a park and we have space available, we have services on offer to help individuals come inside and ultimately to be housed and to stay housed. That is critically important.”

Domenico Saxida told reporters Tuesday morning he has been living at Alexandra Park and said he doesn’t know where he’s going to go next.

“Canadians that are watching this now, you should be ashamed of your country, especially your politicians. I don’t know what level of government that’s supposed to be building geared-to-income housing, but COVID has brought this to light,” he said.

“As much … pain and suffering and death it’s caused, this pulls the carpet under that the government has been sweeping underneath the carpet for a very long time.”

Diana Chan McNally, the training and engagement coordinator with the Toronto Drop-in Network, said those who have been living in Alexandra Park have done so because it allows them to access much-needed resources.

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“In Kensington, they have supports; down on Queen Street they have supports. It’s accessible for them and they are right in the middle of that. If they get displaced very far away, do we know where they go? Not always. Are they going to be further away from things like an overdose prevention site, harm reduction supplies, meals and case management? Yes,” she said.

“So it’s going to be highly disruptive to them, which frankly will not only cause harm but also could result in people dying.”

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