Hamilton councillors will have a training session in 'restorative practices'

Recent talk of the prevalence of hate crimes in Hamilton has inspired city council and its senior staff to have a "restorative practices" session.
Hamilton police arrest an anti-hate protester outside city hall last weekend. (Graham Crawford)

Recent talk of the prevalence of hate crimes in Hamilton has inspired city council and its senior staff to have a "restorative practices" session.

City council's emergency and community services committee voted Thursday to hold a $1,500 session led by two people from the John Howard Society. Restorative practices involves people coming together, including victims and perpetrators, to discuss how to repair harm and find common ground.

Councillors and senior staff will take the session. The move comes after increased friction in the city around hate crime, particularly after a group of self-appointed street preachers crashed a June Pride festival with homophobic signs and clashed with counter-protesters.

Every Saturday, people in yellow vests bearing signs about immigration also gather in front of city hall, which has drawn counter rallies. Last Saturday grew particularly tense, with someone from the yellow vest side driving a school bus onto the sidewalk.

This comes amid a Statistics Canada report that says Hamilton has one of the highest rates of reported hate crime in Canada. 

Sam Merulla, Ward 4 (east end) councillor, still doubts that Hamilton is worse than other cities. It's not useful though, he said, to "counter hate in an adversarial manner."

"Two things that are going to occur. It's either going to be suppressed, or it's going to escalate it … Most people would agree the hotter it gets, the more you should probably turn down the thermostat."

Restorative practices "puts the onus on the individual to rethink their belief systems."

Nrinder Nann, Ward 3 councillors, says it's important to think deeply and widely about the issue. The depth is sitting down with individuals to reach common ground. The width is continuing the work on new city policies that deter hate.

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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