Cops and Condominiums: Poverty and Gentrification in Toronto's Downtown Eastside

By Alex Balch

According to the Toronto Star, I live in the worst neighbourhood in the city.

This past April, in an innocuously titled article “Dundas-Sherbourne poised for a surprising rebirth”, The Star's Robyn Doolittle pointed out that Toronto's downtown eastside “consistently tops every major Toronto police crime indictor list” — routinely beating the more notorious neighbourhoods of Jane and Finch, Rogers and Keele and Weston and Lawrence.

In the article Doolittle rightly — albeit disingenuously — attributes the area's high levels of criminality to its heavy concentration of poverty:

Bordered by Carlton St. to the north, Parliament St. to the east, Queen St. to the south and Jarvis St. to the west — an area less than one square kilometre in size — this tiny quadrant of the city harbours three of the city’s largest homeless shelters, 32 legal rooming houses and 14 suspected illegal ones, more than a dozen abandoned lots and buildings, and one of the largest clusters of social housing in the city.

So what solution did the Star's Urban Affairs correspondent offer up to remedy this crime-ridden 'quadrant'? New public housing units? Increased social investment? Community policing initiatives?


Rather than an honest look at the very real problems faced by the area's residents, the article was instead an unapologetic fluff piece for gentrification. The downtown eastside, with its cheap property rates, old Victorian houses and close proximity to the city core, has long been slated for redevelopment. Real estate developers view the neighbourhood – nestled between a constantly expanding Ryerson University to the west and north and the increasingly gentrified neighbourhoods of Regent Park and Cabbagetown to the east – as an untapped resource and prospective cash-cow. The only thing standing in their way is all the unsightly poor people.

Interview with UK Uncut

[b][i]On August 9 2011, Linchpin spoke with Tim Matthews, a member and spokesperson of the anti-austerity group UK Uncut.[/i][/b]

[b]Linchpin:[/b] For some of our readers in Canada who may not be familiar with your organization, what is UK Uncut? How does your group organize?

[b]Tim Matthews:[/b] UK Uncut began towards the end of 2010. The Liberal-Democrat/Conservative coalition government had come to power in the UK, and they put out an announcement in their comprehensive spending review that there was going to be over £80 billion worth of cuts to the public sector, to public sector jobs and services, over the next five years. So UK Uncut was formed by a group of friends who were really frustrated and angry at the government's position, the government's story about what was going on in the country and what needed to happen to the economy... because we really didn't think they were telling the whole story. We felt they were trying to pull the wool over people's eyes by saying that we needed to really cut back... to cut spending. That we couldn't afford public services and that there was no alternative – just as we'd heard in the 80's. And also that they weren't holding those who'd caused the crisis to account (i.e. primarily the banking and financial sector) and were even looking to raise the incomes of people and corporations who, if they were properly taxed, would be able to pay for more than we were having to pay for the crisis itself. UK Uncut therefore decided to begin, with its first action, to look at corporate tax holdings. So Vodafone... which didn't deal with the government to avoid £6 billion worth of tax. So the first actions were direct actions at Vodafone's flagship store on Oxford Street. And that was in late October... and then it kind of moved from there. The main tactic, which has been really successful, has been occupying chains of high-street stores, tax avoiders and banks to draw attention to these issues.

Linchpin Issue 14

Issue 14 of Linchpin, the newspaper of Common Cause, is now online and available for downloading and printing.

This Austerity themed issue features an interview with UK Uncut, articles on the current attack on the right to strike, building Solidarity Networks, a critical assessment of the "Days of Action", and much more!

Download Linchpin now!

or contact us to get paper copies to distribute in your community, activist organization, union, or workplace in Ontario.

Fighting for the Right to Strike

By Mick Sweetman

This past year has witnessed a renewed assault on unionized workers that should be seen for what it is: a co-ordinated attack on the right of workers to collectively bargain with their employers.

One of the opening salvos in this new wave of class warfare occurred immediately after the far-right ideologue Rob Ford was elected Mayor of Toronto on a platform of “stopping the gravy train”—none-too-subtle code words for attacking public sector workers and the services they provide.

One of the Ford administration's first acts in office was to pass a motion at City Council asking the Ontario government to declare the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC)–whose workers had gone on strike in the summer of 2008—an “essential service”. The Liberal government of Ontario was only too happy to pass this anti-union legislation. For the first time in Canadian history, public transportation workers were legally banned from using their main source of leverage: they can no longer strike. In the future, TTC contracts will automatically go into binding arbitration.

This should not be seen as an incident isolated to TTC workers, but rather as a clear attack on the right to strike itself. Seeing as the usual pattern for arbitrated contracts often produces higher wages and more benefits than those received through a negotiated contract process, the attack on workers' right to strike isn't about saving “taxpayers' money”—despite what far-right politicians claim. Rather, it is about imposing control on the working class as a whole and forcing us into a totally subservient position to the bosses.

Legislation that strips workers of our right to strike is designed to attack the fundamental weapon we have—the power to withdraw our labour. It is designed to take control out of our hands as rank and file union members and place it solely in the hands of professional union negotiators and government arbitrators.

Dead on Arrival: A Critical Assessment of the Days of Action Against Harris, 1995-1998

By Gerard Lefebvre

In 1995, Mike Harris was elected Premier of Ontario, bringing an end to Bob Rae's five year NDP government. The province was ailing under a deep recession, which had seen many manufacturing and public service jobs threatened by what the governing NDP had referred to as “a new economic reality”. Elected into office by a population thoroughly dissatisfied with status quo responses to these economic maladies, the NDPs crafted a wholly inadequate response to the situation: a meld of traditional Keynesian anti-recession spending mechanisms and hard-line cuts to programs and services; Rae instituted a "welfare fraud" policing task force and new policies on student loans that ensured students would be saddled with debt years after completing their education. They also began what amounted to an attack on unionized public sector workers, demanding rollbacks and wage freezes.

These measures were perceived, quite correctly, as Rae capitulating to the broader political climate of austerity. The 1980's saw Reagan in the U.S. and Thatcher in the U.K slash social spending as an ideological response to a slow economy; these measures, and the electoral successes they yielded, provided a cue to conservatives around the world. In Ontario, the Progressive Conservative party had traditionally been a relatively centrist body, emphasizing growth in sectors like health care and education. The electoral wins of ideological Thatcherites around the world, coupled with the homegrown failures of an NDP government characterized by half-measures and capitulation, provided the impetus for a hard right shift in the body of the party, a shift that was finalized by the election of Mike Harris to party leader in 1990.

Who's Streets? Our Streets! An Interview with Hamilton CopWatch

[b]An Interview with the organizers of Hamilton Cop-Watch[/b]

Copwatch is a network of activist organizations dedicated to the observation and recording of police interactions with the public. Formed in the 90's in Berkely it now has chapters throughout the United States and Canada. Scott, a lead organizer of the new Hamilton branch has offered to answer some questions for us before departing to Israel-Palestine on academic research.

[b]What was the impetus behind forming this group? [/b]

The motivation behind the formation of Hamilton CopWatch is, at base
level, the same drive which has given rise to CopWatch groups across this
continent and beyond for over the past 20 years: a deeply felt need
to construct cooperative sources of protection against police abuse. In
the face of a local police force whose daily operations threaten the
safety, well-being and dignity of our communities, we have been compelled
out of necessity to seek out our power in numbers, as an organization
dedicated to placing a greater degree of accountability upon cops in our
neighbourhoods. We do this by asserting and enacting our right to observe
and monitor police activities in public spaces (our first street patrols
are set to move forward this year); educating ourselves and the wider
community on our rights when dealing with police; and mobilizing the
masses in demonstrations surrounding issues of police abuse and

[b]How have you tried to get your message out so far?[/b]

Stories from the CUPW Lock Out: or how to create a story that can reshape who we are and how we act

by Bruce 'the Bruiser' Darden

Before the Lockout[/b]

In the spring of 2011, during the rotating strikes and subsequent lockout of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), anarchists living in southern Ontario attempted to organize support and solidarity for their working class brothers and sisters. Specifically, members of Common Cause took an active role organizing community solidarity and fightback in Toronto and Hamilton. These members did not organize under the banner of Common Cause, but participated in the activities planned by the mass organizations that these members are a part of—especially Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP); the Greater Toronto Workers' Assembly (GTWA); Steel City Solidarity (a solidarity network in Hamilton); and CUPE Locals 3902 & 3907.

The Saturday before the lockout I joined some comrades, in a GTWA initiative, to flyer subway and transit stations. The flyer was created to inform the public about issues the postal workers were facing; it contained information about the two-tiered contracts, unhealthy workplace conditions being forced on the posties, and some history about the role of CUPW in providing maternity leave for all people in Canada. The results of this action were many brief conversations on the street and around 2,500 handbills distributed to various areas within Toronto.

Solidarity with the Seattle Anarchists!

Solidarity with the Seattle Anarchists! One member of Seattle Solidarity Network & our sister organization the WSA has been arrested after police crashed an anarchist party arresting 7 people.

On July 24th at about 10:45, between 30 and 40 anarchists gathered outside the downtown jail for a noise demonstration in solidarity with the six still in jail from last night's arrests. (One of the seven arrested has been released.)

The noise demonstration proceeded around the jail for about 15 minutes, banging pots and pans, banging on road signs and walls with sticks, throwing fireworks, writing anti-cop slogans on walls, and blockading the streets around the jail.

At this point, cop cars came from all directions, including undercover cars and canine units. The demonstration attempted to disperse, but many people were chased down. At least fifteen people were arrested, and five more were detained and released.

This is a call for all kinds of solidarity acts--including an appeal for funds. Those who are not currently in jail need to help to bail out and provide further legal support for their friends and comrades.


Harper Dégage! Beat Back the Tory Attack!

Hundreds march in Ottawa to oppose the Conservative Party national convention and Prime Minister Harper's keynote speech, his first major address since gaining a majority government.

The call to rally was to "make clear to the Conservative Party that we will not sit idly by while they attack our communities."

00:15 - Dan Sawyer, Take The Capital
01:25 - Brigette DePape, the 'rogue page' - more:
03:13 - Lynn Bue, Canadian Union of Postal Workers - more:
06:26 - Mohan Mishra, No One Is Illegal Toronto
09:32 - Mostafah Henaway, TADAMON!
12:36 - Bridget Tolley, Families of Sisters In Spirit
21:19 - Ben Powless, Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement - more: & (written)
22:18 - Liisa Schofield, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty -more:

Soundtrack features LAL at 18:38 -

Twitter: @june10resist -
& #takethecapital -

Common Cause stands with striking postal workers

June 3, 2011

Denis Lemelin
National President
Canadian Union of Postal Workers
377 Bank St.
Ottawa, ON K2P 1Y3

Brother Lemelin,

We wish to send all of the 48,000 members of CUPW our solidarity in your struggle against Canada Post's attack on CUPW member's working conditions and wages.

We are with you in your fight to prevent a two-tiered workforce where new hires are only paid 75% of what other workers make for doing the same work. Equal pay for equal work is a corner-stone of the labour movement and must never be compromised.

As we write this letter workers in the CUPW locals in Winnipeg are on the picket lines. We are reminded of the bravery they showed early this year in the wildcat strikes against the horribly dangerous new two-bundle delivery method that CPC is implemented as part of the so-called “modern post”. As you know, this delivery method has led to a significant increase in workplace injuries of letter carriers in Winnipeg where the system was first introduced last fall. As workers, our health and safety on the job must always be paramount.

It is particularly disgusting in that context that Canada Post is trying to take away CUPW members hard-fought right to sick days and replace them with an inferior “short term disability” plan. We saw this very same attack imposed on the workers of Toronto's public sector unions and stand with CUPW to prevent its spread nationally.

We want to also recognize the long-standing and important contributions that CUPW has made to struggles outside your sector. Both in Canada and internationally, CUPW has repeatedly shown solidarity with feminist, anti-racist, anti-imperialist, working class struggles too numerous to start to list. With you we raise the call “An injury to one is an injury to all!” and are honoured to stand with you now, as you have stood with workers and oppressed peoples around the world.