Hamilton’s citizen Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Advisory Committee unanimously voted on Wednesday to not raise the Rainbow Flag (LGBTQ flag) and Transgender Flag at City Hall for pride month in June.
The Committee says it will not participate in City Hall Pride Month activities, and that any activities conducted by City Hall this year will happen over their objections.
The Committee says the City has failed to live up to its words of support for marginalized residents by employing 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.
They say the apparent measures taken by the City Manager’s Office to hide Lemire’s employment make the matter all the more concerning.
VICE News reported last week on the City Manager’s Offices employment of Marc Lemire.
Members of the LGBTQ state that Lemire’s “employment at the City of Hamilton continues to threaten the safety of all marginalized City staff and volunteers and citizens whose private information is stored using the City’s IT systems” citing that those systems contain private information of citizens who engage with the City of Hamilton.
There is no evidence Lemire used his access inappropriately, and the City has not disclosed what access Lemire has as a senior IT security analysis.
The Committee says Council has failed to support marginalized communities with the appointment of Fred Bennink – a former auxiliary police officer – to the Hamilton Police Service Board, the City’s failure to meet all of the criteria of the 2017 Trans Protocol, and the arbitrary nature of the City’s volunteer committee selection process.
They say City Council failed to conduct a fulsome appointment process for appointing members to the LGBTQ Committee. Specifically, Council capped membership at nine members, did not conduct any interviews of candidates, none of the Councillors who made the decision are members of the LGBTQ community, the Council did not consult “the previous committee of the wider Two Spirit and LGBTQIA+ community about the process”, and none of the members appointed are youth.
The motion states that “should any event that ceremonially celebrates Pride Month with the intention of signalling the City of Hamilton’s solidarity with the Two Spirit and LGBTQIA+ citizens occur in 2019, that it will be understood to be occurring without the support of, and in direct opposition of the expressed wishes of the City of Hamilton’s LGBTQ Advisory Committee.”
Committee members will attend the planned City Hall Pride flag raising on May 31st from 6:00pm to 8:00pm to replace the event with a open community discussion of the issues facing their communities and how to end discrimination.
Committee members expressed concerns for their safety in passing the motion; they believe that other former members of the Heritage Front who now live in Hamilton will seek to disrupt and threaten their May 31st community forum.
City of Hamilton City Manager Janette Smith, who started in her position on May 6, says she’ll be reviewing the LGBTQ Committee motion, and will work to address the concerns expressed.
Smith says she has hired an external investigation company with expertise in information systems security to conduct a review of Lemire’s employment with the City of Hamilton.
“We wanted to make sure we got someone externally who had the qualifications to do the type of thorough investigation we need to do”, says Smith. “We want to more forward as quickly as possible, but thorough as well”.
“We made sure as soon as this was flagged to us that there was no risk to IT security”
Smith says the external investigators have independence and they are reporting directly to her as the new City Manager. “The report will not be vetted … it will come to me right from them”.
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