Hamilton mayor arranging meeting with LGBTQ advisors and police chief

Hamilton's mayor and his two special advisors will have another private meeting with LGBTQ residents again — but this time, he's inviting the chief of police.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger says he's arranging a meeting with the chief of police and LGBTQ residents. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Hamilton's mayor and his two special advisors will have another private meeting with LGBTQ residents — but this time, he's inviting the chief of police.

Fred Eisenberger held a meeting last week with five LGBTQ Hamiltonians, along with his two new volunteer advisors. Deirdre Pike, a long-time queer rights activist, and Cole Gately, a transgender rights activist, have been appointed to help repair bridges between the city and LGBTQ residents.

Eisenberger's office said this weekend that he "looks forward to continued dialogue with our two-spirit and LGBTQ+ communities."

His next step in that effort is scheduling a meeting that includes Chief Eric Girt, since the police service's handling of violence at the June 15 Pride event and its subsequent investigations are a key source of anger among LGBTQ Hamiltonians. Pride Hamilton criticized police for responding too slowly. Girt said afterward police would have deployed differently if the service had been welcome at the event.

"The mayor is working with Hamilton police to schedule a meeting between participants at the Friday, July 5 meeting and the chief of police," Eisenberger's office said in an email. "We are hoping to have this booked as soon as possible."

Eisenberger invited several people to the July 5 meeting in his office, where he listened to feedback on how to handle relations with the LGBTQ community.

Some invitees publicly declined, saying they wouldn't attend until the mayor did more to hold police accountable for their response to the Pride violence. Two YWCA managers said they wouldn't attend because the city's response has been "reactive at best, antagonistic at worst."

At the Pride event, a group bearing religious signs and protesting Pride clashed with pro-Pride counter-protesters, including a group of anarchists in pink masks. Police say there were several injuries. 

One person protesting Pride has been charged with two counts of assault with a weapon. One counter-protesters is charged with assault and also violating a court order, while two others were arrested for violating court orders.

Another anarchist has been charged with theft under $5,000, criminal harassment, causing a disturbance and mischief after a group put signs on Eisenberger's lawn that said the mayor "doesn't care about queer people."

The mayor appointed Pike and Gately, who is also a city employee, the same day. 

Stoney Creek resident Cam Galindo was one of the people who accepted the mayor's invitation on July 5. 

Police board meeting this week

The Pride event and aftermath "has been a crisis in Hamilton, and how the city has dealt with it speaks to the mentality of the internal workings at city hall, and how ill equipped everyone has been to deal with a crisis like this," said Galindo, who is also a Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board trustee. "The community itself has been fantastic, but ultimately it falls on the city to take responsibility."

Not long after the July 5 meeting, the mayor issued a statement saying he is "sorry for the pain and fear that the two-spirit and LGBTQ+ communities, their friends, and allies experienced at the Pride event and which many are still feeling."

Eisenberger didn't attend a Hamilton for Who? rally this weekend, but said in an email that he "denounces all organizations, groups or individuals that promote hate, violence, intolerance, discrimination and hate speech against anyone in our community. Every single person deserves to live and prosper in a safe and caring community."

The Pride violence, and the police response to it, will be discussed at a Hamilton Police Services board meeting Thursday. Eisenberger chairs the police services board, and at least one board member says he plans to bring it up.

Two Hamilton city councillors have called for an independent investigation into police response that day.

About the Author

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca


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