HESN was launched last year at the end of a 15 day-long sit-in at Hamilton City Hall demanding the defunding of Hamilton police and the reinvestment of those funds into free housing. Ever since, HESN volunteers have witnessed the city of Hamilton’s violent approach to the housing crisis on the frontline. Encampment residents are criminalized by the City and police and are constantly pushed from park to park across the city. Homes are destroyed and belongings thrown out, only to not be given proper shelter or provided with sustainable housing options.
The demand is still to defund the police and demilitarize the police. AND FUND HOUSING. There is a reason the city relies on the police and the legal system to remove, evict, and displace houseless people. It is in part because they are all a part of the same neo-colonial structures that have enabled the incarceration, and deaths of Black, Indigenous, Racialized, and disabled people. In Hamilton, as the weather drops below zero, City council has made it their priority to ensure that all encampments be dismantled. We have never and will never trust the state to treat our unhoused neighbours with care and compassion. We know how inherently violent it is. How can you trust a state that is built off of slavery and the genocide of indigenous peoples to respond without violence?
This displacement isn’t new and is a necessary way in which this city decides who is welcome and who belongs. This broader project is rooted within the structures of settler colonialism which rationalize the theft of land for the purpose of power over property. The logics that rationalize the theft of land and genocide against indigenous peoples in this city are the same ones which rationalize the displacement and violence against encampment residents and houseless people. Hamilton and Toronto are built on the traditional lands of the Erie, Neutral, Huron-Wendat, Chippewa, Seneca, Haudenosaunee, Anishnabek and Mississaugas. These nations have always focused on the importance of sharing between communities and peoples. Covents like the Dish with one spoon wumpum agreement highlight this, and remain broken by governing bodies of so-called Canada- these are promises that were never upheld and formed the path to displacement and genocide of Indigenous peoples today. This same displacement informs the decisions to violently remove encampment residents from their made homes – decisions to allow disparities in resources allocation, decisions that allow the city to decide to leave properties vacant, tear up tents and refuse to house even as property sits empty.
We know that so-called Canada and all iterations and levels of its government will continue to threaten Indigenous sovereignty and claim a right to this land that does not belong to them. They will continue to prioritize pipelines over lives. Profit over housing. We stand in solidarity with all Land Defenders in the fight for Land Back. All eyes on Landback lane, all eyes and all out for Wet’suwet’en as they continue to hold it down against the RCMP in Wedzin Kwa and across Wet’suwet’en territory. We say this to remind you that these struggles are and will always be connected as we fight towards collective liberation and against all governing agents of the state. We have called out municipal government officials on multiple occasions and have repeatedly demanded free housing and access to social services that centre our marginalized communities. We have demanded an end to encampment teardowns only to be met with dissent. We will continue to show up and show out and shut shit down.
We are tired and we are grieving but we are filled with hope and love and anger. That is one thing the city and police can’t take away from us no matter how hard they try. We need hope to dream and collective dreaming is grunt work. It is absolutely necessary for worldbuilding. And the only way it will happen is if we do it together. We demand free accessible housing, we demand an end to encampments teardowns and we demand the city prioritize unhoused residents because they already have blood on their hands and more people will die this winter if nothing is done. We demand that the charges laid against the 6 Black youth be dropped.