Posted May 31, 2019
In the chilly spring rain, Herongate members spread some warmth with their spirit and their posters. They covered the fences surrounding the building site that once were their homes, with visions of the future. The past and present in Herongate is dark, but the future can be bright - as long as the community is involved.
For over 10 years Herongate ACORN members have stuck with it and fought their different landlords every step of the way. But the most recent owner Timbercreek, never meant to fix anything, they wanted re-development and so mass evicted hundreds of families in 2015, and again in 2018. At Tuesday’s action, Mavis Finnamore, previous chair of ACORN South Ottawa and one of the first to be evicted, reminds us what this redevelopment really meant: -They broke up our community! People who supported one another, children who played together. Almost over night they were scattered all over the city. This was especially true for the many immigrants in the area. They had lost their own communities but got support of their neighbours in Herongate as they tried to settle in this new country. The tenants in Herongate were vulnerable for many reason, so Timbercreek could threaten them out.
But with ACORN’s rallies, demonstrations and the report Affordable Housing for Who?, Herongate got the public's attention. And when it became the story of the year, it prompted the City to get involved. Until recently Timbercreek, the City of Ottawa, ACORN and its local allies the South East Ottawa Community Health Centre, and Ottawa District Labour Council, were on track to reach a historic three part CBA (Community Benefit Agreement). In the end Timbercreek backed out and now they refuse to even talk to their present and evicted tenants. The Herongate members have not given up though, they continue to fight for a seat at the table. And since Timbercreek won't meet with them, Tuesday’s action was about sharing their vision with Everyone. The posters talked about a place for all people, all cultures and generations to live together, local jobs, affordable childcare and affordable homes. Cars stopped and asked questions and honked their horns in support. And despite the rain, it felt a little like the sun came out when Mavis said: “We do not want to be victims, we are strong and a force for good. We want to be part of the future of our community!” Neither rain, nor evictions can stop our Herongate ACORN members!