Hamilton sees new social activism in the 2021-2022 academic year
C/O Tammy Huang
Throughout the academic year, McMaster students have seen numerous social causes advanced both within McMaster and the wider Hamilton community
Over the past several months, social activist movements in and around McMaster University have been growing and changing. In many cases, pandemic-related uncertainty has contributed to the rapid development of these social movements in Hamilton.
The Hamilton Encampment Support Network, which supports unhoused community members and advocates for housing equity, is one such organization that has grown their activism tremendously throughout the academic year.
Over the past year, HESN has advocated for greater rights and protection for those living in encampments in Hamilton. To stop encampment evictions, they have been demonstrating at encampment sites and organizing resources for unhoused individuals.
Navin Garg, a McMaster student and supporter of HESN, discussed the importance of being involved with social activism as a student. Garg discussed the historic reality that students have usually had the time and resources to be involved with social causes.
“I think it's also useful to take part in direct action, especially since in school, we talk so much about thinking critically and not [just] perpetuating the existing systems of aid, which are usually not sufficient and don't result in furthering people's dignity and autonomy. I think, as people who are learning about these things, it's important to apply that learning to our real life,” said Garg.
Another noteworthy form of activism over the past year has been the work done by McMaster Aiding Women’s Shelters Canada, which raises awareness for victims of domestic violence in the Hamilton area.
Along with active activism from within and for the broader Hamilton community, the past academic year has also seen advances in social causes at McMaster itself. The Pride Community Centre at McMaster has been active over the past year, introducing new initiatives such as the Pride Book Club, helping 2SLGBTQIA+ students at McMaster to find community.
Stephanie Chin, coordinator of the PCC, discussed how the PCC has acquired more resources this year for transgender and gender non-conforming students at McMaster, allowing the service to obtain more gender-affirming gear that is size-inclusive and racially diverse. Chin also explained the efforts PCC has made to ensure their physical space is more accessible to students.
However, it is not only important to offer more resources and promote accessibility for all groups. It is also important to listen to marginalized communities first when engaging in social activism.
“[Listening is] a very foundational aspect of supporting a community, which is often overlooked, unfortunately,” said Chin.
Both within and beyond McMaster, engaging in meaningful activism requires listening to individuals and communities. Over the past year, activists in Hamilton have advanced social causes in significant ways and continued efforts to listen and learn will hopefully yield even more meaningful results in the future.