Anti-racism advocates call for Lloyd Ferguson not to be reelected police board chair

Critics including Coun. Matthew Green are calling for Coun. Lloyd Ferguson to not be reelected chair of Hamilton’s police services board.

Community Coalition Against Racism says it is 'shameful' the board has no members who are people of colour

Lloyd Ferguson is a city councillor representing Ancaster who is chair of the Hamilton police services board. An anti-racism group and a fellow councillor have called for him not to be reelected chair on Thursday. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Critics including Coun. Matthew Green are calling for Coun. Lloyd Ferguson to not be reelected chair of Hamilton's police services board.

The election is scheduled for the board's Thursday afternoon meeting.

Re-electing Ferguson would be "rewarding what I would call bad behaviour and lack of understanding of the position," Green said.

"Given the size of the budget and the sensitivities around policing, I don't think he's the appropriate person to be leading the police board."

Ferguson was rebuked last week by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, which found he breached the code of conduct when he did two local talk radio interviews.

The commission said comments he made in the interviews, regarding an ongoing matter involving Green's complaint of racial profiling, were unfortunate and unfair. Ferguson accepted the ruling and agreed to apologize and rescind the comments.

'Ferguson never "got it"'

A local anti-racism advocacy group issued a statement Wednesday urging its supporters to contact Mayor Fred Eisenberger and Coun. Terry Whitehead, who sit on the police board, to urge them not to vote for Ferguson.

The Community Coalition Against Racism has been among the groups that have lobbied the board for changes to Hamilton police practices like "carding" or street checks.

An anti-racism group called for Ferguson not to be reelected chair in part over what it called his lack of recognition of the seriousness of the complaints made by groups like "Black, Brown, Red Lives Matter." (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

New regulations that came into effect in January 2017 banned police from collecting identifying information on someone who is not under investigation, on someone "arbitrarily," or on someone based on race or presence in a high crime neighbourhood — all concerns that had eroded trust of many communities with police.

The carding practice was criticized for its disproportionate impacts on visible minorities and was called an infringement on Charter rights to privacy.

"Ferguson never 'got it' during the intense debates on the practice of carding … over his previous term as chair," the statement from the anti-racism group says. "He always sided with police and against those who called for abolishing the practice."

The group says it is "shameful" that the seven-person board has no representatives who are people of colour.

In an email, Ferguson noted that neither he nor the board appoints its own members, and said the most recent appointment was done by the province.

'Better cultural competence'

Green identified several issues he's had with Ferguson's leadership, including when he violated the city's code of conduct by grabbing a journalist, when he called Colombia a "backwards country and when he made the comments about Green's complaint.

Both Green and the anti-racism group say they're dissatisfied with Ferguson's apology for those remarks.

Coun. Matthew Green said he hoped Eisenberger would step forward to chair the board. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Ferguson said he did what the Ontario Civilian Police Commission directed.

"OCPC has issued its decision in relation to Matthew Green's complaint," he wrote in an email. "I have complied with the terms of the decision. All steps in relation to my statement were taken in conjunction with OCPC. I have no further comment in relation to this matter."

Green said he would like to see Eisenberger step forward to chair the police board.

"I think it's important that we have someone who has a … better cultural competence than what has been presented for the last three years," he said.

In an interview last week, Whitehead declined to discuss the coming election before the meeting.

Walt Juchniewicz, who is a civilian member of the board, said he will put his name forward for the chair's position, which would pit him against Ferguson.

Ferguson could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday afternoon.

kelly.bennett@cbc.ca

About the Author

Kelly Bennett

Reporter, CBC Hamilton

Kelly Bennett is an award-winning reporter who lives in Hamilton. She grew up in Victoria and covered economics and arts as an investigative reporter in San Diego. She loves digging into great stories, hiking and playing the violin. Drop her a line anytime at kelly.bennett@cbc.ca.

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