Occupy Montreal camp in Square Victoria in 2011.

News  Housing rights activists to set up occupation camp this spring

Group to protest social housing cuts, pressure government for subsidies

The Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU) – an organization that fights for housing rights – will set up an occupation camp in downtown Montreal this May, the organization announced in a statement released on January 8. With the camp, FRAPRU aims to increase pressure on the government in response to cuts to funding for social housing.

“Basically, the goal of the camp is to be right in the face of the government, and say, ‘look, the more you cut back, the more people will live in the street – and here we are, we are not going anywhere,’” Fred Burrill, community organizer at the Projet d’organisation populaire d’information et de regroupement (POPIR), a FRAPRU member organization, told The Daily.

About 140,000 low-income housing units exist in Quebec, with over 40,000 people on waiting lists across the province; however, both the provincial and federal governments have failed to renew expiring government subsidies for social housing. As of this year, 25,000 social housing units in Quebec will lose long-term federal subsidies, which will result in rent increases of up to $300 per month, according to FRAPRU.

“We really want to put the focus back on the issue that everyone deserves things like housing.”

“Right now we are seeing two different levels of cuts. The federal government is cutting the long-term subsidies to co-op and non-profit [housing…] and at the same time, in Quebec, we are seeing that [in] the AccèsLogis program, which is a program the government invests in to actually build the units for social housing, they decided to cut back,” Émilie Joly, community organizer at FRAPRU, told The Daily in an interview.

“For people living in co-ops funded by the federal program, we are actually seeing several people recently lose their subsidies entirely,” added Burrill. “So their rent can go from $200 a month to $600 or $700.”

FRAPRU’s decision to set up an occupation camp aims to give visibility to this issue and push the government to guarantee the right to accessible housing, according to Joly.

“We are going to have different kinds of workshops, whether it be on housing issues, on tenants’ rights, on how to build a co-op, and then the larger portrait: everything regarding the environment, for example, the construction of pipelines and Indigenous land rights. We’re really trying to have a broad perspective,” said Joly. “We really want to put the focus back on the issue that everyone deserves things like housing.”

In 2011, Occupy Montreal protesters occupied Square Victoria for more than a month, before former Montreal mayor Gérald Tremblay ordered that police dismantle the camp.

According to a Montreal Gazette article published on January 13, current mayor Denis Coderre has not indicated whether or not he will allow FRAPRU’s camp to exist.

“We really hope that the city understands we are trying to convince the government to invest in municipal building and development, so the city should see us as an ally in this fight,” said Joly.