Barrie business chair should be removed for derogatory remarks on video: integrity commissioner

Barrie’s integrity commissioner says the chair of the city’s business improvement area should be forced to step aside over derogatory comments he made during a meeting about a potential supervised consumption site, video of which was obtained and published by CBC News.

Rob Hamilton, who is also Barrie’s former mayor, ought to have known comments he made last fall were “inappropriate, offensive, insulting or derogatory,” said Suzanne Craig in her decision, released Thursday.

That decision has been sent to Barrie’s city council. CBC Toronto has contacted the Downtown Barrie BIA’s executive director to see if Hamilton will step aside voluntarily, but hasn’t received a response at this time.

Craig’s decision says Hamilton may continue his work with the BIA’s board, but must attend training sessions about human rights and how addiction is a mental health issue first. You can read the full report at the bottom of this story.

Hamilton told BarrieToday.com he wants to stay on as chair, but he’s happy to take the training.

A Barrie citizen filed a formal complaint after CBC’s story ran, saying Hamilton had violated the City of Barrie’s code of conduct.

Hamilton made a number of offensive remarks during a Sept. 22 meeting. At one point, Hamilton cuts off a colleague and says drug users are not “productive, contributing” citizens before urging his colleagues to be forceful in their efforts to move the site outside the BIA’s boundaries to a place where “they’re not in your face.”

Hamilton also uses the phrase “carrying on like a bunch of Mau Maus,” which the integrity commissioner points out is a derogatory term used toward Black people that dates back to a Kenyan rebellion against white colonialists.

WATCH: Here is video of a portion of Hamilton’s remarks:

Rob Hamilton, Barrie’s former mayor, shared these opinions during a September, 2020, meeting of the business improvement association. 1:57

Hamilton, who apologized for his statements in a letter to the integrity commissioner, said he was not aware of the origins of the term. 

“I apologize for the disrespect I have shown Barrie citizens with those remarks.”

Craig acknowledges Hamilton’s regret in her decision, but notes his apology does not absolve him of “having fallen short of his ethical obligations set out under the Code.”

City councillors are set to vote on whether or not to sanction Hamilton at a meeting next Monday.

Meanwhile, the search for a location for a potential supervised consumption site continues following a series of public consultations. The Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit is down to a shortlist of four sites.

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