Hamilton·Hamilton Votes 2021

Long voting wait lines in Hamilton, poll in Ohsweken moved to off Six Nations after 'blockade'

Voters faced longer lines than normal at polling cites throughout Hamilton on Monday, while a “blockade” of the poll in Ohsweken led to its last-minute relocation 26 kilometres away and off the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve.

Long-term care home, accessibility issues also reported in 1st pandemic federal election vote

Federal election voters line up outside First Ontario Centre in Hamilton on Monday. Long lines were reported at polling places around the city. (Daniel Taekema/CBC)

Some voters faced longer lines than normal at polling sites throughout Hamilton on Monday, while a "blockade" of the poll in Ohsweken led to its last-minute relocation 26 kilometres away and off the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve.

Elections Canada spokesperson Nathalie De Montigny said people were stationed outside the polling site at the Gathering Place by the Grand, a conference centre in Ohsweken, on Monday morning with the intention to stop others from voting.

"There was a blockade," she said, adding, "There was a relocation by the returning officer." 

She said the three polls designated for that location were moved to the Oakland, Ont., community centre, which is off the reserve, and were set up before noon ET. Oakland is more than 20 minutes by car west of Ohsweken. 

"Signs were posted redirecting voters," De Montigny said.

Last week, traditional leaders at Six Nations demanded that polling stations and all election material be removed from the territory before the election. The Haudenosaunee Confederacy issued a statement saying the stations were a violation of treaty rights and "our human rights to exist as distinct people."

The statement cites the Two Row Wampum Treaty, between the Dutch and Haudenosaunee, "to never interfere in one another's government, laws and ways." It also discouraged Onkwehonwe, or Haudenosaunee people, from voting.

Elections Canada had made the polling place arrangements with Six Nations' elected government. CBC contacted the elected council and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy for comment Monday evening but did not hear back.

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COVID-19 leads to LTC home voting issues

Elsewhere in the area, voters reported long lines and problems with accessibility at polling places. 

Katherine Mould said her 85-year-old grandmother, Susan Marshall, who lives at Macassa Lodge, a long-term care facility that is currently experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak, was told she wouldn't be able to vote because she can't leave her unit, and poll workers couldn't come in.

Mould said she was livid, as she had been told a ballot box would be taken to every floor so the residents didn't have to "commingle.

"I got a phone call around lunch time, and grandma said, 'They aren't going to let me vote,'" she said. "I said I'd be over after lunch… I told them, 'My grandmother is voting — it may be her last vote.'"

A short line formed outside of Dr. J.E. Davey School in Hamilton's Beasley neighbourhood on Monday. Voters said they only waited five to six minutes to cast their ballot in the federal election. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Mould rushed to the lodge and was able to help Marshall cast her ballot, but when she left, no one else on the same unit had been able to cast one.

She said her grandmother told her that later in the day, something was worked out so some of the affected residents could vote, although CBC was unable to confirm details with Elections Canada. No one answered the phone at Macassa Lodge on Monday evening. 

Voting easy for some and inaccessible for others

Kerri Withers, who lives in Kirkendall, said she was surprised to be voting at Soccer World on Frid Street, where its parking lot is being repaved and its wheelchair ramp is being rebuilt.

"There are steps up into the polling station which make it inaccessible to wheelchairs and others with mobility devices," she said, noting she does not live with mobility issues, but has family members who do. "I've had experience taking my mom and dad to places for voting and things like that. My mother never would have been able to manage it."

Withers also said the street is under construction, so pedestrians going down Frid Street must walk into traffic and there is no way to drive to the entrance to drop someone off. 

"If any elderly person says, 'I'll just walk over to the polling station' ... You need to be transported there. You couldn't have been dropped off at the door."

CBC's call to Soccer World went to voicemail. Elections Canada spokesperson Dugald Maudsley said he was unaware of any complaints, but "if there were issues, Elections Canada apologizes."

Barrington Hibbert, 58, said voting in Hamilton on Monday afternoon was easy. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Barrington Hibbert, 58, voted at Dr. J.E. Davey School on Ferguson Avenue in the Beasley Neighbourhood.

"It was simple, a well-oiled machine … I didn't want to long because I recently moved from Toronto so my address wasn't changed so they took care of that, got me registered and boom."

He moved from Toronto to Hamilton in July and said it changed the way he thought about the election.

"I see the situation in Hamilton and they need a party that's going to help support the homeless situation … it reinforced me in terms of what party to vote for," he said.

Chris Reise, 55, said Monday was the first time he voted in six years. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Chris Reise, 55, voted at the same polling station in Hamilton Centre minutes earlier. He said it was his first time casting a ballot in six years. 

"I don't really care about politics that much but I was really looking forward to getting that vote out today … I felt relieved," Reise said.

Reports of signs vandalized 

There were reports Monday that election signs for local Liberal candidates Filomena Tassi (Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas) and Chad Collins (Hamilton East-Stoney Creek) had been vandalized. 

Tassi's campaign co-manager, Eddie Hutchinson, said about 15 signs were vandalized near Jerseyville Road in Ancaster sometime between Sunday evening and Monday morning. 

"They were all anti-Semitic, terrible things," he said. "We never want to see this in a democracy. It's the unfortunate angle this campaign [has taken] nationally."

Collins campaign volunteer Brendan Tait said they've seen swastikas and phrases such as "Save us, Trump" sprayed on their signs throughout the campaign. 

"We get calls from people who have the signs who are obviously upset," he said. "It's disheartening to see this level of vitriol in the community. 

"We do hear from people at the door, and people in the community, that there is a level of vitriol that is unprecedented. We have had our volunteers yelled at, harassed in the community while canvassing."

With files from Bobby Hristova and Dan Taekema