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Cost of policing protests in Toronto since October near $9M, TPS chief says

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An estimated $9 million has been spent policing protests across Toronto in the last four months, according to chief Myron Demkiw.

The figure accounts for both the regular costs and overtime hours needed to engage with the “500 or more” demonstrations that have taken place across the city since the Oct. 7 start of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, Chief of the Toronto Police Service (TPS) said in an interview with CP24 Breakfast Thursday.

“It is something we're very much engaged in on a daily basis, frankly, and there's a cost to it,” Demkiw said. “We've had to move people from other positions and other jobs and other functions to help us police these events and keep [people] safe.”

On Jan. 26, Demkiw reported the costs had grown to approximately $7.5 million. The service did not say how much it usually spends on managing demonstrations in the city.

The new figure comes a day after Toronto City Council voted to restore the service’s full increase in this year’s municipal budget. Mayor Olivia Chow initially sought to trim the budget increase for police from $20 million to about $8 million but said Tuesday she would support a motion by Deputy Mayor Amber Morley to provide the force with the increase initially sought.

In total, the service will receive $1.186 billion in 2024.

Police were present at the U.S. consulate, at University and Armory avenues, on Thursday morning as a crowd gathered for a day-long sit-in. Organizers with the event told CP24’s Kayla Williams it calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, echoing a call made by the Canadian government Wednesday. The group also demanded an embargo on arms to the Israeli army.

A protest outside of the U.S. consulate in Toronto on Feb. 15 calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. (CP24)

Protest at Mount Sinai draws backlash

A similar protest on Monday evening drew national attention and sparked a police investigation after a participant dressed in a Spiderman costume climbed atop an entranceway to Mount Sinai Hospital on University Avenue, waving a Palestinian flag.

The hospital, located on University Avenue, was founded by the Jewish community in Toronto in 1913.

A still image taken from a video circulating on social media that appears to show a participants climbing hospital scaffolding at Mount Sinai Hospital on Feb. 14, 2024.

The act drew a public statement from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who called it a “reprehensible” act of anti-semitism. Ontario Premier Doug Ford also responded, reminding residents that protesting on or outside a hospital is illegal in Canada.

Organizers of Monday’s demonstration responded, calling it “shameful” to see the Prime Minister and other elected officials call a “peaceful protest” antisemitic.

Gur Tsabar, an Israeli-Canadian organizer, said the hospital wasn’t targeted and happened to be along a regular rally route, adding that protesters often jump on scaffolding along the way.

"Everyone who attended the protest was concerned about one thing and one thing only, and that’s the 1.4 million Gazans that are trapped in Rafah,” Tsabar told CTV News in an interview on Wednesday.

Increased enforcement of some Toronto protests

Last month, Demkiw indicated enforcement of protests across the city could be expected to increase, after announcing a ban on protests held at the Avenue Road and Highway 401 overpass. The service cited concern for community safety in the area, which is home to a large Jewish community.

"Moving forward, demonstrations or the congregation of individuals on the Avenue Road overpass will not be permitted," the chief said. "People can expect to be arrested if necessary."

READ MOREProtest ban at Toronto highway overpass enforced 'selectively,' group alleges

At the time, Demkiw said officers would increasingly be "applying a criminal lens" when policing the city's protests. 

Toronto police cited safety concerns when putting in place a ban on protests at the Avenue Road overpass on Highway 401 in January.

With files from Josh Freeman, Hannah Alberga, and The Canadian Press.

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