The Hamilton Anti-Racism Resource Centre (HARRC) has been given a tentative go-ahead, nearly four years after it was first launched. The centre, which among other things will provide support to individuals who have experienced racism was formed in 2018 as a joint venture between the City, McMaster and the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion. The organization hired an executive director and operated out of an office in downtown Hamilton for 10 months and then was “paused” as a staff report described it. Whatever the reason for the pause it was dealt with at a closed meeting where a report that remains confidential was discussed.
The initial funding will come from the roughly $200,000 that remains of the $300,000 that council originally voted for the project in 2018. Meanwhile, council has been asked to consider a report from EMPOWER Strategy Group that would see the city provide $950,000 over five years to support the resource centre. The remainder of the Centre’s budget would come from foundations, fundraising and senior governments. The budget would grow from $264,000 in its first year to $565,000 in year five.
The centre has a 13-member board headed by Sandi Bell–a former Canadian Human Rights Commissioner. She is a mediator and Restorative Justice practitioner. The board hired Lyndon George as Executive Director who most recently was constituency office manager for Andrea Horwath. The Centre will operate out of space provided by McMaster at its Continuing Education Centre in Jackson Square.
The presentation to council was not without a tense moment when Councillor Lloyd Ferguson asked Mr. George to ensure there was “a firewall” between his organization and the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion, which was an original sponsor of HAARC in 2018, but not this time around. Ferguson said HCCI has become a critic of Hamilton Council. That brought a rebuke from Ward One Councillor Maureen Wilson who is an HCCI board member. In addition, the Hamilton Community Foundation, headed by Wilson’s spouse, Terry Cooke has provided approximately $140,000 over the last three years to HCCI., which has grown from a $300,000 organization in 2019 to nearly $1 Million in 2021. She said, “it is a worry to me that those of us with privilege would seek to place guardrails on efforts by community members when they seek to raise issues of racism.”
The Bay Observer contacted Kojo Damptey, the Executive Director of HCCI to ask how his organization and HARRC will operate in the same space. “We’ve done a lot to help HARRC get re-started,” he said, saying there is no competition between the two organizations. He said HARRC’s mandate is to keep track of incidents of racism and to direct victims to agencies that can help them, where HCCI has an education and outreach role, providing anti-racism training and advocacy. “There is more than one agency in Hamilton dealing with housing,” he said, “why not in this area.” The report to council describing the role of the new agency does appear to envision a broader role for the new agency listing as one of its vision items: “A place that builds individual, workplace and community capacity and cultural understanding through provision and promotion of education, training, and information related to diversity, anti-racism, and discrimination. “