March 10, 2003
Dear Attorney-General Sterling,
We're writing you as a community and an organization of poor people regarding the matter of Regina vs. Clarke, Heroux and Pilipa which stems from the events of June 15, 2000, when the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty marched on Queen's Park to press the legitimate concerns of people much like ourselves before the Ontario Legislature.
We see nothing wrong with people in poverty coming before a legislative body to speak to their legitimate grievances as the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty tried to do before the Ontario Legislature. We came before the City Council here in Portland, Oregon, with our grievances and a possible solution to our lack of shelter and as a result were given sanction for a time by that legislative body. Today Dignity Village is the longest-standing officially sanctioned homeless encampment in the United States as a result of our being heard and allowed to press our case.
We understand the need for direct action like the March on Queen's Park as such actions are often the only way poor people are able to make their grievances known. Dignity Village began as a direct action and a protest against a camping ban which was declared unconstitutional by Multnomah County Circuit Court.
We know how an organization's members are often unfairly singled out as leaders during such actions for attacks in the press or for prosecution in the courts as we have experienced both along the way and in the course of our development.
We find it unlikely that the Queen's Park Riot of June 15, 2000, was deliberately planned or that John Clarke of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty counseled those present to participate in a riot beforehand as it seems that what was intended that day was for people to speak to their representatives before the Assembly. We don't doubt that John Clarke, Stephan Pilipa and Geatan Heroux were caught up in a riot at Queen's Park but it seems a more likely cause of the riot was overzealous policing by a unit of mounted police who charged into the crowd with little or no regard for the safety of the people. The charges against the three defendants seem to be of a political nature.
Knowing what we know, we write you as a community and an organization not only to register our concern that poor people seem to have no voice before your Legislative Assembly but to ask that the charges against the defendants be dropped.
The events of June 15, 2000, and the charges brought against John Clarke, Stefan Pilipa, and Gaetan Heroux were duly brought and discussed before our council on March 5, 2003 and our membership on March 6, 2003 and it was decided at that time to write you this letter.
the village council and membership.