Hamilton’s anti-racism centre should be independent from the city, clinic says

The city is looking for people to attend a session about the future of the Hamilton Anti-Racism Resource Centre (HARRC), but several local organizations says it’s time to make the centre independent.

The city will hold a public engagement event at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday to “better understand the lived experiences of racism” and understand issues racialized Hamiltonians face, the city said in a media release. It will also release the results of a survey about the future of the centre, which handles complaints about racism.

But the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic says the centre, which has been paused since February, should be an autonomous “community-based entity” with its own board of directors. That recommendation was signed by 38 people, including union leaders, activists and academics.

The temporary closure of the centre happened without consulting HARRC’s steering committee or the city’s committee against racism, the legal clinic said in its recommendations. That shows “a disregard to these two groups,” it says, and “poor judgment and lack of respect.”

For the centre to inspire a “sense of hope,” the clinic says, it needs to be autonomous.

“Blatant acts of racism and hate in Hamilton have increased,” the recommendations say. “Our city needs HARCC, with guarantees that it will not be paused again.”

“The community voice must drive this initiative.”

The city launched the centre in April 2018, but its committee against racism began pushing for it in 2004. 

The centre operated for 10 months and dealt with 73 cases in that time. The city and its partners, McMaster University and the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion, wondered if that was enough. They paused the centre, which costs $200,000 per year in cash and in-kind contributions, to develop a way of reaching more people. 

The legal clinic says 73 complaints is a lot.

“We view this as a significant number of people with the courage to come forward and share their difficult stories of trauma believing that participation would lead to change,” it said in the recommendations. “By halting the process, the city is neglecting its duty and accountability to these individuals.”

The city contributes $100,000 to the centre, while McMaster contributes $70,000 and HCCI $30,000.

“All of the partners remain strongly and firmly committed to the success of the centre,” said Jodi Koch, the city’s director of talent and diversity, in February. 

The city says it will release the survey results on Tuesday, as well as take questions and create focus groups. Participants can register here

The event is 6:30 p.m. at the David Braley Health Sciences Centre at 100 Main W.