Toronto police and security denied access to reporters and threatened to arrest them if they didn’t leave the area during the eviction of a homeless encampment on July 21, 2021.
Ahead of the evictions in Lamport Stadium, the City of Toronto and some media organizations arranged to allow a pool — one photographer and one video journalist, and no print or radio journalists — to enter a fenced-off public space where the eviction was happening, reported Toronto Star journalist Jennifer Pagliaro.
But the status of the agreement was unclear: on the morning of the eviction, city officials said pool journalists would only be allowed into the encampment once the eviction was over.
Steve Russell, a Toronto Star photographer assigned to the pool, was told to leave the park or be arrested, reported Toronto Star city hall bureau chief David Rider.
City of Toronto chief spokesperson Brad Ross confirmed in a press briefing that the pool journalists were told to leave while police and security evicted people, and that they would be allowed back in after.
Seán O’Shea, a journalist with Global News, told the Canada Press Freedom Project that his colleagues had not been made aware of a pool arrangement.
When he arrived on scene after noon to take over for another Global journalist, O’Shea told City staffers that they would remain in the area and cover the eviction, even if that meant being arrested, he told the CPFP.
A police staff sergeant outside the fence escorted O’Shea and a camera operator into the fenced area. But once inside, Toronto security staff, a Toronto Police communications employee and a senior police officer asked the two journalists to leave.
They refused each request, O’Shea said. After organizing with other journalists on the scene, O’Shea told police that they would not comply with the demand to leave and would continue to report.
These events came a day after police and City of Toronto security barred journalists from covering another eviction in Alexandra Park.