On March the 15th, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) officially released its report Out in the Cold on the state of the Toronto shelter system . The study’s findings are based on numerous interviews with service users and workers. It points out to a shelter system in crisis, plagued by constant overcrowding, harsh living conditions and a city government unwilling to take action.
CKUT reporter Chloe interviewed one of the writers of this report for a summary of the OCAP’s findings. Some of the statistics are hard to believe. For instance, 81% of the people surveyed stated that they had been denied a shelter bed because the shelters were full (see the chart above)! Equally shocking, in most shelters occupancy levels exceeded 90% every night. This is highly problematic given that overcrowded shelters lead to a high stress environment, a poor night’s rest and health issues. Luckily, OCAP volunteers and engaged citizens are taking action against this situation. Check out this video to get an idea of the scope of the protests happening in Toronto.
To get a sense of the state of the shelter system in Montreal, we also interviewed Francois Boissy who is the director of operations at La Maison du Pere, one of the largest homeless shelters in the city. He points out some of the differences between the way the cities of Toronto and Montreal deal with their homeless populations.
Aside from the administrative aspect of the shelter systems of Toronto and Montreal, an important question remains: “how does it feel, for people on the ground, to experience the shelter system in both cities?” Michel, an ex-homeless man that lived on the streets for two years from 2009-2011, explained to our reporter his personal experience with Montreal shelters. In this fascinating interview he talks about the reasons why he became an itinerant in the first place, the different shelters he slept in, food conditions and how shelter services helped him get out of the streets. We are truly grateful for his trust in sharing this story, the full interview is available for stream and download below.
On Monday 27 July, the Black Lives Matter Toronto coalition held a “day of action”. The goal: call for an end to police brutality and to seek justice after the death of two black men – Jermaine Carby was shot at a traffic stop and Andrew Loky was killed in an apartment building- in the past year.
Desmond Cole, a black Toronto writer and activist, says: “This is not about people inconvenienced for one night in the highway. It’s about almost 30 years of police brutality against one community. That’s how people should view this”.
Alexandria Williams is one of the co-fondators of the Black Lives Matters Toronto coalition. We asked her about the action, and the coalition and its motivations.
An important international demonstration happened in Toronto on May 16, where people gathered to protest against psychiatric electroshock treatment. It was organized by the Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault (CAPA) and happened simultaneously in over 25 cities around the world.
CKUT’s Kateryna Gordiychuk had a chance to interview Don Weitz, an insulin subcoma shock survivor before the demonstration, which you can find HERE. He shared why the protest is a historic event and what is special about it. CKUT wants to thank Aishwarya Singh for being present during the protest on May 16th and providing the materials for us, which allowed CKUT to report on its happenings.
The gathering included many shock survivors willing to tell others about their experiences, either by reading from the book or by a spoken word, to prevent further violence from electroshock activity. There was chanting and passionate cheering, which proved just how much the subject should be addressed.
CAPA has a long history of initiating such demonstrations, including annual international ECT focused on women and the elderly. This particular protest is specifically targeting the American Psychiatric Association, which is believed to have constantly lied about shock therapy, claiming that there is no harm to the patient.
In fact, research has shown that shock always causes brain damage (Zarubenko et al., 2005), memory loss and cognitive impairment (Sackeim et al., 2007). There is also a consent issue involved, as patients are rarely (if ever) asked if they want to be treated with electroshock.
Who Are We Talking To?
The interactive interview is with Don Weitz, an insulin subcoma shock survivor, who has been an antipsychiatry activist for over 30 years. He is an active member of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. The discussion touches upon the importance of the demonstration in Toronto and psychiatric “treatment” in general.
Hind Awwad is the former coordinator of the Boycott National Committee (BNC) in Palestine, and is currently working with the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA) in Toronto. CKUT spoke with her for the Palestine Solidarity Sessions about how people can get involved in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and how we can build winning campaigns in the wake of this summer’s Gaza massacre.
For more info about CKUT’s Palestine Solidarity sessions, click here.