FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 15, 1999
Santa Claus and an elf were arrested at Queen's Park today after they attempted to deliver an anti-homelessness Christmas card to premier Mike Harris. They were charged with trespassing, and must go to court in January, 2000.
Claus and about a dozen elves were outnumbered almost three-to-one by Metro Police, Queen's Park security and members of the Toronto Police Counter-Intelligence and Anti-Terrorism Squad as the "hardly-dangerous-looking" holiday group tried to deliver a 75-foot-long, 5-foot-high Xmas card to premier Harris.
The card, which read, "Why is there no room at the inn?" featured the names of over 100 people who have died from homelessness, as well as the names of buildings experiencing above-guideline rent increases in Ontario.
"Mr. Harris' policies have contributed to a massive increase in homelessness and hunger in Ontario," said Claus, aka Matthew Behrens, who pointed out that last night's closing of the Fort York Armoury has sent another 150 people onto the streets with nowhere to go. "Homelessness is a crisis, and all levels of government must respond in a crisis-mode with a national affordable housing construction program."
Police refused Santa Claus entry to Queen's Park, but eventually allowed an elf in escorted by MPPs Peter Kormos and Rosario Marchese. Mr. Harris was not in to receive the message.
The group began their day at the Rental Housing Tribunal, where thousands of evictions are processed every month, and proceeded to Queen's Park under a massive banner that read: "Homelessness is a National Disgrace."
As they were departing from Queen's Park, Santa Claus (Behrens) and his trusty Elf Don (Don Johnston) were surrounded in a police dragnet of officers on bikes, cruisers, a police jeep and a police wagon, arrested, and charged. They will contest the charges upon completion of their busy December 24 schedule.
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