by Herongate Tenant Coalition
The story of the Herongate evictions represents a multitude of issues our city has been struggling to mitigate and directly address. Foremost, the ongoing privatization and subsequent gentrification of the area is something many of us noticed but never thought would affect our community so rapidly.
The Herongate evictions also have shone a light on the issue of affordable and suitable housing for low-income families, an issue that Ottawa has struggled with for a long time. The third story the Herongate evictions represent is an issue many politicians, developers, and the media have generally tiptoed around since the first round of evictions in 2015. It is the issue of long standing systematic racism people of colour have experienced in this city in relation to housing.
The Herongate area is statistically the most diverse neighborhood in the city, a quintessential global neighbourhood, where the smell of varying dishes from cultures all over the world can be experienced as well as banter in a plethora of languages can be heard. It is where many members of racialized communities don’t feel like the “other,” where they don’t have to live in a constant state of apprehension about being told to “go back to your country.” This is one place where we truly feel at ease. As this is the only neighbourhood this diverse in the city, the demolition of such a racialized community sends a larger implicit message: we do not want you here.
Many of the tenants share the view that much of the abuse and negligence by Timbercreek is due to the fact that they are perceived as poor people of colour who do not know their rights. Hence, this is why Timbercreek has felt as though they can pummel through the neighbourhood without hesitation. This is why Timbercreek has been abusive to tenants who speak the English language with an accent but are berated and told to “speak proper English” at the rent office.
While it is understood that Timbercreek is a private multinational housing corporation, Timbercreek is not the only party guilty of purporting systematic racism. The City of Ottawa has done an inadequate job in upkeeping infrastructure in the area, specifically, the walkways and roads in the neighbourhood, despite countless requests by tenants to fix these. Many tenants have explained that when they have reached out to the city for help vis-à-vis by law, they too have been negligent and have done a piss-poor job addressing problems in the units. It is almost guaranteed that if bylaw was called into a more affluent and, to be frank, predominantly white neighbourhood, they would not garner the same response.
Ultimately, the Herongate evictions are exemplary of the deep-seeded systematic racism pervasive in housing in the city. The federal government began consultations this year on how to combat systemic racism and they can start with tackling this systematic injustice in the nation’s capital!