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CWTP, OPIRG settle into Student Commons following eviction

Multiple groups were evicted from North Borden building at start of 2021
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The North Borden Building. CAROLINE BELLAMY/THE VARSITY
The North Borden Building. CAROLINE BELLAMY/THE VARSITY

The Centre for Women and Trans People (CWTP) has been an integral part of the U of T community over the last 40 years, providing a space and key services for women and trans people on campus. However, over the last couple years, the centre has been plagued by administrative difficulties that have hindered its ability to function as normal. 

The CWTP, along with another major advocacy group, the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG), was forced to leave the North Borden building in early 2021. Both organizations have now resettled into the recently opened Student Commons building.

UTGSU levy

At the October General Council meeting of the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU), a motion was put forward to cancel CWTP’s levy, as they had failed to submit financial statements to the union for the last several years.

The executive director of the CWTP, Justice Huyer, gave a full explanation of their situation at the meeting, describing administrative issues that the centre had been experiencing, such as an eviction from their space in the North Borden Building. Consequently, the UTGSU approved a motion to still collect the levy, contingent on the CWTP providing full financial statements at the end of the year. 

Eviction and admin issues 

In an interview with The Varsity, Huyer elaborated on the problems that the centre has been facing. When they stepped in as executive director at the beginning of 2020, the centre was in the middle of a great deal of staff changes and turnover. 

Both groups had been slated to move to the Student Commons for quite some time but due to the delays of that project, they were left with no place to go. 

This was exacerbated by the fact that a senior coordinator of the centre had taken an extended period of sick leave, and never returned, leaving a gap in institutional knowledge. Furthermore, the centre was in the process of incorporating itself as an official not-for-profit organization.

However, in January 2021, the CWTP, along with other occupants of the North Borden Building, were told that they needed to vacate the building in less than 30 days. This was especially challenging for the centre, as many of its staff members were living in other countries and needed to fly into Canada in order to assist in the sudden move. 

Rui Liu, OPIRG Toronto’s representative on the UTGSU board, noted in an interview with The Varsity that the OPIRG was only given three weeks’ notice to vacate the building due to renovations in other parts of the building. 

After both groups got into contact with the Office of the Vice-Provost, Students, they were able to get temporary space in Sidney Smith Hall, but Liu noted, “[We] don’t see that support as necessarily a bonus… because we had lost space that we had been occupying for 25 years.” 

U of T confirmed that the groups were “provided with formal notice from the University of Toronto for the need to vacate the North Borden Building on Jan. 21st 2021,” and that the university worked closely with the groups in the following months to support the move. U of T pointed out that both groups had been slated to move to the Student Commons, but that construction delays had prevented them from moving at the expected time. 

However, despite these difficulties, Huyer noted that they’re optimistic for the centre’s future, and are looking forward to having in-person programming at the beginning of next semester in the Student Commons.