The Evil of Encampment Evictions
Canadian society is exclusionary by design, so it is no surprise that the Montreal government continues to push unhoused individuals into the margins. In light of the recent eviction of unhoused individuals living in Hochelaga, it is clear that the government has no intention of housing people or letting them live independently; in fact, they plan on making them invisible.
Why are encampments destroyed?
It is believed that encampments are unsanitary, unsafe, and pose a threat to neighbouring homes; however, members within the community make sure that they adhere to safety procedures and COVID-19 precautions. In fact, the encampment in Hochelaga was inspected and cleared by the Montreal Fire Department ;thus, it is not a matter of safety that encampments are torn down, but a result of wanting to deter encampment members from organizing and being independent. In addition, encampments are also destroyed because they are not seen as “aesthetically pleasing”. People are uncomfortable with being faced with the failures of the society that they revere; hence, unhoused individuals are further shunned and their belongings thrown out.
White Supremacy, Capitalism, and Encampment Evictions
The government defines encampments as “illegal occupations'' but they themselves are running a settler colony that has murdered and displaced millions of Indigenous people. Land cannot “belong” in an industry, and land does not belong to the government who cannot decide who lives on it and who doesn’t. A majority of the encampment members at Hochelaga were Inuit or a part of other Indigenous communities; thus, by evicting those forced to live in encampments Valérie Plante and the Montreal government are perpetrating a vicious form of settler-colonialism and racism.
More reasons as to why the government believes encampments need to be dismantled is due to their belief that unhoused people (specifically those who are Indigenous) need to be invisible. The reality of being unhoused is not supposed to be visible as it creates a bad image for wherever encampments are situated. Encampments in prosperous cities also provide a visual to the cruelty of capitalism, which people often push to the back of their minds.
Some residents at the Hochelaga encampment are employed and were at work when the eviction took place. They returned to nowhere to sleep and all their belongings were thrown out. This shows how abused and mistreated workers are, especially those who are unhoused. Capitalism forces people to be exploited everyday for bare necessities only to have their livelihoods discarded.
Why are encampments important?
Encampments serve as a way for members of the unhoused community to live together as they are often forced out of their own neighbourhoods. It is a secure but temporary place for people to avoid law enforcement, have a place to sleep, and keep their belongings as they try to get back on their feet. Through encampments, unhoused people are able to have autonomy and some sense of stability. The government of Montreal refuses to allow unhoused people to build their own communities after many services have failed them. Eviction is a form of violence and when you evict people when they have already ended up on the street is an unbelievable cruelty. When we allow our government to treat unhoused people this way we become complicit in the evil that is settler colonialism, capitalism, and the dehumanization of our unhoused neighbours.