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Police hate crime unit investigating, reviewing vandalism outside Hamilton schools

Workers with the City of Hamilton painting the lines of the Pride crosswalk in Waterdown. @cityofhamilton on Instagram

Hamilton’s public school board says it’s providing support to students and working with police following two recent acts of hate-fuelled vandalism outside local schools.

According to Hamilton police, someone vandalized the newly installed Pride crosswalk in Waterdown on the north side of Parkside Drive outside Allan A. Greenleaf Elementary and Waterdown District High School early Saturday morning.

“Hamilton Police Sergeant Rebecca Moran personally attended the community on Saturday to provide support to the families impacted,” media relations spokesperson Const. Krista-Lee Ernst wrote in an email on Monday.

She also confirmed that the hate crime unit is investigating the incident.

Read more: Hamilton police record 35% increase in hate, bias incidents for 2021

A letter about the vandalism was sent to families of the schools next to the Pride crosswalk, condemning what the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) calls a “direct act of hate” against the LGBTQ2 community.

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“We are deeply saddened by the harm this has caused,” wrote principals Stephen Yull and Theresa Sgambato. “We denounce this expression of homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia.”

Mayor Fred Eisenberger spoke out about the vandalism on Twitter, saying “hateful vandalism is not tolerated nor taken lightly” in Hamilton.

Hamilton police also received a report from the HWDSB on Monday after Ray Lewis Elementary School was vandalized with racist and homophobic graffiti.

“We are saddened to see this vandalism on our school property and disturbed that these actions were intended to cause harm against Two Spirit and LGBTQIA+, Black and racialized communities,” read a letter to families from principal Jennifer Burleigh.

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“Students were directed into the building (Monday) morning to avoid seeing the reference and to reduce harm.”

It’s not directly under investigation at this point, but media relations Const. Indy Bharaj said a report on the Ray Lewis incident has been submitted to the hate crime unit for review.

Read more: Hamilton police investigate altercation at Stoney Creek high school

Shawn McKillop, the HWDSB’s manager of communications and community engagement, calls the incidents “disturbing,” especially as the board is recognizing the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia.

“They’ve been acts of discrimination, harassment, and acts of hate and we, as a school board, want to ensure that we are being responsive and supporting our families and students when these acts of hate occur in our communities,” said McKillop.

He said all HWDSB schools will be marking Pride month in a couple of weeks by raising the Pride flag, adding that supports are available for students who are impacted by acts of hate.

The vandalism follows a report from Hamilton police about a 35 per cent increase in hate crimes and hate bias incidents being reported to police in 2021.

There were a total of 108 hate/bias incidents last year compared with 80 reported in 2020.

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One of those incidents reported to police involved a teen who was charged for stealing a Pride flag from a Waterdown home and stomping on it.

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