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Hamilton anti-racism resource centre gets closer to re-launching, seeks additional funding

Activists rally in Gore Park in Hamilton, Ont. on June 1, 2020, a week after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Lisa Polewski / Global News

The Hamilton Anti-Racism Resource Centre (HARRC) is getting closer to re-launching, with the help of some additional funding from the city.

During Thursday’s audit, finance and administration committee meeting, councillors unanimously approved the board membership recommendations for the HARRC that were submitted by a community advisory panel.

They also approved a staff recommendation to use $50,000 from the tax stabilization reserve to hire a consultant to support the board and develop a “full budgetary, operational and sustainability requirement report” by July.

That funding is on top of nearly $204,000 that the city has already allocated for the HARRC.

It was launched in April 2018 and was paused after only 10 months, with the city citing a need to ensure “the centre’s core mandate, activities and other success factors were further refined by community input and best practices”.

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Evelyn Myrie, lead consultant on the project and CEO of EMpower Strategy Group, said the community advisory panel didn’t modify the mandate or vision of the HARRC, and added that that will be up to the board once they’re in their roles.

“It was really about a change in direction while ensuring that we had a robust body of individuals who are willing and able and confident to drive this new HARRC board forward.”

During its first 10-month lifespan, the HARRC spent about $96,000 of the $300,000 that was budgeted for a three-year time period.

Ward 13 Councillor Arlene Vanderbeek expressed concerned that they won’t be able to make up that funding and will require more money from the city when the report comes back in July.

“I just don’t want this to go forward, and the community is all excited about … they’ve got 36 months to gear up, and have to worry about whether or not they can sustain themselves. I don’t want to set them up to fail.”

Maureen Wilson, councillor for Ward 1, said the HARRC will be a “pillar” and a resource in the community and ought to be able to do its job without worrying about funding.

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“When we continuously require important entities like this to do fundraising, it takes them away from their core business,” said Wilson. “Because so much of their activity is chasing down grants, writing grant proposals, chasing down money, and they necessarily are taken away from what their core purpose is.”

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

John Ariyo, manager of community initiatives for the city, said that’s why the centre is hoping to use the additional $50,000 to hire a consultant that would be able to figure out exactly what kind of funding is needed to run the centre without constantly needing to apply for funding.

“We don’t have that full picture, in terms of what the full operational requirements of that centre and the budget would look like … that’s a report that we’re asking for,” said Ariyo. “And then from there, we’ll be able to bring the full report back in July.”

Cyrus Tehrani, the city’s chief digital officer, said it’s about “planting the seed of regrowth” for HARRC.

“This is a community-led board and … would reach out to all the relevant community stakeholders to be engaged in the process that will make HARRC successful in the future.

Read more: Former student wants Hamilton public school board to replace 4 trustees following racism investigation

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Ward 15’s Judi Partridge said a skilled board and executive director should be able to find funding and seek available opportunities, noting that there are federal and provincial grants, as well as charitable foundations that could help with operating costs in the long run.

“It is critically important that we give them the legs and the ability to get established, and to really make this successful in the long run,” said Partridge. “And by looking at who’s proposed for the board of directors, there’s no question in my mind that they are on a good, solid foundation to move forward.”

Although a community advisory panel has submitted recommendations for who ought to sit on HARRC’s board, their names have not been publicly released.

That is expected to happen once Hamilton city council gives its final approval during next Wednesday’s meeting.

Read more: Hamilton anti-racism advocates call for local action to combat anti-Black racism

The community advisory panel narrowed down a list of 39 applicants for membership on the board to 13 recommendations, and Myrie said the panel feels that its list of candidates will be ideal for the inaugural board of the HARRC.

“We were very mindful of ensuring that there was a balance of people who represent the Hamilton community on this board,” said Myrie. “We were very mindful of lived experiences and expertise and diverse representation.”

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It remains to be seen where the physical centre will be based, but Myrie said visibility and accessibility — including access to bus routes — should be top of mind when choosing a location.

“Our downtown core sounds like it fits that criteria,” said Myrie. “I wouldn’t want to say that has to be the downtown but based on the visibility, transportation issues and accessibility issues … it sounds like that area to me.”

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