2 years after launch, Hamilton anti-hate coalition says racism still prevalent
Group is developing new community toolkit, while the city will review 2 new reports next week
Two years after local organizations came together to launch a campaign to stand up for diversity and inclusion, the No Hate in the Hammer coalition said Wednesday that hate and racism remain prevalent.
The coalition presented a report on its work over the last two years, in a virtual event streamed live on its social media platforms.
Ruth Greenspan, a founding member of the coalition, said much work remains to be done in Hamilton.
"Two years later … we're not in a great situation. ... There's lots of reported and unreported hate, institutionalized racism has been called out in many local and worldwide institutions," Greenspan said.
"There's a great deal of work still needing to be done to build an inclusive community that is safe."
We also want to fight all kinds of oppression … we want our local institutions to be places that are free from hate and discrimination.- Ruth Greenspan, No Hate in the Hammer member
The No Hate In The Hammer campaign was organized by the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, and the John Howard Society of Hamilton, Burlington & Area.
It was formed in response to growing concerns in 2019: members of hate groups gathering in front of city hall on a regular basis, as well as violence at Hamilton Pride and an alarming number of police-reported hate crimes. (Hamilton Police Service has said there has been a decrease in the number of reported hate crimes, but acknowledged not everyone reports those crimes and incidents.)
"We also want to fight all kinds of oppression … we want our local institutions to be places that are free from hate and discrimination," Greenspan said.
'Speak up for others'
No Hate in the Hammer member Mouna Bile said the group hosted an anti-hate community summit in May under the theme "Listen, Learn, Act."
She said there were some key takeaways from the summit.
"Having honest conversations was noted as an important step that can save lives," Bile said.
"Attendees reported that it was necessary to interact with diverse communities, to continue having tough conversations and to speak up for others who may not feel safe to do so.
"Allyship is a process, which must ensure that all our voices are included," Bile added.
The coalition now has a part-time staff, thanks to the Hamilton Community Foundation, which has provided funding.
Bile said an upcoming project for the team is the creation of an anti-hate toolkit, which will serve as "a practical guide to tackling hate, both individually and collectively, across all sectors of this community."
Pauline Kajiura, manager community initiatives for Hamilton, joined the Wednesday panel and highlighted the work the city is doing. She said two new reports will be brought before the general issues committee next week.
The first report comes after city council requested recommendations for councillors to consider, in response to incidents of hate in Hamilton.
Consultant Rebecca Sutherns was commissioned by the city to facilitate public engagements to hear people's experiences, and what they believe should happen to address hate, discrimination and racism in Hamilton.
Sutherns's recommendations will be put forward on Monday, Kajiura said.
"Council wanted these recommendations … to be community-informed, informed by people who experienced hate first-hand, as well as other community members."
The second report focuses on hate flags and symbols.
The council had asked for suggestions on what the municipality should do to address "those signs of hate that we, hopefully not too often, see but do see, such as the confederate flag or the swastika," Kajiura said.
Kajiura did not elaborate on the recommendations, but said both reports will be available online when the general issues committee agenda for Monday is published.
Alternative reporting system in the works
Another virtual discussion this week on "responding to hate in Hamilton" that was hosted by the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion (HCCI) discussed the need for a better reporting tool as another way to help combat hate.
HCCI and McMaster University's Research Shop recently held focus groups with 16 BIPOC participants about reporting hate crimes. Preliminary findings show they don't report incidents to officers "due to concerns about police violence, intimidation and inaction."
Kojo Damptey, HCCI's executive director, shared those results during the live chat on Tuesday, saying the participants also said there should be an alternative, online hate reporting system, which HCCI is developing.