Local advocates say they’re unhappy with Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger’s decision to appoint two special advisers for LGBTQ2 community initiatives.
The move comes during a tense time between the LGBTQ2 community and the city, which escalated during a violent interaction between protesters and counter-protesters at the Hamilton Pride event at Gage Park on June 15.
Eisenberger has since faced criticism from members of the LGBTQ2 community, who allege he failed to address the Pride incident adequately, including residents who attended last week’s city council meeting. This was followed by a group of people gathering outside of the mayor’s house on Friday morning, making noise and erecting signs on his front lawn that said: “Mayor doesn’t care about queer people.”
Graham Crawford, Citizen of the Year and a member of the city’s LGBTQ2 community, told Global News Radio 900 CHML’s Bill Kelly Show that he doesn’t condone what happened at Eisenberger’s home but also said there’s a crisis in the city.
“I’ve been a gay activist for 40 years,” said Crawford. “I’ve seen a few things and I’m seeing the same things in Hamilton right now that I saw 40 years ago.”
On Friday, which was also the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, Eisenberger issued a statement that said he was appointing two people to act as advisers for LGBTQ2 initiatives.
Crawford said he doesn’t understand why the mayor has appointed two people to act in a role that seems to be similar to that of the city’s LGBTQ2 advisory committee.
“You don’t ignore your standing advisory committee and take independent action and go rogue and pick two people you happen to know and like and say: ‘These are the people the community will liaise with,'” said Crawford.
“It’s a slap in the face to nine volunteers of a committee who put in their names. They volunteered for this. They don’t just show up. They had to submit profiles and so on. And yet, they’re completely ignored.”
He said the mayor’s chief of staff contacted him to participate in a meeting facilitated by the two new advisers but he declined.
“If this was action No. 9, maybe. Maybe. But there’s eight things in front of this that need to be done, not the least of which is the mayor calling an emergency meeting of the Hamilton Police Services Board to find out from the chief what happened,” Crawford said.
Crawford was referring to how Hamilton police responded to the violence at Pride. In an interview with Global News Radio 900 CHML’s Bill Kelly, police Chief Eric Girt said officers would have been deployed differently if they had been welcomed at the event. Organizers of that event said they denied a request from Hamilton police to have a recruitment booth at Pride, citing a troubled relationship between police and the LGBTQ2 community.
Other community members and advocates have been criticizing the appointments of the two advisers on social media, including Cameron Kroetsch, chair of the city’s LGBTQ2 advisory committee.
For his part, Eisenberger said he remains open to an ongoing dialogue. He spoke with Global News Radio’s Roy Green Show on Saturday following the disturbance outside of his home.
“I’ve been working on inclusivity and diversity and embracing immigration and ensuring that there’s safe spaces and places for everyone in our community,” said Eisenberger.
“Whether you love somebody different than I do or whether you have a different skin colour or whether you have a different belief or religion, as long as you’re not out to hurt anybody, we’re prepared to make sure that Hamilton is for you, and it’s safe and it’s inclusive and you have opportunity. I’ve always believed that, and that will never change.”
Since the disturbance at Hamilton Pride, there have been five arrests made in relation to the incident, although only two of those arrested have been identified — Cedar Hopperton, 33, a transgender activist, and Christopher Vanderweide, 27, a Kitchener man and member of the anti-Pride group that gathered at the event.
One person has been arrested in connection with the disturbance in front of the mayor’s home and has only been identified as a 33-year-old woman.