Toronto Action for Social Change
P.O. Box 73620, 509 St. Clair Ave. W
Toronto, ON M6C 1C0
(416) 651-5800; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 18, 1999
In the conclusion to what has been a rough ride for Santa Claus in Toronto this week, The Bay threatened to place Claus, three elves and a half dozen Xmas carollers under arrest today while they handed out flyers about solutions to homelessness at the corner of Yonge and Bloor.
Claus and an elf were arrested Wednesday at Queen's Park for trying to deliver an anti-homelessness Xmas card to premier Mike Harris.
"I'm concerned about the staggering levels of homelessness I see in Toronto," Claus says. "I'm also dismayed at the callous way the government, the police, and corporations treat anyone who works toward a solution.
"Of course, I'm not surprised that The Bay cares not a whit about homelessness. They're part of the problem by not paying their taxes. In 1995, they paid $0 tax on profits of $268,912,000. So I would urge shoppers to avoid this company like the plague, because they would not allow a small, peaceful, non-obstructive, constructive event aimed at ending homelessness to take place within their sight."
Claus notes that the Salvation Army was allowed to set up shop right in front of the front doors and was not harassed.
Claus and others had gathered at the office of Liberal MP Caroline Bennett at 12 noon, urging her to take a public stand on the issue of affordable housing. Members of TASC have been writing to Bennett since February, 1999 urging her to speak out in support of ther 1% solution, but she has thusfar refused to do so.
The group proceeded down Yonge Street, singing carols, handing out flyers to Xmas shoppers, and stopping to speak with the many homeless who line the streets of downtown Toronto.
Shortly before 2 pm, Claus and Co. were singing carols and handing out flyers about the 1% solution for affordable housing about 50 feet from the front entrance of the massive Bay Tower (a public entrance which is used for subway patrons).
Two security guards accosted the revellers and ordered them to move; when they refused, police were called, including one officer who regularly shows up in court to help convict homeless people accused of panhandling in the subways.
Police prepared to lay charges against Santa and three elves when the group ran out of flyers and decided to wrap up for the day.
"While there were many supportive individuals we spoke with, we were concerned at the amount of apathy and name-calling which many still employ to blame the poor for their plight," Claus said. "I've not seen poverty in Canada like this since the 1930s, and it seems to be getting worse."
Claus urged holiday shoppers to press their MPs to support a national housing strategy in the form of the 1% solution (urging all levels of government to add an additional 1% of their total budgets to housing and support programs at an average cost to the taxpayer of less than 50 cents a day).
Claus is hoping for a smoother ride this week as he travels to Hamilton to support the efforts of Homes not Bombs to clear toystore shelves of violent war "toys" and other goods produced by sweatshop labour.
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