[Hpn] Another death in Toronto

Graeme Bacque gbacque@colosseum.com
Fri, 05 Jul 2002 14:52:50 -0400

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Editorial comments: The conditions which likely precipitated this man's 
death existed well before this city workers' strike commenced, or were 
completely unrelated to it.  This appears to be a heat fatality - humidex 
levels were as high as forty-five degrees Celsius (113F) in Toronto on 
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week.

The drinking fountains in many public parks in downtown Toronto have 
actually been disabled for a considerable period of time, presumably due to 
pressure from more privileged residents who want to discourage homeless 
people from congregating in municipal parks. The Red Cross and other 
agencies have been distributing bottled water to homeless people this past 
week but this is generally a case of too little, too late.

The city-run shelters remain open and functional (although, as always, 
grossly overcrowded) despite the work stoppage. None of these facilities 
have air conditioning and they generally require that residents vacate the 
premises during the day in any event, so the strike likely wasn't a factor.

I also find it strange how the media or government only seem to care about 
the welfare of homeless people - or prisoners, or psychiatric survivors - 
when they can exploit the situation to their own advantage.
Friday, July 5, 2002
'First victim' of strike
Homeless man's death sign of hostel woes

A man found dead in a downtown park on the day 500 shelter workers hit the 
bricks may be the first fatality of Canada's largest municipal workers' 
strike, homeless activists say.

Police found the man dead in Cawthra Square Park on Church St. around noon 
yesterday and took the body to the coroner's building for an autopsy.

The man's name is being withheld until next of kin can be found.

Alison Kemper of the 519 Church St. community centre next to the park said 
the man died of dehydration. "It's disturbing. It didn't have to happen," 
Kemper said.

A fountain near where the man was found was not working due to the outside 
workers' strike, she said.


"It's not a stretch to say the most endangered people are the first victims."

Kemper said the man was a regular at Seaton House, whose workers belong to 
CUPE Local 79. which joined CUPE Local 416 on the picket lines.

Paddy Powers, 23, from St. John's, Nfld., has been at the shelter for 10 
days. He says the heat inside the building sends many outside to the parks 
to find relief.

"It's hard to sleep because of the heat, and the washrooms are getting 
dirty," he said..

Hostel services director John Jagt says about 150 managers are left to do 
the work of 520 inside workers in keeping open the five city-run shelters.

"We're focusing on safety and doing whatever's necessary to keep the places 
running," he said. "It's a tall order, but we can't close. Those at risk 
have nowhere else to go."


Cathy Crowe of the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee said the strike has 
been a double whammy for the homeless.

"They don't have a lot of options. The shelters are understaffed and the 
parks they sleep in are filling up with garbage," she said.