The young members of Hamilton’s LGBTQ communities at the City of Hamilton’s LGBTQ Advisory Committee last week had a clear message to City Hall: Stop ignoring us, stop patronizing us, stop excluding us, and start living up to your commitments.
They want City Hall to listen, they want City Hall to improve, and they are fed up with being patronized by those who are older than they are.
They want a seat at the table. City Council conducted a closed door no consultation process to appoint nine people to the LGBTQ Advisory Committee, and Councildecided to not appoint any of the youth applicants.
They are tired to being ignored, and this is one of the key factors which lead to the unprecedented motion from the LGBTQ Advisory Committee stating to City Council and City Hall they no longer have the privilege of flying the Pride Flag.
Our young people have more knowledge, and more ability to follow, of politics at their fingertips than any generation prior to them. They are well read, thoughtful, and strategic.
They attempt to follow the paths of engagement available to them – email writing campaigns, meeting with politicians, attending Advisory Committee meetings, applying to sit on Advisory Committees – and have been ignored.
Hence, they stood in front of the older people who make up the LGBTQ Advisory Committee, explained why they should have a place at the table, not beside or behind the table.
At the same time, the older members of the LGBTQ Advisory Committee share similar concerns about being ignored by City Council and City Hall.
Together, they reached unanimous agreement, and passed the motion.
Ward 4 Councillor Sam Merulla, who sat on the LGBTQ Advisory Committee as the Council champion of LGBTQ issues, once again didn’t attend the meeting.
Jodi Koch, the City Manager’s Director of Talent and Diversity, similarly a no-show. A junior staff member is sent to monitor instead.
In the days leading up to the meeting, it’s revealed that the last known leader of the white supremacist Heritage Front Marc Lemire in a senior information technology security position with access to sensitive information systems.
This is the first meeting of the 2019-2023 LGBTQ Advisory Committee. All nine appointed members are aware of the shortcomings of the appointment process by Council. There were no interviews, nobody from the actual LGBTQ community was consulted; Council choose nine people in secret, for reasons unknown.
Sean Cullen, James Diemert, Autumn Getty, Freja Gray, Cameron Kroetsch, Violetta Nikolskaya, Mitch Ray-Borsc, Kristeen Sprague, and Kyle Weitz all do something that is rare in politics – they denounced a flawed political process which happened to benefit them by leading to their appointment.
The next day, the junior staffer at the meeting reports the events, likely to Jodi Koch. (It’s likely that Lora Fontana, the City’s Executive Director of Human Resources who had a key role in the Lemire scandal, was briefed as well).
Someone on staff informs Merulla of what happened at LGBTQ Advisory Committee. Merulla promptly announces he’s no longer on the LGBTQ Committee. Ward 1 Councillor Maureen Wilson steps into the void, and quickly begins consulting members of the Committee.
Merulla isn’t finished, he states that the LGBTQ Advisory Committee’s motion is out of order as it has no authority to pass motions regarding these issues.
Well known LGBTQ activist Deirdre Pike writes a column in TheSpec disagreeing with the Committee’s motion. The column itself is reasoned and thoughtful.
The accompanying tweet by Pike, not so much:
“My @thespec column: why I disagree w #HamOnt 2SLGBTQ+ Advisory Committee on boycotting rainbow flag-raising at City Hall. We need more [image of rainbow] and trans flags as a backdrop for our peaceful and proud protests! Coordinate and co-opt to get our demands heard!”
The youth are coordinated, and they have tried to use the existing processes. They have been ignored.
Which brings us to today, only four days until the older generation and Old Guard of City Hall plan to raise the flags; only four days until what is expected to be a protest by the very members of the community whose flag is being raised.
Only four days in which to find a solution that serves the various constituent groups within the LGBTQ community.
Councillor Wilson has been meeting with many people in the community. New City Manager Janette Smith has personally engaged on these matters.
Tomorrow night, Tuesday night, at 6:00pm, there will be a special meeting of the LGBTQ Advisory Committee. Wilson will be in attendance. (I’ve emailed the City Manager’s Office asking if Smith will be in attendance)
The question, that I can’t predict the answer to, is can their listening be enough to assure the new generation of LGBTQ leaders that the City is committed to living up to the principles that are espoused in the numerous policies passed but not implemented?
As for the rest of us, we must ask ourselves how to do better? I was surprised by the events of two weeks ago. It’s clear that many other community leaders were surprised as well. This is about more than the events cited in the motion, this is about a culture at City Hall that must change, it’s about ensuring all Hamiltonians have a place at the tables of discussion in our community.
It’s simply about living us to our common ideals.
Note: the publication of agendas for this Advisory Committee is the responsibility of the City Manager’s Office, and the Director of Talent and Diversity does not make agendas public on the City website. Thus, the agenda of Tuesday’s public meeting is not known at this time.
Production Details v. 1.1.0 Last edited: May 27, 2019 Author: Joey Coleman Edit Record v. 1.0.0 original version v. 1.1.0 change headline from "... Hamilton's LGBTQ Committee's Youth ..." to "... Hamilton LGBTQ Youth ...", three minutes after publication.