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Hub for marginalized communities may soon be reality in Hamilton

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Hub for marginalized communities may soon be reality in Hamilton

The City of Hamilton is considering a motion to establish a multi-purpose community hub for diverse and marginalized communities.

Councillors Nrinder Nann and Maureen Wilson introduced the motion at the General Issues Committee meeting on Wednesday (Nov. 6) and a number of community members representing a number of diverse groups stood in front of the committee to express their support of the motion.

At times, the discussion around the motion grew heated and emotional while at other times, some councillors’ comments came across as quite tone-deaf.

First to speak in favour of the motion was Cameron Kroetsch who, in a powerpoint presentation, highlighted the benefits such a hub would provide for marginalized people in Hamilton.

He pointed to a long history that lacked a ‘dedicated safe and city-supported spaces for divers and marginalized communities in the city.

Kroetsch wrapped up his delegation by passionately urging councillors to “check in with your constituents,” particularly those who are marginalized to get to know what their needs and concerns are and to potentially involve them in the process of establishing the proposed hub.

Lyla Miklos echoed Kroetsch’s sentiments and pointed to The 519, a Toronto community centre dedicated to providing services and advocacy for the inclusion of LGBTQ communities, as a possible model for a Hamilton hub.

Following Miklos’s delegation, she fielded a question from Councillor Esther Pauls who asked why she felt marginalized communities needed their own separate space.

Pauls suggested that there were a number of public spaces that could be ‘rented’ out at any time. She then said: “I don’t understand.”

Miklos explained that the reality is, for many marginalized people, especially those belonging to the LGBTQ2, those spaces don’t feel safe.

When LGBTQ2+ advocate Michelle Poirier spoke to the committee, she spoke about how important this safe space would be for her community and children.

She said that in recent years, the LGBTQ2+ have lost trust in the city’s leadership and that this could be a step in the right direction in terms of bridging that gap.

Poirier singled out Mayor Fred Eisenberger and said that trust in him wouldn’t be restored “until the charges against the Pride defenders are dropped.”

Eisenberger responded to the comment immediately, saying that he has no involvement in laying or dropping of charges against individuals.

Councillor Terry Whitehead jumped into the fray and reprimanded Councillor Wilson, who was chairing the meeting, for not intervening and coming to the mayor’s defence in the wake of such comments.

When things calmed down, the committee heard from a number of other representatives from a variety of Hamilton communities including Hamilton’s Centre for Civic Inclusion, Speqtrum Hamilton, the Somali Association of Hamilton, Environment Hamilton, SACHA and ACORN Hamilton.

The committee also heard from two professors from McMaster University who provided some input and data to emphasize the need for a multi-purpose hub for diverse and marginalized communities.

“Hate in our city needs to be challenged on many levels,” said Dr. Ameil Joseph. He said he felt strongly that this kind of hub would help address that need.

McMaster University’s Dr. Tina Fetner said that New York City was the first city to create an LGBTQ+ hub and she said that in 1994, there was a rise of hate and that the centre was a space to build community, propose policy changes, and helped “hate-crime rates drop.”

Suzanne Mills, from McMaster’s faculty of social sciences, presented findings from a survey of more than 900 people who identified as LGBTQ2+ in Hamilton that asked them about access to important services and support within the city.

The survey certainly highlighted some interesting findings, particularly that a significant portion of our community don’t feel safe just being outside and also that a huge number of respondents who are transgender don’t feel safe in public washrooms.

The motion asks:

“That staff be directed to convene with community groups and organizations engaged in serving equity-seeking communities that are interested in collaborating to develop a business case for a multi-purpose community hub.”

The motion claims to be a response to the rising incidences of hate in the city and this an attempt to try and address the needs of communities who don’t feel safe in Hamilton.

Hamilton’s manager of neighbourhood development, Al Fletcher, says a feasibility report on a community hub for marginalized groups won’t be available until late spring 2020.

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