For Tibetans, the Fight for a Home Continues in Parkdale

For twenty years, Parkdale has been a “destination” neighbourhood for thousands of Tibetan refugees. They've made their homes in the mid and highrise apartment buildings up and down Jameson, Tyndall, Dunn, and the other streets and avenues of this neighbourhood. Their kids go to the schools, play in the parks, and chill on the corners and planter boxes of their neighbourhood. They organize their rallies outside the Chinese Consulate from the local shops and they march from Cowan Ave. They access public services from Parkdale Community Legal Services, Masaryk Cowan Community Centre, Parkdale Project Read Program, and multiple other settlement and language service centres. Programs of mutual aid and support spring independently from the library, shops, and apartment units here.

If the property owners and landlords in Parkdale have their way, this will all be a thing of the past. The “sense of community” and “diversity” that Tibetan working-class families have helped build in this neighbourhood has now made it a “destination” neighbourhood for others. And landlords are looking to cash in by pricing all of us out.

While what's going on today is different than the Canadian government's recent attempts to ethnically cleanse Parkdale of our Roma neighbours, it will carve a similar hole from the heart of this neighbourhood. Whereas craven racist politicians and their CBSA systematically deported hundreds of our Roma neighbours - they would hardly bat an eye at celebrating the “diversity” of “Little Tibet”. Nonetheless the cold economic logic of the politicians' best friends – developers and landlords – demands the displacement of all those that can't foot the bill for a $1,100 bachelor or $1,400 one bedroom apartment.

This cold capitalist math puts almost all long-standing tenants in Parkdale's buildings in the crosshairs of an eviction notice — not least of which the thousands of Tibetans that have made Parkdale their home. Displacement is an old story for Tibetan families, and gentrification is an old story in Parkdale. Tibetan organizers intend to bring both stories to a close.

For months there have been rumblings about what's being done to this neighbourhood by landlords, and what tenants can do to stop them. In stops and starts, tenants have knocked on their neighbours' doors, called lobby meetings, organized “town halls”, formed and re-formed committees, been to the tribunal, and crashed their landlords' offices. In many ways it feels as though something is building here. But still, the walk home from the grocer at the end of the month has us passing the remains of our neighbours' furniture thrown on to the curb, and every new month starts with U-Hauls blocking our driveways.

But this is no hard-luck story. Unwilling to give up yet another place they call home, a committee of Tibetan tenants in a building across from their local high school are ready to put it on the line and fight for their homes. They're squaring off against a multi-billion dollar international property conglomerate intent on stealing this neighbourhood. Every tenant that calls Parkdale home has a dog in this fight. Every tenant in Parkdale owes it to their neighbours and themselves to join this fight. We know who this fight is with – Akelius, Metcap, and all the other landlords who want us gone. We need to realize who this fight is for – Parkdale isn't just a “Liberty Village adjacent” neighbourhood. It's the people that call it home. If we want it to stay that way, we're gonna have to fight for it. If we want to win, we have to fight together. Our Tibetan neighbours are stepping this fight up. We need them to win and they need us to help. This is our neighbourhood, and we are neighbours. Let's start acting like it. We fight together, or we lose alone.

This Tuesday April 28, tenants from 188 Jameson will take their fight to the Landlord and Tenant Board, to appeal Akelius' second major above-guideline rent increase for their building. Regardless of the outcome, the fight for this neighbourhood will continue. Every tenant and building up and down Parkdale's streets needs to join the fight against the landlords and property developers that want to destroy our community. Neighbourhood power is what we need. Organizing is how we get it.

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