What happened to Hamilton's anti-racism resource centre?

Organizers say Hamilton's Anti-Racism Resource Centre will be back, and better, but it wasn't reaching enough people.

Organizers say it'll be back, and better, but it wasn't reaching enough people

Arig al Shaibah, McMaster University's associate vice-president, equity and inclusion, says the anti-racism resource centre will be back. The pause is "to look at what’s worked well, and what are the areas we can improve." (McMaster University)

Organizers of Hamilton's anti-racism resource centre says the centre will be back — but first, they need to figure out how it can serve more people.

The city announced last week that it was pausing the long-awaited centre, a project anti-racism advocates have wanted for years.

No one's walking away from it, said Arig al Shaibah, McMaster University's associate vice president, equity and inclusion. McMaster and the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion (HCCI) are also partners in the centre.

"No one has contemplated that it would be otherwise," said al Shaibah.

"It's clear that we've identified a need. That need is there, and it hasn't gone away."

The centre, which costs about $200,000 in cash and in-kind contributions per year, only served 73 people in its first 10 months, said Jodi Koch, the city's director of talent and diversity.

"I’m very confident we’ll get this back on track," says Matthew Green, executive director of the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

There are more than 73 people who need the service, Koch said. And it's unlikely city council would keep doling out money for a centre with such low returns. The city contributes $100,000, while McMaster contributes $70,000 and HCCI $30,000.

The group will meet soon to look at how to reach more people, Koch said. It will get public opinions. The review will include examining the centre's location and format. 

"All of the partners remain strongly and firmly committed to the success of the centre," Koch said. 

The concept of the centre, which connects victims of racism with resources, dates back to a symposium in 2003. The city's committee against racism presented the concept to council in 2004, and council asked for a feasibility study.

The committee returned with a study in 2010. Council asked for more information. The committee returned in February 2014, and again that September.

In 2015, council agreed to a three-year pilot project, launched last April. Princewill Ogban, a social worker with health care experience, was hired to lead the centre.

Members of Hamilton's committee for anti-racism listen in 2014 as councillors discuss setting up the centre. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The office fielded 19 in the first quarter of operations, 21 in the second and 33 in the third, Koch said. McMaster is also researching the results.

Now Ogban's work, and the centre, are on hold. Matthew Green, HCCI executive director, said he's not worried.

"With any pilot project, sometimes it makes sense to take a step back and consult with the community and make sure we're on the right track," he said.

"All the partners just really want the best success. We're just looking at how this could work better." 

Recent stats show Hamilton has one of the highest rates in Canada for hate and bias-related crimes.

In 2017, incidents rose 18 per cent over the year before. Those incidents range anywhere from graffiti and uttering threats to assault with a deadly weapon. Hamilton police say there's an upside to that — more people are feeling comfortable reporting them.


Samantha Craggs is journalist based in Windsor, Ont. She is executive producer of CBC Windsor and previously worked as a reporter and producer in Hamilton, specializing in politics and city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca