Hamilton will hire consultant to help with hate policy and community involvement
Some councillors defended the city, saying it's been a leader against hate
Hamilton will hire an external consultant to weigh in on the city's proposed hate mitigation policies and help with community consultation.
An information report about the potential procedures was received by city council's general issues committee Monday. City manager Janette Smith said the ideal candidate for the role would be someone who's an expert in both hate mitigation and fostering a community response — though, she admitted, that might not be possible.
The decision to hire externally came down to two points, she said.
The first is a matter of resources and ensuring city staff can continue to work on the projects they're already involved in. The other is the sensitivity of the subject and "passion around it," Smith said.
She added the contract is expected to run three to four months and should come at no extra cost to the city.
"Our belief right now is we can pay for the money within our existing 2019 approved budget."
Some councillors raised concerns about hiring outside the city. Coun. Nrinder Nann of Ward 3 said someone who isn't from Hamilton might not be aware of local agencies that would want to be involved.
Ward 9 councillor Brad Clark said he has an "incredible reticence" about hiring a public relations firm that has a lack of credibility in the community.
Yet another clash between demonstrators
The consultant will be the second person the city is set to hire as part of its ongoing efforts to combat hate. Council has also approved the hiring of a security investigator for a two-year term to ensure that information is collected and shared according to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).
Monday's meeting came after yet another weekend clash between yellow vest protesters and anti-hate demonstrators in the city hall forecourt. Several councillors were in attendance and peppered their comments about the policies with reflections on the duelling protests, which this time included a bus that temporarily parked on the sidewalk.
Ward 2 councillor Jason Farr asked the city to look into whether or not the driver of the bus had been ticketed.
Meanwhile, Clark said watching the large vehicle mount the sidewalk left him feeling "disconcerted a school bus could pull up in the manner that it did in the middle of a rally and put people at risk."
Nann also suggested the city should have some sort of representative at city hall during weekends so people could report incidents of hate that happen in the forecourt.
Councillors defend city's record against hate
Some councillors spoke up in defence of Hamilton, pointing out the city is not the only place wrestling with protests and hate.
Ward 7 councillor Esther Pauls said there are only a few yellow vest protesters participating on weekends.
"There's few people out there who want to do hate and we could handle those people," she said.
Pauls added as an Italian, she was called racial slurs while growing up, but she knows Hamilton is still a great city.
"It didn't matter, I kept on moving on. Who cares? I'm Esther Pauls. I know who I am. I am proud of Hamilton."
Sam Merulla, the councillor representing Ward 4, said the city has been a leader against hate, including becoming one of the first municipalities in Canada to be a sanctuary city.
"There's always going to be a percentage of hate," he said. "This particular crisis we're faced with isn't a Hamilton crisis. It's an international crisis."
'We have to continue to stand united against hate'
But some on council cautioned against minimizing the problem by focusing on just the people with signs outside city hall. Nann said "daily actions of hate" happen outside of those weekend gatherings.
"We have an obligation to understand this issue in its entirety," she added. "There is an outcry from people saying 'please hear this.'"
Clark described the type of hate aimed at many people in the city as "brazen," and said speaking with the communities that face it has left him shocked.
"When you hear the racist taunts and attacks on an individual and they're willing to do it in a parking lot ... at the grocery store, at your front door," he said.
"As a council, as a city, we have to continue to stand united against hate."