This article was originally published in The Hamilton Spectator, and is written by Joel OpHardt. Click here for the published article.
By: Joel OpHardt, The Hamilton Spectator
Disappointed by community backlash of the refugee crisis, the United Steelworkers brought back an event to celebrate diversity and fight discrimination.
“There have been a lot of hateful things said,” president of the Hamilton Steelworkers Area Council, Darren Green told the Spectator at the Sunday International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination event. “If it’s taking place in our community, it’s taking place in our workplace.
“Unions are there for anyone, no matter the colour of their skin.”
Making a rousing presentation, in front of a packed crowd at the Steelworkers Action Centre was 22-year-old Eddie Lartey, representing Hamilton Youth Poets.
Lartey, a Canadian of Ghanaian decent, brought
the crowd to its feet with a poem speaking out against violence.
“All humans have a responsibility to take care of each other,” Lartey told the Spectator.
Having lived in London, Toronto, and then moving to Hamilton 14 years ago, Lartey said life as a minority in Hamilton is “OK – but that’s the problem, it’s just OK.”
“We don’t really have issues with police brutality, just harassment,” said Lartey. Just a few days ago Lartey said he was carrying a comb in his pocket and a police officer stopped him thinking it was a knife.
“It was very awkward,” said Lartey.
Those kinds of issues make Community Coalition Against Racism founder Ken Stone and former member of Hamilton’s Race Relations Committee believe that “after 40 years we are back to square one.”
Stone says much of the progress in diversity made in the ’80s and ’90s was lost after 9/11 when Muslims were “turned into the enemy” and a worldwide trend of disregard for civil liberties began.
Stone says issues like carding highlight this trend. Stone calls for a greater diversity on the police services board, and close scrutiny of the effectiveness of the province’s carding legislation.
Even though his family traces its routes back to the first African slaves to come up to Canada, Coun. Matthew Green says growing up in Hamilton had its challenges.
When he was younger, him and his brother were jumped by neo-Nazis, causing an “undeserved fear of skinheads for a number of years,” said Green.
“But I would say that for every one racist there have always been a dozen supportive Hamiltonians,” said Green.
Green says it seems racism has evolved from being overt to being focused on institutional barriers and societal discrimination.
“What I’m encouraged by is a hall packed with 150-200 people on a Sunday looking to be involved in countering racism,” said Green. “This is the antidote to racism.”
In the case of refugees, that kind of concerted effort is what Green would like to see more of.
“I think we could be organizing better,” said Green citing both community organizations, all level of governments and businesses as having room for improvement, especially in long term support. “I couldn’t begin to say what it would be like for a refugee growing up in a camp.”
“Coming here would be a tremendous challenge.”