Nima Hussein is a student studying International Development and Globalization at the University of Ottawa. She is a longtime resident of Herongate and an organizer with the Herongate Tenant Coalition.
When I was eleven years old, my family experienced a deep tragedy. My father had suddenly passed away, leaving my mother to raise six children. With only her faith in tow, she packed up her kids and we moved to a tiny 3 bedroom house in Heron Gate. Since then, we’ve found a community here, a big at heart, loving community, one that welcomed us with open arms. It’s been 11 years since we first moved here. And over the last few, I’ve been forced to watch as families are torn apart in the name of Timbercreek’s agenda. In 2016, Timbercreek evicted an entire neighbourhood within Heron Gate for ‘renovations’. These renovations involve kicking out family after family, whilst tearing down home after home. And for what? Oh, you know, just the building of luxury apartments. And they’re doing it again.
If this were anywhere else, maybe this wouldn’t have been such a grave injustice. A huge slap in the face, sure. But here’s the thing: Heron Gate is a primarily low income and racialized community. The people living here are mainly Somali and Arab immigrants, with at least 4 kids per household. So when Timbercreek leaves these marginalized groups of people to face the cold brutality of homelessness, let’s finally call it what it really is. Gentrification. The truth is, we’re the type of people Timbercreek doesn’t want in their neighbourhoods. We’re the type that doesn’t deserve adequate housing, the type that can’t even be afforded a basic, damn human right. And it shows over and over again, not only in their blatant disregard for human life as they’ve evicted children and the elderly, but even in the way they treat us now. Many Timbercreek residents find themselves forced to deal with leaky roofs, flooded basements, mould, cockroaches and more. And as generous as the real estate overlord claims to be, Timbercreek just doesn’t seem to care. But who would, truly, when you can just line your pockets and rub shoulders with Ottawa’s wealthiest, drinking cocktails without a care in the world, all whilst ignoring the desperate cries of parents who must now add finding a new place to live to their already burdened shoulders, a place that won’t force them to choose between feeding their kids or paying rent.
Discrimination within the Canadian housing market along with the rampant disenfranchisement of people of colour is nothing new. It has been proven time and time again that people are unlikely to rent or sell to Black folks, people with disabilities, Jews, South Asian peoples, etc, etc. This is not new. Many Herongate evictees have reported facing rejections from other landlords, largely due to the stigma of an area infamous for its ‘diversity’ and preceding reputation, as well as the surreptitious, pervasive racial profiling that oft accompanies being Black and Muslim in a white colonialist state. Or in the case of the Herongate evictions, we see words like ‘no longer viable’ thrown around, and ‘end of life cycle’, when in reality, if Timbercreek actually kept up with basic repairs and renovations, these units would not be in the disrepair some of them are today. But again, this is all veiled rhetoric to instead justify the senseless evictions of immigrants, children, and the elderly. And sometimes, we see Those in Power say what they really mean, like in the case of Toronto City Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti describing what he would just love to do to the largely Black residential area of Jane and Finch.
Toronto Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, one of Doug Ford’s closest allies, went on Rebel Media this weekend and shared his solution for Jane & Finch:
— PressProgress (@pressprogress) August 13, 2018
To be perfectly candid, I don’t know how this is all going to end. But I do know that as long as even a single person remains in this neighbourhood, we will fight with you, and for you. As time continues to pass, and the seasons begin to change, I am reminded that although many of us are considered Undesirables within this oppressive framework, we still scrounge up the fiery will to continue to rise, to nurture our children, to foster love, and peace, and splendor.