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Past FESTIVALS / PERSPECTIVE FROM THE CITY: FALEN JOHNSON

PERSPECTIVE FROM THE CITY: FALEN JOHNSON

“How long before I am renovicted off my own damn land?”


I live in a shithole. Well not really, it’s cheap, my neighbourhood is amazing, the No Frills nearby just started selling wine, and I am allowed to have a dog which in Toronto is basically unheard of. So things are, for the most part, good in lots of ways. But my landlord doesn’t fix anything and if she does it’s not done by certified professionals. When the roof was leaking she tried to get us to hold the ladder while she climbed up and attempted to patch it. When we asked her to repair the holes in the deck she said we could all do it together on a Sunday. And the leak in the office is going on 4 years old. We should just name it now, Brian, Brian the leak just turned 4. Happy Birthday Brian, I can’t remember life without you.

I don’t mean to be a downer here and I know this isn’t just a Toronto phenomenon; finding affordable housing in many major Canadian cities is becoming virtually impossible and many people are moving away from urban centres. Affordable housing is pretty impossible. In fact, I have been in renoviction situations 3 times in the city of Toronto.

But what is renoviction? Or what does it mean to be renovicted? The word was born when Heather Pawsey of Vancouver was being told she had to move because her building was being renovated so she would be evicted. If you wanna hear more about the history of the word check out TVO’s podcast Word Bomb that looks at the history. It’s super interesting. And the word is on the lips of more and more Torontorians so you can impress your friends with depressing knowledge.

For me, when I have been renovicted there have been a number of scenarios, usually revolving around the idea that someone else is moving in. A family member or a relative. And of course I tried to fight but it seemed like a losing fight, so emotionally taxing and at the end of the day I knew I would have to find a place to live and like that isn’t stressful enough. So I gave up, I lost money, I had to move. Property owner wins.

I’m Mohawk and Tuscarora and a few hundred years ago, my people traded, farmed, hunted on this land. Toronto, comes from an Iroquian word, Tkaronto. So every time I am at an event with a land acknowledgement, as I hear the name of my people, the Haudenosaunee, spoken with great reverence and honour, I think to myself, sure but how long can I afford to be acknowledged on my own land. How long before I am renovicted off my own damn land? Sometimes in my head I finish the acknowledgement so it reads, “we’d like to acknowledge the Haudenosaunee, for as long as they can afford it here.”


Portrait of Falen Johnson

Falen Johnson

Falen is Mohawk/Tuscarora (Bear Clan) from Six Nations Grand River Territory. She is a writer and podcaster. Her plays include Salt Baby, Two Indians, and Ipperwash have played across Canada. Her writing has been featured in Brick, The Canadian Theatre Review, and Granta Magazine. She co-hosts The Secret Life of Canada (CBC Podcasts) with Leah Simone Bowen. She was just named one of Maclean’s 20 to watch in 2020.


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