Ute Lehrer and Andrea Winkler



Public or Private? The Pope Squat and Housing Struggles in Toronto

When in the summer of 2002 the world’s media attention was on Toronto due to the Pope’s visit, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) used this moment to draw attention to their fight against poverty and homelessness in Canada’s largest city. With relatively broad support from other activist groups, this direct action group squatted in a house in a slowly gentrifying neighborhood and was able to create a lively counter-public. Although the squatters were evicted from the building after three months, this direct action was partially successful insofar as it created a public discussion on the affordable housing crisis in Toronto, questioning the dominant, neoliberal ideology. This article describes and analyzes this event as both a strategy for resisting privatization processes in Toronto and as an attempt to build a broad-based coalition capable of fighting the policies that drive neoliberal urbanism.

housing policy, gentrification, Toronto, Canada, squatter’s movement, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, public space, neoliberalism

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 33, No. 3 (2006): 142-157