Members of Hamilton City Council were disappointed at the relative lack of public participation in Hate Prevention & Mitigation Initiative. Sage Solutions was engaged to conduct a stakeholder consultation and to make some recommendations to council on combatting hate in Hamilton but the effort garnered a disappointingly small response. The engagement consisted of face to face interviews, conducted virtually, an online survey, and a “listening session.” The survey was answered by 91 people. 608 people visited the page on the Engage Hamilton site and 102 of those registered to respond. The consultants noted that “having to provide a name and email address proved to be a deterrent to participation.”
Specifics of the engagement process included:
• A facilitated 90-minute session with the Mayor’s Advisory Table on Diversity and Inclusion on June 26, 2020 via Zoom.
• An online survey to inaugurate the use of EngagementHQ software on the EngageHamilton website, open for one month from mid-June to mid-July 2020. The online survey was promoted through the City’s Twitter and Instagram accounts; on the City’s website via a hero banner on the landing page; on a separate web page specific to the project; through the newly launched Engage Hamilton website; in a quarter-page print ad that ran in the Spectator on two consecutive Saturdays; and through email distribution lists.
• Five 90-minute facilitated community “Listening Sessions” held between June 29 and July 9, 2020, conducted via Zoom. Input taken from audio recording and chat transcript. The Listening Sessions were promoted using the same methods as the online survey.
• Telephone interviews with three individuals and email messages from seven others, all of whom reached out proactively to make their voices heard.
• Submitted notes from a February 2020 community meeting on “Resisting Hate and the Far Right”
The consultants cautioned that the level of participation means that the results of the survey have to be taken carefully and cannot be extrapolated to be representative of the views of the broader community writing:
• This report summarizes the input received, but that input cannot be deemed to be representative in a broader sense of the Hamilton population, since it involved such a small sample size. Although selected quotes have been included verbatim, their substantive accuracy has not been verified and they should not be understood as representing the opinions of the consulting team as a result of their inclusion.
The authors noted that the public consultation took place under challenging circumstances, beginning with COVID 19, which in addition to being a major distraction, severely restricted public interaction. At the same time there was heightened tension in the public in response to the Black Lives Matter response to the George Floyd killing and other similar events in the United States. And then there was the scathing report of Hamilton Police actions at the 2019 Hamilton Pride event. The authors noted, “These various events have resulted in potentially distinct but related issues such as racism, trans/homophobia, discrimination, extremism etc. getting blended and confused—in media reports and in people’s minds. A project about “hate” could capture all of it but could also be considered either too broad or too narrow in some contexts. systemic racism and defunding police. period.
A report by the Social Planning and Research Council in Hamilton, using data from the 2016 census says that Hamilton has 100,600 persons who identify as being a visible minority or one in five residents. The same 2016 Census reported that 3 percent of Canadian self-identified as gay. Lesbian or bisexual—a percentage that could be low, given reluctance for some individuals to share personal matters with a government agency. Using the government numbers such as they are, it would put the Hamilton LBGQT population at 15,000 to 18,000. Surprisingly, the majority of survey participants were white (79%) and Heterosexual (61%).
Participants reported a significant lack of connection “between the City and the city.” They describe Council using terms such as “tone deaf” and “insincere” and “ignorant.” The City is seen to have failed to follow up on previous consultation recommendations. As a result, there is deep skepticism about the likelihood that this project will lead to any significant change, across all input channels. The process was described as “disingenuous” and “draining.” People were disappointed that Councillors and the Mayor did not attend any of the consultations. In terms of hate, the City is described as having “abdicated its responsibility of enforcement.” Many people expressed the opinion that silence or complacency on the part of Council has emboldened hatred in the city and given it a greater spotlight.
Council has asked staff to come back with a proposal that would see a broader response from the community.