In a given year, 235,000 Canadians experience homelessness.
That’s a population the size of a small city.
In Toronto, activists say there have never been so many people without a place to call their own. They use the word “epidemic.”
According to the Toronto Homeless Memorial Network, a group that tracks deaths among the homeless, 17 have died in Toronto since the beginning of October 2019.
The thing is, when people talk about the homeless it’s often in terms of numbers and statistics like the ones above — but the issue really hits home when you meet the people.
The National’s Leonardo Palleja and Nick Purdon spent time with a number of homeless people in Toronto, here are some of their stories.
For six months, Frenchie (he says that’s what his friends call him) has slept in a tent under a bridge in Toronto — a few blocks from some of the most expensive houses in the country.
Frenchie says he lost his restaurant job and had some bad luck, and after that things went downhill.
“It’s a difficult life, but we survive. Every day we survive,” he says.
There are about 15 other people living in the makeshift camp under the bridge, a small community where he says he’s treated well. Above ground, on the street, he says people judge him.
We have a different life, but we are still human — we are not alien, we are still people.– Frenchie
“I just want to say to people, we are not that bad,” he says. “We have a different life, but we are still human — we are not alien, we are still people.”
It’s hard to know exactly how many Canadians sleep outside on a given night, but the best estimate is around 35,000 individuals.
Frenchie says he doesn’t worry that much about winter — he has plenty of tarps and blankets, and sometimes he lights a small fire in his tent to keep warm.
Hear more from Frenchie:
At 43, Paul has been homeless for six years — ever since he lost his job framing houses in Toronto.
“I had a work injury and I also suffer from depression,” he explains.
What’s remarkable about Paul is that if you passed him on the street, you probably wouldn’t realize he’s homeless. He doesn’t fit the stereotypical image of an entrenched homeless person many people imagine when they read statistics about the problem in Canada.
Like the one that says 235,000 Canadians experience homelessness in any given year.
“It’s not just the bums you see on the streets — we’re everywhere now,” Paul says.
“The vast majority don’t look like they’re homeless. It’s people who have fallen on hard times, got divorced, lost their jobs, got a work injury,” he says.
Paul says he’s lucky to have a bed at one of the city’s shelters while he’s on a waiting list for subsidized housing.
A list that is 11 years long.
“We’re a rich country, there’s no reason for this to be happening,” he says.
Paul says not having a place to call his own takes a tremendous toll on his mind.
“You have no hopes and dreams left anymore. You have no nothing,” he says. “People think you are nothing, and so you end up thinking you are nothing.
“You just eventually end up fading, fading away slowly.”
Hear more from Paul:
Kevin Durance has become an unlikely activist.
He fidgets on stage as he addresses a protest in front of Toronto city hall.
“I know how hard I have to work just to survive,” he tells the crowd.
Durance has lived in a Toronto homeless shelter for the past six years. He knows how bad the situation is on the street, and he wants the city to declare a state of emergency and open more beds to the homeless.
“It boils down to real humanity,” he says. “We’ve got to start caring about people.”
Activists insist high rent prices in Toronto make it hard for people who earn minimum wage or collect social assistance to afford a place to live.
The number of people sleeping in shelters in Toronto has doubled in the past five years and now hovers somewhere around 8,000.
Still, Kevin’s wish is a small one — for people to see him and not look away when they pass him on the street.
“They don’t see me, they see that stigma. [They think] I’m violent, I’m strange, I’m different — I’m just simple. I need someone to help me.”
Hear more from Kevin:
Scott used to run a small hotel in downtown Toronto.
The day that closed, he lost both his job and his place to live.
He never thought he’d find himself living in a shelter.
“I always had money, I always had a job,” he says. “It’s getting to the point where I’m getting too old to get a job and my physical features aren’t what they used to be. Who wants to hire somebody with no teeth to go serve tables?”
Scott hasn’t told his friends or family that he’s staying in a shelter, saying “I don’t want pity.”
He says all he wants is to get back to work full-time and have a place of his own.
“Just get back up there where I used to be, where I get up in the morning and I’ve got a place to go.”
Hear more from Scott:
WATCH | The National’s feature and learn from those living it what it’s like to be homeless in Toronto:
India tells Canada to remove 41 of its 62 diplomats: official
Canada needs diplomats in India to help navigate the “extremely challenging” tensions between the two countries, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday in response to demands that Ottawa repatriate dozens of its envoys.
India reportedly wants 41 of 62 Canadian diplomats out of the country by early next week — a striking, if largely anticipated, deepening of the rift that erupted last month following Trudeau’s explosive allegations in the House of Commons.
The prime minister bluntly spoke of “credible” intelligence linking the Indian government to the shooting death in June of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a 45-year-old Sikh leader India has long assailed as a terrorist.
The demand, first reported by the Financial Times, comes less than two weeks after the Indian government first called on Canada to establish “parity in strength and rank equivalence in our diplomatic presence.”
Canada has a much larger diplomatic corps in India, owing in part to the fact it’s a country of 1.4 billion people, compared to 40 million in Canada — about 1.3 million of whom are of Indian origin.
Trudeau would not confirm the reports Tuesday, nor did he sound inclined to acquiesce to India’s request.
“Obviously, we’re going through an extremely challenging time with India right now,” Trudeau said on his way to a caucus meeting on Parliament Hill.
“That’s why it’s so important for us to have diplomats on the ground, working with the Indian government, there to support Canadians and Canadian families.”
Canada, he continued, is “taking this extremely seriously, but we’re going to continue to engage responsibly and constructively with the government of India.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said largely the same thing.
“In moments of tension, because indeed there are tensions between both our governments, more than ever it’s important that diplomats be on the ground,” Joly said.
“That’s why we believe in the importance of having a strong diplomatic footprint in India. That being said, we are in ongoing conversations with the Indian government.”
During Tuesday’s daily briefing at the State Department, deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel was at pains to avoid exacerbating tensions any further.
“We are — and continue to be — deeply concerned about the allegations referenced by Prime Minister Trudeau and we remain in regular contact with our Canadian partners,” Patel said, a message the U.S. has had on repeat for weeks.
“It’s critical that Canada’s investigation proceed and the perpetrators be brought to justice. We also have … publicly and privately urged the Indian government to co-operate in the Canadian investigation and co-operate in those efforts.”
Patel also demurred on the potential impact of an escalating tit-for-tat exchange of diplomatic staff on the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy, a key element of U.S. efforts to mitigate China’s growing geopolitical influence.
“I certainly don’t want to get into hypotheticals,” he said. “As it relates to our Indo-Pacific strategy and the focus that we continue to place on the region, that effort and that line of work is going to continue.”
David Cohen, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, has already confirmed that the allegations were buttressed in part on intelligence gathered by a key ally from the Five Eyes security alliance, which includes the U.S., the U.K., Australia and New Zealand, along with Canada.
Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, India’s external affairs minister, confirmed last week that the subject came up in his meetings in Washington, D.C., with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser.
Trudeau’s allegation “was not consistent with our policy,” Jaishankar told a panel discussion Friday hosted by the Hudson Institute.
“If his government had anything relevant and specific they would like us to look into, we were open to looking at it. That’s where that conversation is at this point of time.”
Jaishankar went on to note that the issue of Sikh separatists living in Canada had long been “an issue of great friction,” notably after the 1985 bombing of Air India flight 182, the worst terrorist attack in Canadian history.
“In the last few years, it has come back very much into play, because of what we consider to be a very permissive Canadian attitude towards terrorists, extremists, people who openly advocate violence,” Jaishankar said.
“They have been given operating space in Canada because of the compulsions of Canadian politics.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 3, 2023.
With files from Mickey Djuric in Ottawa.
In the news today: Regimental funeral today for B.C. Mountie, NDP victory in Manitoba – National Post
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All Flesh Redux
Director’s Notes, Stacey Christodoulou
MONTREAL October, 2023 – Combining polyphonic singing, dance, and theatre, All Flesh REDUX is a poetic journey through time and space. Part sing-a-long, Dadaist performance piece as well as a love letter to our planet, the work enfolds the public in an intimate theatre-in-the-round setting where humour, music, storytelling and movement reign. Bringing together the worlds of medieval composers Guillaume de Machaut, Hildegard von Bingen and modern composer John Cage, the company’s creation contemplates the unknowable past and the unimaginable future, and asks what acts of faith are possible in an uncertain world. October 13-22, seating is limited.
Director Stacey Christodoulou: “We could never imagine that the themes we spoke about in 2019 would become reality. In a certain way the show was prophetic. However, I believe that the message of creating beauty as a form of resistance is even more important now. The weaving of medieval song, contemporary dance and text continues our company’s interdisciplinary approach and reminds us that throughout history people have responded to turmoil with innovation and art.”
With: ENSEMBLE ALKEMIA (Jean-François Daignault, Dorothéa Ventura and Leah Weitzner), Stéphanie Fromentin, Erin Lindsay, Vanessa Schmit-Craan, Lael Stellick
Musical direction by Jean-François Daignault; scenograpy by Amy Keith; sound by Debbie Doe; costumes by Cathia Pagotto; lighting by David Perreault Ninacs and technical stage coordination by Birdie Gregor.
All Flesh REDUX
Studio Jean Valcourt du Conservatoire
4750, avenue Henri-Julien
Dates: Friday, Oct., 13, Saturday, Oct. 14 at 8pm; Sunday Oct. 14 at 3pm
Wednesday, October 18-Saturday, Oct. 21 at 8pm; Sunday, Oct. 22 at 3pm
Tickets/514 873-4032: $20, Students/Seniors: $15
Seating is limited
About THE OTHER THEATRE
Formed in 1991 by Artistic Director Stacey Christodoulou, The Other Theatre is devoted to contemporary creation. Working bilingually, their award-wining work has included adaptations, installations, theatre texts, and collectively written material performed in numerous venues in Montreal and abroad, including theatres, galleries, as well as a moving elevator.
Drawing inspiration from art forms other than theatre – dance, cinema, science, architecture, and the visual arts – the company presents evocative performances, grounded by thought-provoking texts. From a creole Macbeth, to sci-fi with polyphonic singing, to the horror of H.P. Lovecraft, their original creations are thrilling and visually striking. They have also presented the work of International and Canadian writers, giving them their French-language premieres in Quebec. Exploring the large existential issues of the time, The Other Theatre aims to move audiences to greater emotional connection and reflection, bridging communities and languages to create a hybrid theatre that is reflective of the cultural richness of Montreal. They value and foster artistic exchange, both locally and internationally and share their artistic process in Canada, the US, Europe and Mexico, through mentorships, workshops and cultural mediation in local communities and schools.
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