City-led survey aims to give Hamilton Anti-Racism Resource Centre new direction

The city released the results of a survey on Tuesday in the hopes of improving practices at the Hamilton Anti-Racism Resource Centre.
The city released the results of a survey on Tuesday in the hopes of improving practices at the Hamilton Anti-Racism Resource Centre. Global News

The results of a recent City of Hamilton survey reviewing the practices of the Hamilton Anti-Racism Resource Centre (HARRC) say 82 per cent of participants believe racism is an issue in the city.

The study, which collected data from an online survey posted on the city’s website, also found 79 per cent of respondents have personally experienced and/or witnessed racism or racism-related issues.

McMaster University Prof. Ameil Joseph, who presented year one data on the Centre to the city at a meeting on Tuesday night, told Global News the data provided a “taste of flavour” for the forms of racism that are aligning and arranging in the city.

“We saw anti-black racism and anti-Semitism and Islamophobia as the top reported kinds of racism that people are experiencing as well as people mostly reporting from a certain age group around the age of 30,” he said.

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The HARRC — which was created and jointly funded through a partnership between the city, McMaster University and the Centre for Civic Inclusion — opened on April 4, 2018, on King Street East after a decade-long wait that involved a feasibility study by the city and numerous delays.

READ MORE: Hamilton to host anti-racism conference, thanks to federal funds

The role of the agency was to create a safe space for those impacted by racism, discrimination or hate crimes in addition to collecting data for the city.

However, in February, the three partners paused the centre, saying they believed the current model wasn’t reaching the individuals and groups it was intended to help.

Joseph, who is involved with the centre, said it was only open for nine months before the HARRC lost an administrator who was overwhelmed with the workload.

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“Seventy-five individual complaints came in; 17 seminars were conducted and 46 consultations with community groups and agencies,” said Joseph. “There was counselling and referral followup as well as education provided, and that’s a lot for one person.”

Joseph acknowledged the survey data didn’t seem to give an indication of what kind of satisfaction, or lack thereof, visitors were getting from the HARRC.

“I think given the data we have, we don’t have data to tell us how people felt about the outcomes, terrible outcomes,” said Joseph. “I think people do feel a sense of frustration that they don’t have adequate resources and support, which is [coming] from evidence that we had that argued for the centre in the first place.”

Meanwhile, Coun. Brad Clark, the city’s representative for the HARRC, says an “ill-defined” governance structure was also a significant factor in the pause.

“There was no board of directors, there were no procedural bylaws. There were no governing documents,” Clark told Global News. “There were, in my opinion, I believe, conflicting expectations between all of the parties.”

READ MORE: Hamilton police investigate ‘hate bias harassment’ at Jackson Square

Joseph says results from the survey should provide direction to dictate what the centre could look like in the future.

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The recent survey, conducted online between July 3 and Sept. 15, 2019, had 575 respondents.

Of those participants, 46 per cent identified as a member of a racialized group, while eight per cent identified as Indigenous.

Joseph says those numbers suggest that 54 per cent of respondents were likely not racialized and were more likely to have been a witness rather than the person experiencing racism.

He goes onto say that racialized people reported experiencing racism in a variety of settings.

“What they described was racism at individual levels in city services and schools and college and university and health care, and even in trying to access housing in public spaces,” Joseph said.

More than two-thirds (69 per cent) of respondents were between the age of 26 and 55, and 62 per cent said they were women.

READ MORE: Hamilton has highest rate of police-reported hate crime in Canada — StatCan

About two-thirds (67 per cent) say the ideal operating model for the HARRC is one that does not include the city.

After poring over information collected from the first nine months of the centre’s operation, Joseph believes many came to the HARRC to simply report their story, be heard and have that data recorded.

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“They wanted to have the story heard and … they just wanted it to be collected, the data around what they are experiencing,” Joseph said. “Many were offered followup, many were offered referrals. But not a lot of people were returning for ongoing support so that is something to look into.”

A majority of respondents (78 per cent) are in favour of using an online method to report racism they have witnessed, while 65 per cent were fine with reporting racism they have personally experienced through an online portal.

The city says the data from the online survey will be reviewed by a volunteer advisory committee, which will create a citizen committee report that will be presented to the audit, finance and administration subcommittee on Dec. 5.

READ MORE: Police investigating anti-Semitic graffiti outside Hamilton synagogue

Clark believes a new HARRC needs a good governance structure with accountability and a clear mandate going forward.

“I think, over time, that we’re going to see an organization strengthen and really do deliver for the broader community,” he said.

Meanwhile, Joseph said a potential model for the centre going forward would have to be in some form of a “community hub” with a move to a more independently sustainable community organization.

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“I think people don’t want to wait more years for organizations and bureaucracies to arrange something that might work or might not work,” he said. “They want to see action now.”

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Montreal protesters rally in the rain against Bill 21 – Oct 27, 2019

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