City looking to hear from Hamilton residents who experience racism

The City of Hamilton wants to better understand the lives of residents who experience racism in the community. Lisa Polewski / 900 CHML

A pilot project from the City of Hamilton and community partners is looking for input from residents who experience racism.

The city, in partnership with McMaster University and the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion, established the Hamilton Anti-Racism Resource Centre (HARRC) in 2018 to gather information on racism and the lived experiences of those who deal with racism in order to better inform city council on those issues.

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The HARRC was put on hold earlier this year for a period of up to 12 months “to allow the partners to review and renew plans to achieve its envisioned goals,” according to the city.

Jodi Koch, director of talent and diversity with the city, said it’s not yet clear how the information that is gathered during this consultation phase will be implemented, but the goal is to hear from as many different groups and communities as possible.

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“What we’re really hoping it will identify is potential gaps in support or resources that Hamilton has available currently and (that we will) better understand what could we put in place to meet the needs to bridge those gaps for community members,” Koch said.

She adds that Hamilton has more reported cases of racism and hate incidents per capita than other cities across Canada but, often, a lot of incidents go unreported so the number is likely even higher than it appears.

“Without people reporting issues, it’s really difficult to understand the actual experience of people in Hamilton. I know Hamilton police have worked over the years to try to encourage more people to come forward and report because we all believe that racism and racism-related events are traditionally underreported, and there’s a lot of reasons for that so we want to better understand how do we encourage people to come forward with those issues,” Koch explained.

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A similar pilot project was run in Thunder Bay between 2017 and 2018, and Koch said one of the things the city learned from that program was that people were more comfortable reporting their experiences online than they were doing so in person or by phone.

“We’re trying to learn what best practice looks like. We’re looking across Canada but we’re also looking internationally as well to get a better understanding of what some of the best practices may be,” Koch said.

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Public consultations, online surveys and other community engagement methods will begin next month, and Koch says the city is hoping to relaunch the centre in early 2020.

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