Hamilton councillors had a closed-door session on Wednesday night in light of a news story about a former leader of a Canadian white supremacist organization who has been working for the city.
The article comes from Vice Canada writer Mack Lamoreaux who revealed that former Heritage Front member Marc Lemire has been working in the city’s IT department for over a decade.
Behind closed doors, councillors received an update from director of human resources Lora Fontana in regards to Lemire’s status as a city employee.
Prior to the in-camera session, Stoney Creek Councillor Brad Clark said he’s been getting calls and needs information related to the code of conduct for municipal employees and “how it would deal with the propagation of hate.”
LISTEN: Global News Radio’s Rob Breakeneridge talks with Vice News Author Mack Lamoreaux
Lemire came to notoriety in 2009 when a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled on a controversial law banning internet hate messages.
Back then it was alleged that Lemire was influential in the neo-Nazi movement, using the internet as a propaganda tool in the early 90s and starting a website called “The Freedom Site” in 1996.
After the tribunal sessions, member Athanasios Hadjis was criticized in public for ruling that a section of the Canadian Human Rights Act violated Charter protections. That decision essentially let accused hatemongers like Lemire off the hook, allowing him to continue to post alleged hate messages with no repercussions.
The 44-year-old, who boasted of being the founder of freedomsite.org, later went on to post articles related to censorship in Canada until 2015.
Matthew Green, Hamilton’s first black councillor, said in a statement sent to Global News that he’s “disgusted to learn that the former leader of the Heritage Front has infiltrated the City of Hamilton’s IT department.”
Green says he’s concerned about Lemire’s potential access to his political and personal online information.
“During my (time) as a City Councillor I was often a primary source of highly private and confidential information disclosed to me by both city staff in a whistleblowing capacity, as well as residents, facing a range of issues including very sensitive information,” said Green. “I have deep concerns about this breach of public trust knowing now that this person may have had complete and undetectable access to these communications.”
Green, who is now the executive director of the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion, wants to see an investigation into whether any breaches of his privacy or of city information occurred.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger in his own statement said “we do not provide comment on any personnel matters. Further, we cannot comment on, nor are we always privy to, the personal beliefs of employees.”
Eisenberger goes on to say “From a broader city perspective, the City of Hamilton encourages all Hamiltonians to stand up against prejudice, exclusion and discrimination based on ethnicity, race, religion, country of origin, disability, sexual orientation or other differences.”
Meanwhile, on Thursday, Fontana confirmed to Global News that the city is pursuing an investigation into the matter.
“It is important that we take a measured approach to the investigation to ensure we gain a deeper understanding of the situation, determine the facts, and remain respectful of all concerns and parties throughout the process.” said Fontana, “In the event that the investigation substantiates a policy violation, appropriate action will be taken.”
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