Hamilton police board will vote next month whether to review Pride conduct

Hamilton's police services board will decide next month whether to investigate police conduct at a violent Pride altercation in June.

A board-ordered external review could cost as much as $2M

Michael Demone says the police chief's comments about LGBTQ people this way invoke subjects people cite when they commit hate crimes. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Hamilton's police services board will decide next month whether to investigate police conduct at a violent Pride altercation in June.

Board member Don MacVicar says a three-member committee — the other two being former colonel Geordie Elms and retired sign company president Fred Bennink — will report back Oct. 10 on what an independent external review should look like. The board has been examining options since July.

The committee is looking at costs and options, MacVicar said, including possibly hiring a retired judge to do the review. It could cost as much as $2 million, which Mayor Fred Eisenberger said later would come from Hamilton taxpayers.

"It is … hoped the review will include recommendations with respect to policy moving forward," MacVicar said during a police board meeting Thursday. "The committee is very aware that board members want to move this independent review as quickly as possible."

The Pride violence, and the service's subsequent relationship with the LGBTQ community, has been a contentious issue in recent months.

Hamilton's police services board will discuss an external review into police conduct at Pride on Oct. 10. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

On June 15, members of a far-right group called the Servanthoods crashed a Pride festival at Gage Park, bearing homophobic signs and loud speakers. A group of counter-protesters in pink masks also used a large black curtain to try to shield them from view. The clash turned violent and several people were assaulted. Pride Hamilton organizers criticized the police response, saying they stood by while violence erupted. Chief Eric Girt, meanwhile, said police would have deployed differently at the event had they been invited. 

Then in the following days, Hamilton police arrested three pro-Pride counter-protesters — plus a transgender resident who a parole board ruled wasn't at Pride at all — and only one of the anti-Pride demonstrators.

The deteriorating relationship flared again this week when Bill Kelly, host of a show on 900 CHML, asked Chief Eric Girt about repairing that relationship, and Girt referenced sodomy and sex in public washrooms. Girt apologized Thursday, saying he was trying to make a point about legislative changes.

"I recognize the relationship with our 2SLGBTQ+ community is strained," he said, "but I am committed to repairing this relationship and moving forward."

The board-ordered external review would be in addition to four other reviews of complaints. One is a conduct complaint the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) is investigating. Girt is reviewing three service complaints.

At the meeting, Michael Demone told the board he and two other residents plan to file complaints with the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council over Girt's radio comments this week.

"Chief Girt is a threat and a liability who has demonstrated repeatedly, without care, animosity toward LGBT people," he said.

Girt had little to say about that

"Mr. Demone is entitled to his opinion," he said after the meeting. "He understands the processes and that's his option."

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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