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Police board discusses review of actions at Hamilton Pride, field complaints over chief’s remarks

Hamilton Police Chief Eric Girt speaks at Thursday's police services board meeting.
Hamilton Police Chief Eric Girt speaks at Thursday's police services board meeting. Lisa Polewski / 900 CHML

The scope and cost of an external investigation of what happened at the city’s Pride event this summer will be decided upon at the next meeting of the Hamilton Police Services Board, as tensions continue to build between police and the city’s LGBTQ2 community.

During Thursday’s meeting, the board heard from a subcommittee that has been established to explore the cost and benefits of an independent review of police actions when violence broke out at the Gage Park festival on June 15.

Board member Don MacVicar says they’re still looking into their options, including possibly hiring a retired judge to lead the review, which would cost taxpayers between $1 million and $2 million.

He also said they’re consulting with legal counsel to ensure that the results of the review are available to the public and that it will result in recommendations for policy moving forward.

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“The committee is very aware that the board members want to move this independent review as quickly as possible,” said MacVicar.

“However, we do want to make sure that it encompasses all areas of that concern.”

The board will vote on the subcommittee’s final recommendations during its next meeting on October 10.

READ MORE: Hamilton police chief seeks meeting with LGBTQ2 residents to ease ongoing tensions

Thursday’s meeting began with a delegation from Michael Demone, a Hamiltonian who criticized recent comments made by Police Chief Eric Girt during an interview on Global News Radio 900 CHML’s Bill Kelly Show.

The discussion involved how previous police chiefs dealt with historical issues in the LGBTQ2 community in Hamilton, including police fielding complaints about sex in public washrooms.

Demone said Girt’s comments evoked harmful stereotypes faced by LGBTQ2 people and said he is planning to file complaints with the human rights tribunal and the broadcast standards council about the chief’s remarks.

Michael Demone addressed the Hamilton Police Services Board on Thursday.
Michael Demone addressed the Hamilton Police Services Board on Thursday. Lisa Polewski / 900 CHML

“It is inconceivable that someone in a position of public authority would evoke the most outrageous and egregious stereotypes as a response to legitimate questions about how police are working with communities in Hamilton,” said Demone to reporters following the public portion of the meeting.

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“It’s widely acknowledged that dissemination and repetition of stereotypes — especially among the gay community — is known to incite discrimination, murder, and violence.

“His actions and words are completely irresponsible and he needs to be held to account.”

Girt issued a written apology after other members of Hamilton’s LGBTQ2 community called out his remarks on social media following the interview.

He stood by that apology following Thursday’s board meeting.

“I’ve offered the apology for the impact of those remarks and I look forward to moving forward with that community to see what we can accomplish,” said Girt to reporters gathered outside of council chambers.

He also said Demone is entitled to his opinions, and understands the processes and his options.

Hamilton Police Chief Eric Girt and Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger speak with media following Thursday’s police services board meeting.
Hamilton Police Chief Eric Girt and Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger speak with media following Thursday’s police services board meeting. Lisa Polewski / 900 CHML

Mayor Fred Eisenberger said he thinks Girt’s decision to apologize was “appropriate” and said the city is committed to an ongoing dialogue with the LGBTQ2 community.

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READ MORE: Hamilton mayor says he sees ‘opportunity’ in further meetings with LGBTQ2 residents

Eisenberger added that city staff continues to receive training on transgender and non-gender-conforming identities as part of the city’s Trans Protocol.

“I think it’s education, having people understand the challenges that these members in our community face, and being respectful of their fears,” said Eisenberger.

“Because I think they’re legitimate and we need to be concerned about that and we need to do everything possible to try and help them through.”

WATCH: (June 28, 2019) Protestors plant signs on Mayor Fred Eisenberger’s front lawn

Protestors plant signs on Mayor Fred Eisenberger’s front lawn
Protestors plant signs on Mayor Fred Eisenberger’s front lawn