In an era of racial tensions and tiki torch-carrying white nationalists, a local immigration council hopes a new social media campaign will encourage Hamiltonians to be even more immigrant friendly.

'You can never be over welcoming.' - John Ariyo, the city's manager of community initiatives

The Hamilton Immigration Partnership Council and the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion are launching a campaign called #HamiltonForAll, which is an effort to get Hamiltonians trying harder to welcome newcomers.

It extends offline too, said Nicole Longstaff, senior project manager for the council.

The campaign, which will launch in December, suggests people invite immigrants to backyard barbecues, or talk up newcomers to friends and relatives.

The council launched the website, hamiltonforall.ca, on Canada Day. Since then, Longstaff said, it's become even more relevant, locally and in view of broader trends south of the border..

On Aug. 12, for example, a protest in Charlottesville, Va. turned bloody when white nationalists carrying weapons and tiki torches protested the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee.

The rally drew counter protestors, and anti-fascism demonstrator Heather Heyer was killed and at least 19 others were wounded. James Alex Fields Jr. is charged with driving a car into the group of protestors. Two police officers also died when their helicopter crashed.

On July 29 in Hamilton, meanwhile, the Canadian Combat Coalition, a self-described "patriot group," held a rally against federal anti-Islamophobia Motion 103. A militant group called the Canadian Three Percenters did security detail. Anti-fascism protestors attended that rally too.

Matthew Green, Ward 3 councillor, has since moved to ban outside groups from doing security duties on city property.

One of the council's goals in its new strategic plan, lasting through to 2020, is to make Hamilton "a responsive, welcoming and inclusive community." That's increasingly important, Longstaff said.

Hamilton is known for being welcoming, she said. But census figures also show the city is second highest for hate crimes in Canada. So there's work to do.

John Ariyo, the city's manager of community initiatives, agrees there's room for improvement.

"You can never be over welcoming," he said. "You can never be over inclusive. But as far as I know right now, we're not bad off."

The council presented its plan at a city council emergency and community services committee meeting Wednesday.

At the meeting, councillors also considered a report from the mayor's committee on Syrian refugees. That committee is winding down, Ariyo said, and its work will become part of the partnership council.

The report said, among other items, that refugees need more support beyond their first year, after their federal funding stops.


Top 10 countries of origin for new Hamilton residents from January to April 2016

  • Syria.
  • Philippines.
  • India.
  • Iraq.
  • China.
  • Pakistan.
  • United States of America.
  • United Kingdom.
  • Colombia.
  • Somalia.

samantha.craggs@cbc.ca | @SamCraggsCBC