Sleep over in Watkinson Park

FoWP are feeling pretty great about our first sleep over protest. We had a chili and roast corn feast, fire bowl, music (Mike Barths and Don Lewis – also community members), video projection (Rebecca Garrett), shadow puppets (Joce and Naty Tremblay with FoWP initiates), poetry reading (Ron Gii, Justin), speeches (Randy McLim OCAP, Angela Browning (FoWP), Donna Powless (Cayuga Six Nations, THPS), early morning gardening and sign painting… It was a busy night. Thank you to everyone who showed up and helped out, and for the many magical moments that we shared together!

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We also got some press from the Toronto Star. They got many things wrong – read the statement below for a more accurate idea of why we did this protest.

Protesters begin fight against destruction of green space and affordable housing in the Junction

STATEMENT OF FRIENDS OF WATKINSON PARK

Intro

Friends of Watkinson Park is a community group that got together when the city decided to renovate this park. Our first project was to become involved in the redesign process so that that the low-income people who use the park could have a say in how the park was. Since then FoWP has been doing activities with the low-income people of the neighbourhood. Watkinson park is important because it is really the only accessible green space for people who live in the surrounding affordable and social housing and women’s shelter down the road.

Gentrification

Those of you who live in the Junction are aware that over the past 8 years or so we have seen the neighbourhood gentrify at an alarming rate! This has meant there is no more room for the poor.

We know that there is permit application with the city for the next block just east of here for a 12 storey multi-use development. Probably retail on the ground floor and condo’s above.

Across the street here we here we know that the tenants units are not being maintained and that businesses have been forced to leave so that higher rents could be charged to new tenants. We know this is a common strategy that landlords use to gentrify their buildings.

We see this elsewhere in the Junction as well. Low-income people are being forced out and those who remain have less options for shopping and finding affordable services.

Loss of affordable housing, stigmatization and discrimination is a common experience. Many low-income folks in this area live with disabilities and often times addiction. While many people see us as transient and disposable in fact we make up a very stable and long term community.

People moving into condo’s or buying homes around here complain about people smoking on the street and see us as a blight on the neighbourhood and a danger to their children. We welcome all people to the park as long as they respect our rights to be here too.

We refuse to be treated this way any longer!

Our demand is for more really affordable housing, properly maintained, safe and rent geared to income.

Climate

Those people who are taking away our homes are also for the destruction of the environment via consumer lifestyles! We recognize climate change is brought on by the greedy and powerful, and it is the poor folks, mostly Black, people of color, Indigenous folks and disabled people who suffer the worst consequences.

Floods, droughts, melting poles, rising ocean levels, severity and intensity of storms, are indicative of this huge threat to life on the planet. These threats will cause intensified gentrification as wealthy people look for the safest places to live in a climate change time.

On the ground, we have seen community members getting tickets for smoking in the park, often because neighbourhood people have complained to the police. Supposedly this anti-smoking law is to protect children. It is ironic that at the same time as people are complaining about cigarette smoke, that WE and the children are forced to breath the toxic car exhaust from the traffic on Dundas West which is increasingly gridlocked and idling because of all the development is increasing density in the area.

The oil and gas industry fueling these cars are also the cause of war abroad and come from resource extraction on native land and are killing the planet for future generations.

Part of FoWP’s environmental work is the native garden that we had installed. This native plant garden shows us the connection we have to plants, insect and bird ecologies. It’s about spiritual healing in the park for low-income community members and others.

The native plant garden is also about recognizing and playing a small part in restoring Indigenous ecologies.

And now we are going further to network in a national movement to stop climate change. FoWP, is committed to working with others for a unified and powerful environmental movement, FoWP is also declaring our unity with the earth.

We agree with The Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth

Presented by Bolivia for UN recognition and which outlines some of the fundamental rights mother earth.

(1) Mother Earth is a living being.

(2) Mother Earth is a unique, indivisible, self-regulating community of interrelated beings that sustains, contains and reproduces all beings.

(3) Each being is defined by its relationships as an integral part of Mother Earth.

(4) The inherent rights of Mother Earth are inalienable in that they arise from the same source as existence.

(5) Mother Earth and all beings are entitled to all the inherent rights recognized in this Declaration without distinction of any kind, such as may be made between organic and inorganic beings, species, origin, use to human beings, or any other status.

(6) Just as human beings have human rights, all other beings also have rights which are specific to their species or kind and appropriate for their role and function within the communities within which they exist.

(7) The rights of each being are limited by the rights of other beings and any conflict between their rights must be resolved in a way that maintains the integrity, balance and health of Mother Earth.

Occupation of Indigenous Lands

Friends of Watkinson Park are also aware that the fight against climate change has been led by Indigenous peoples around the world.

We are also aware that Toronto is built on the traditional territories of the Huron-Wendat, Six Nations, Anishinaabe and Metis, and on the treaty lands of the Mississauga of the New Credit.

We are aware that the Junction sits in the middle of significant Indigenous sites:

There are ancient trail that runs along Davenport to Dundas. Also there are many other trails that are marked now by the road names: Indian Rd, Indian Grove Crescent and Indian Trail. There is the old Black Oak Savannah, which was formed through Indigenous horticultural practices that extended up from High Park and covered much of the Junction area. Also, in High Park and along the Humber River there are the ancient Iroquoian Burial Mounds. As well there is the ancient Seneca-Mohawk village of Taiaiako’on in Baby Point.

The history of colonization is violent and ongoing.

Friends of Watkinson Park will continue to resist the colonial historical narrative of the Junction that celebrates the white men, bankers, industrialists and land speculators who supposedly built the Junction. We will work towards greater awareness of the Indigenous history, both current and past. An Indigenous history that also includes important knowledge of how to live on the land in a respectful and sustainable way.

Thanks to: Donna Powless, Marlene Bluebird Stickings, Minutet Nima, Ardelle, Linda Downey,  Wren Jackson, Joce Tremblay, Randy McLim, Rebecca Garrett, Spider Campos, Marque Notrad Vrilboticus, AJ Withers, OCAP, Don Lewis, Mike Barths, Naty Tremblay, Philip Lee, Ron Gii, Justin, Eddy, Lucia Maceda…

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