By: Adrianna Michell and Hannah Walters-Vida
A month after far right demonstrators attacked Hamilton Pride, members of the queer community are working to come together, heal and fight to rid the city of hate groups.
Past Hamilton Pride events have been attended by conservative preachers and others who attempted to intimidate festival goers who annually come to Gage park to celebrate. Hamilton Pride has typically been a family and community-oriented arts event, despite Pride’s history as a protest event beginning with the violent activism at Stonewall 50 years ago.
In Hamilton on June 15, community members and allies gathered in Gage park. Leading up to the Pride events there had been tensions between the queer community and Hamilton Police Services over police presence at Pride. “No police at pride” campaigns have sparked discussion about police and state presence at Pride celebrations across Canada.
No uniformed officers were allowed at Victoria Pride this year and in 2016 Black Lives Matter shut down the Toronto parade for 30 minutes to protest police attendance. Hamilton Pride did not permit the police to have a recruitment booth at Pride this year.
Last month’s Hamilton Pride marked an escalation of violence. Anti-Pride demonstrators gathered during the event shouting religious, homophobic and white-nationalist rhetoric. The anti-Pride group is speculated to be in part members of the fascist Yellow Vests who moved from city hall to Gage Park on the day of Pride. According to witnesses, one person was punched in the face, while another was hit in the head with a motorcycle helmet, amongst other acts of violence.
Since January, hate groups associated with the yellow vests have been holding weekly demonstrations outside of Hamilton city hall. The groups hold signs displaying far right anti Muslim, anti immigrant messages, and known white supremacists have been present at rallies.
Witnesses accused HPS officers in attendance of not stepping in early enough to prevent the attacks, leaving people to defend themselves. Pride defenders countered the anti-Pride protestors with a “black hole” tactic, wherein a large black banner was used to visually block the fascist signs and protestors, while defenders donned pink masks and used physical presence, counter protest tactics and noise makers to block the hate speech.
When asked why officers did not respond right away, Chief of police Eric Girt said at a town hall last month that responses would have been different if police were welcomed at the Pride events.
Councillors Maureen Wilson and Nrinder Nann are calling for an independent investigation into the police response at Pride.
However, not all members of the queer community agree that strengthening police presence will ensure their safety. A June 2019 study surveying 900 members of Hamilton’s queer community found that approximately one third of respondents believed that they had been treated unjustly by the police. Transgender respondents were even more likely to recount unjust treatment.
For some, what happened at Pride was an example of the queer community coming together to defend one another without the need for police involvement.
“2STLGBQI+ folks can protect each other and we do not need the police or the carceral justice system to ensure the safety of our communities,” says a statement from the McMaster Students Union Pride Community Centre, “there is no Pride in policing.”
The arrests that have occurred since Pride have further exacerbated tensions between the queer community and police. In the past month, five people have been arrested in connection to Pride. According to the Tower, a Hamilton anarchist social centre connected in the queer community, four of the people arrested were associated with the pink masked pride defenders. HPS has only announced the arrest of one far right protestor.
The most high profile arrest was that of Cedar Hopperton, the first person to be arrested in connection to Pride. Hopperton was arrested on June 22 for allegedly violating parole conditions from their involvement in the 2018 Locke Street vandalism.
On June 18 Hopperton made a speech at city hall in which they called on members of the queer community to defend themselves against violence and to not rely on police support. On July 8, the parole board voted to continue to revoke Hopperton’s parole, in large part because they ruled that Hopperton was inciting violence in their anti-police speech.
Hopperton’s arrest and parole hearing sparked massive backlash, leading to the “free Cedar” campaign, which condemns city hall and HPS and calls for HPS to drop the charges against Hopperton and other pride defenders.
Many community organizations have publicly supported the campaign. Scholars from 100 universities across Ontario, as well as McMaster faculty members, have submitted open letters expressing solidarity with the pride defenders.
In a statement released on July 12, the PCC stated that the pride defenders were acting in self defence and should not have been punished.
“The Canadian state frequently criminalizes the self defence that is often necessary for the survival of marginalized people,” says the PCC’s statement. “This is completely unacceptable and is a tactic of repression of social control.”
In the month following Pride, community members have repeatedly taken to the streets to demand that all charges against pride defenders be dropped. There has been a heavy police presence at many of the demonstrations, with some officers showing up on horseback.
This past Monday, the Tower released a video of 11 officers arresting a young woman who had allegedly written an anti-police slogan with sidewalk chalk during a rally on June 28. A crowd of bystanders intervened and the woman was eventually released. In the comments on the video, people were critical of the police for allegedly arresting the woman over sidewalk chalk, and questioned why it was necessary to have such a large number of officers present for the arrest.
CITY HALL RESPONSE
Representatives of the queer community have been critical of city hall in the months prior to the Pride attacks, and council’s response to the attacks have exacerbated much of the tension.
Last May, Hamilton’s LGBTQ2 advisory committee voted unanimously against the annual Pride flag raising outside city hall. This was in large part in protest of the city’s employment of Marc Lemire, the former head of a white supremacist organization.
Following the Pride attacks, on July 5 Mayor Fred Eisenberger released a statement naming two special advisors for Two Spirit and LGBTQ+ community initiatives, Cole Gately and Deirdre Pike, to help address the queer community’s concerns.
However, other members of the queer community responded by stating that the discussions should happen publicly and should be accessible to everybody. Cameron Kroetsch, who was invited to take part in the discussions, stated in a public Facebook post that the private meetings did not feel safe or productive.
“I won't attend private meetings with no shared list of invitees and no detailed agenda. It doesn't feel safe, for so many reasons, and won't until Fred Eisenberger, our City Council, and the Hamilton Police Service can demonstrate that they're willing to build trust with our community,” wrote Kroetsch.
As an additional response to the Pride attacks, city council proposed a “hate incident prevention policy” that aims to assist in the identification of, and response to, hate motivated crimes. The proposed policy calls for increased surveillance on city-owned properties.
Initially, the policy placed strict limitations on acceptable activities during protests on city grounds, prohibiting the use of sound amplifying equipment, swearing and writing with sidewalk chalk. The policy has received criticism for limiting the rights of all protestors, not just hate groups.
“We said ban hate speech, not ban all speech,” said a sign from a city hall protest this weekend.
In the past month the community has come together to support one another and demand justice.
This past weekend, two different queer community groups converged at city hall. The Tower organized a weekend long occupation at city hall called “Camp Chaos Gays.” They held a series of workshops and community building events, at the same time protesting police harassment and the hate incident prevention policy.
At the same time, the July 13 “Hamilton for Who?” event cosponsored by Pride Hamilton and other organizations, was a non political, family friendly rally against hate groups.
Following the backlash against the hate prevention policy, council has since amended the list to remove many of the previously banned activities. However, the security provisions remain. The policy will now go out for public consultation.
On July 16, the Tower announced that Hopperton was released from jail early. The announcement was met with a wave of relief from supporters. However, the fight is far from over.
The yellow vests have continued to demonstrate outside of city hall every week, drawing counter protests from the community. Furthermore, many members of the queer community feel that city council has not properly consulted them and addressed their concerns. Demonstrators have reported being harassed and intimidated by police officers at protests, and many queer people report feeling unsafe around police.
Members of the queer community are working to regroup, support one another and find a way forward.
Two long weeks after The Silhouette released an article regarding the gaps within the McMaster Students Union sexual violence disclosure processes, MSU President Ikram Farah finally released a statement.
The statement, which reads as a rambling pat on the back, condemns sexual violence and commits to a systematic review of the Maroons and the MSU as a whole, something that two Maroons representatives brought forward when they suggested a full audit of the service back in September 2018.
In the fall, a regularly scheduled service audit was conducted in which Maroons representatives made it known that an additional reporting tool would be useful. They also noted that the MSU’s workplace policy on harassment, discrimination and sexual violence should be more survivor-centric.
In response, the MSU vice president (Administration), Kristina Epifano, developed an online reporting tool and reportedly consulted with volunteers, staff and experts to update the workplace policy. But once released, it was discovered that this online reporting tool was not nearly as thorough or inclusive as the Maroons representatives had hoped.
Additionally, there is no evidence that the board of directors made any effort to lay the groundwork for investigation of sexual assault within the Maroons.
These Maroons representatives spent six months advocating for a full service review of the Maroons that focused on sexual assault. It was only when they made a public report to The Silhouette that the MSU president pledged to begin investigating sexual assault within the service.
Farah’s statement comes two weeks too late and six months after the fact that the two Maroons representatives reported the culture of sexual assault within the Maroons to Epifano.
The fact is that over the course of the two weeks following release of our article, the Maroons were actively hiring new representatives and ignoring the calls to action from the McMaster community.
Though Farah stated that Maroons events will be suspended for the time being while the review is underway, it is unclear whether the Maroons will be involved in Welcome Week this fall.
There’s a lot to say about the statement. We could mention that within the statement, Farah makes a note that she personally has not found any “actual reports” of sexual violence within the Maroons team this year. While she does acknowledge that the lack of reporting does not mean that harassment or assault hasn’t occurred, this tangent is absolutely unnecessary and self-praising.
What’s more is Farah’s claim that the MSU’s “practices and disclosure protocols are exemplary of the sector.”
What does exemplary mean if the practices and disclosure policies have not been consistent, thorough nor inclusive before these past few months? In what way is taking two weeks to release a statement regarding the matter exemplary?
Within the MSU, the lines between personal and professional are constantly blurred. Given that the MSU has consistently protected individuals accused of sexual assault, it is no surprise that survivors may not feel comfortable disclosing their sexual assault.
Whether the perpetrator was a member of the Student Representative Assembly or a presidential candidate, the MSU has continuously failed to support survivors.
This is indicative of a larger issue within the MSU: there is no independent human resources department to respond to complaints and initiate reviews.
Maroons representatives spent six months advocating for change, and it took two weeks and dozens of community members, volunteers and MSU employees taking to social media to demand a response from the Maroons coordinator and have the MSU commit to a full service review.
In order to properly address sexual assault at a systemic level, the MSU needs to overhaul its sexual assault policy and oversight process.
The MSU has proven time and time again that it is poorly equipped to properly respond to sexual assault allegations. It is left entirely up to the board of directors to ensure that policies are upheld, but they are not trained or qualified to respond to issues of this magnitude.
The MSU needs an independent HR department to consistently and proactively address concerns so that students do not have to turn to public disclosure in order to initiate a review process.
The McMaster Students Union and McMaster University are preparing to re-examine their policies and protocols on sexual violence in light of the recent Student Voices on Sexual Violence report released by the provincial government earlier this month.
The Student Voices on Sexual Violence survey was sent out last year and involved 160,000 students from over 40 Ontario post-secondary institutions outlining their experiences of sexual violence and harassment.
According to the survey, three in five McMaster students disclosed at least one experience of sexual harassment.
Sixty-one per cent of McMaster students said they do not have knowledge of McMaster’s sexual violence supports and services.
A McMaster Daily News article responding to the report states that McMaster has provided sexual violence prevention and response training to more than 8,600 students, staff and faculty over the past year.
Arig al Shaibah, McMaster’s associate vice president (Equity and Inclusion), said the university’s sexual violence education team will begin planning a bystander intervention training program in April.
In response to the report, the university will also shortly be reviewing the McMaster’s sexual violence policy, which was created in 2017.
“We are just in the beginning processes of looking at the policy,” al Shaibah said. “We know the numbers that come through our offices are not necessarily indicative of the full picture, so periodically going out there and being able to anonymously get a good gauge of people’s experiences and perceptions is really important.”
Every year, the EIO releases a report highlighting statistics on disclosures of sexual violence and harassment.
However, al Shaibah said the EIO needs to make sure that definitions used to classify disclosures are standardized.
“We have just improved the way we are collecting and centralizing data,” al Shaibah said. “Moving forward, one of the things we are doing is trying to make sure that everyone in the intake office is using the same definition so that we can start to capture trend data over time.”
MSU vice president (Administration) Kristina Epifano will be revising the current “Workplace Anti-Violence, Harassment, and Sexual Assault Prevention Policy” in response to the survey.
“With these revisions, we will host some feedback sessions, inviting student-staff and volunteers to share some of the challenges they've experienced with policies in the past and recommendations they would like to see moving forward,” Epifano said in an email. “I believe it is important to adapt the policy to highlight different options and courses of action that a survivor can take during the process.”
The provincial report comes against the backdrop of multiple allegations of sexual assault within the MSU Maroons.
On March 29, Farah released a statement addressing the subject, promising a formal investigation.
Nevertheless, Farah states that she hasn’t “found actual reports, anonymous or otherwise, of sexual violence within the Maroons team this year.”
The statement also said Epifano will be standardizing an anonymous online reporting tool used for Marrons for all MSU volunteers.
Jocelyn Heaton, the coordinator of the MSU Women and Gender Equity Network, said the MSU’s steps in addressing sexual violence are helpful, but there remains a lot of work to be done.
“The fact that less than three quarters of students know that there are supports and services available is pretty harmful for people who experience sexual violence,” said Heaton. “Also, knowing that a lot of that group is going to receive a disclosure during their time at university and they're not going to know where to refer people to is harmful as well,” she said.
Heaton also mentioned that there has been no consultation thus far with services like WGEN when it comes to the Maroons incident and revising the MSU’s workplace sexual assault prevention policy.
“As the coordinator of a service, the only service specifically meant to address sexual violence, I was never once consulted or brought in to talk about that situation,” Heaton said. “Students have not been consulted on what the policy should look like.”
By: Eden Wondmeneh
Consent education seems to always be an afterthought at McMaster University. The word “consent” is consistently thrown into events, seemingly out of place, with no elaboration, discussion or focus.
During Welcome Week, the word was plastered on posters that appeared at all the major events and was projected in vibrant colours on the big screen prior to the concert.
The way consent education was treated during Welcome Week foreshadowed how the subject would be addressed during the rest of the year: just enough to get a hypothetical participation award in disrupting trends of sexual violence but too little to make a legitimate impact on campus rape culture.
This culture is something that does not go unnoticed by those who are most likely to be targets of sexual violence. A late night food run is never complete without words of caution and offers of someone to walk with. It’s unfortunately not uncommon to walk with your keys in between your fingers.
Once when I was walking home, after parting ways with my group of friends, a male acquaintance yelled back, “Be careful! Campus rape culture is still a thing”.
To him I say, believe me, I know. There is rarely a moment, at a party or anywhere on campus during non-peak hours where my friends or I don’t feel discomfort, or even fear.
Following the news of sexual violence within the McMaster Students Union Maroons, this tension is especially high. Prospective Maroons are hesitant to submit returning applications and attending events run by or affiliated with the MSU is often met with a little more resistance.
The MSU’s response to the allegations and overall toxic campus culture has been dismal.
In the beginning of March, posters commissioned by the Ontario government were hung up in several residence buildings. It reads “If you are watching it happen, you are letting it happen. Consent is everything”.
This was the first attempt I noticed to address the importance of consent in my residence. Although this message is true and important, it being the only form of consent education on residence is frankly pathetic.
McMaster is not treating consent education as a major priority. Any educational materials, workshops or sessions produced or run by the MSU or its services are only accessible to those who actively seek out those learning opportunities. Even campaigns run by the Student Health Education Centre, while important, have limited reach.
Despite their value, consent education needs to reach beyond those populations to those who need it the most.
The issue of consent cannot be addressed on small poster in the basement of a residence building. Misconceptions or being ignorant to consent needing to be mutual, voluntary, informed and continuous directly results in continued sexual violence on campus.
In order to shift toxic campus rape culture, there needs to be open lines of discussion about consent that are inherent to the structure of Welcome Week, life on residence and campus life in general. These discussions need to be backed by action; posters and platitudes are not enough.
The nonchalant backburner approach to consent education fails to create an inclusive and safe community for all students.
CW: Islamophobia, violence
On March 19, hundreds of students, faculty and staff filled the McMaster University Student Centre courtyard to mourn the victims of the Christchurch massacre.
The terrorist attack was committed on March 15 by a white supremacist who opened fire in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing a total of 50 people and injuring 50 others.
The attack was considered the worst mass shooting in New Zealand’s recent history.
The vigil was organized by the McMaster Muslim Students Association in collaboration with the McMaster Muslims for Peace and Justice and the McMaster Womanists. The three groups brought 15 speakers from various parts of the community to speak.
The vigil began with a recitation from the Quran.
In a particularly poignant moment following the recitation, the organizers honoured and read out the names of the 50 who died due to the attack.
A theme echoed throughout the vigil was that the attack reflected a larger movement of white supremacy, Islamophobia and bigotry across the globe.
“White supremacy exists, toxic masculinity exists, misogyny exists. Xenophobia, racism and Islamophobia exist. These things exist in New Zealand, in the United States. They also exist right here in Canada, in Ontario, in Hamilton,” said Khadijeh Rakie, a staff member of the McMaster Equity and Inclusion Office.
Rakie encouraged Muslim people to grieve freely.
“I don’t think our strength or grief must be looked at in one way, or need to be performative or palatable or always available for public consumption,” said Rakie.
Speakers pointed out the connection between Christchurch and the 2017 Quebec mosque attack, completed by a white supremacist, which killed six people in prayer.
“Far-right populist leaders around the world and false media narratives have stoked the fires behind the dehumanization and demonization of Muslims worldwide, causing events like the one in Christchurch,” said one student speaker.
Many speakers also expressed appreciation for other faith groups who have supported and stood in solidarity with them since the attack.
Other speakers encouraged Muslim and non-Muslims alike to actively stand against discrimination in all its forms.
“As different societies face all forms of prejudice, persecution and rhetoric against immigrants, refugees, visitors and worshippers of all kinds of faith, backgrounds, and communities, we must all stand together against all forms of violence, ignorance and hatred,” said another student speaker.
Mahmood Haddara, the president of McMaster MSA, called for compassion and unity.
“We need at times like these to build those connections with each other, to turn towards each other, to remind ourselves of that love and that connection, to look at the person next to you regardless of their skin colour or their belief and remind yourself that they are your brother or sister in humanity,” said Haddara.
Following the speeches, the organizers held an open prayer in the MUSC atrium.
Gachi Issa, one of the organizers of the vigil, said she is grateful for the support from the McMaster community and hopes the vigil will also spark discussion about discrimination and Islamophobia in Hamilton and on the McMaster campus.
“The message is first and foremost to mourn these  and counting victims in New Zealand, but it’s also to localize it,” said Issa. “The same thing that has killed them affects us here.”
By: Donna Nadeem
The Disability Justice Network of Ontario is a Hamilton-based organization launched in September by McMaster alumni Sarah Jama and Eminet Dagnachew and McMaster student Shanthiya Baheerathan.
The co-founders initially got together because of their aligning interests. For instance, Jama was working with the McMaster Students Union Diversity Services as an access coordinator, trying to push the university to create a service for people with disabilities.
“I always think that there is more that could be done, that the institution doesn’t do a good job of supporting people with disabilities in terms of responding to professors who don’t want to accommodate. There is still a lot from what I’m seeing as a person who has graduated,” said Jama.
Last year, the co-founders received an Ontario Trillium grant over 36 months to create and run the organization. The basis of DJNO is to pose questions to the community of people with disabilities to see what it is they want to work on and how DJNO can use their resources to support the community it serves.
One of DJNO’s larger goals is to politically activate and mobilize people with disabilities who consistently get left out of conversations that affect their lives.
“Our goal is to politically activate and mobilize people with disabilities across the city and the province over time and to be able to hold the institutions and places and people accountable for the spaces that they create,” said Jama.
The research committee for DJNO has recently been working on data collection for a study on issues for racialized people with disabilities.
According to Jama, there is a lack of data collection on this subject.
The DJNO also has a youth advisory council that teaches people with disabilities how to politically organize.
In just a few months of being in operation, the DJNO has hosted several events, such as a community conversation event about the Hamilton light rail transit project, a film screening and panel discussion about Justice For Soli, a movement seeking justice for the death of Soleiman Faqiri, who was killed in prison after being beaten by guards.
The film screening and panel discussion was organized alongside McMaster Muslims For Peace and Justice and the McMaster Womanists.
On March 26, the DJNO will be hosting an event called “Race and Disability: Beyond a One Dimensional Framework” in Celebration Hall at McMaster.
This discussion, being organized in collaboration with the MSU Maccess and the MSU Women and Gender Equity Network, will tackle “the intersections of race/racialization, disability, and gender for all McMaster Community Members.”
Next week, the DJNO will also be organizing a rally with Justice for Soli in order to speak out against violence against people with disabilities.
“The Justice for Soli team has been tirelessly advocating for justice, accountability, sounding the alarm of deeply systemic issues in the prison system, namely the violence that it inflicts on racialized peoples, and people with disabilities,” reads part of the event page.
For McMaster students interested in getting involved with the organization, DJNO has some open committees and is looking for individuals to help identify major community issues.
The campaign committee meets at the Hamilton Public Library monthly. Students can email [email protected] for more information.
By: Abi Sudharshan
CW: Discussions of sexual violence
On March 7, the YWCA Hamilton hosted the 43rd annual Women of Distinction Awards dinner. These awards recognize the achievements of women in the Hamilton community. From business to education, the night celebrates exemplary leadership by women in an effort to inspire other women.
One of the most watched award categories is that of the “Young Woman of Distinction,” which celebrates a woman between 18 and 25 who has demonstrated passionate and committed stewardship of a cause in her school, community or workplace.
This year’s winner is fourth year McMaster social work student Maddie Brockbank.
Over the course of the last few years, Brockbank has spearheaded projects addressing the issue of sexual violence prevention, specifically by directing efforts to establish meaningful male allyship.
On March 15, the Silhouette sat down with Brockbank to discuss these initiatives.
I would say that I am very hard working. I really value hard work and my parents have taught me to value it. I’m pretty passionate about the work that I do with sexual violence. I’m also pretty honest about my outlook on issues on campus.
I didn’t hear the word “consent” until I was in university. I went to a Catholic high school, and though I overheard troubling conversations in the halls, they were never addressed.
There’s a bit of a story to it. In my second year of university, I applied for and received an undergraduate student research award in experiential education. Through that, I found out that women currently bear most of the weight in discussions regarding sexual violence, which does not at all reflect the situation. So, over that summer, I interviewed seven guys from a couple of different universities, and asked them questions about consent, sexual violence, and treatment of victims. I found that there were extremely large gaps in their knowledge.
It was concerning, but it was also promising as they all talked about how they had never been asked these questions before and how they had never thought about these conversations before. There was willingness on the other end and it became a matter of engaging them.
Yes, I did get the Clarke Prize grant in March of last year. Ryan Clarke is an alumni who donates $6,000 every year to fund initiatives addressing issues in the community. First prize wins $3,000, second wins $2,000 and third wins $1,000. Most campaigns that address sexual violence have a very general approach to them.
From my research, I found that young men wanted to join the conversation. So, I created an event to educate young men: Commit(men)t and Allyship. Although the event was independent, we did collaborate with individuals and organizations within the community, such as Meaghan Ross, the university’s sexual violence response coordinator, the Sexual Assault Centre of Hamilton and the McMaster Students Union Women and Gender Equity Network. McMaster Athletics had expressed interest, but they didn’t show up.
It was extremely disappointing. However, 10 Mohawk athletes did attend. Tristan Abbott, facilitator of the WiseGuyz program in Calgary, attended as well. We donated $2,700 to SACHA and the remaining funds from the Clarke grant to others like the male allies of Waterloo who facilitated our debriefing spaces.
Well, the sexual assault policy at McMaster is relatively new, and thus yet to be evaluated in terms of efficacy. In general, however, universities need to address that there is a rape culture on campus and that it is a prevalent problem. There needs to be more support for survivors, to shift the response from interrogation to believing them. Perpetrators need to feel the consequences of their actions and need to be barred from positions of power within the Student Representative Assembly, MSU and other student governing bodies.
Surprising and really amazing. There were so many incredible candidates. I think it just speaks to the merit in the work that I’ve done. It’s affirmation that the work is important and needs to be done.
I am continuing my studies at McMaster in the Masters of Social Work for fall 2019. I am also continuing my research and doing my thesis on male student perspectives of sexual violence. I recently received the McMaster graduate scholarship as well, so I'm stoked!
In recent years, Hamilton’s downtown core has changed rapidly, with many businesses closing down and new ones popping up, just as fast. While some may welcome these changes, many others point to a loss for the LGBTQA2S+ community, with many popular gay bars closing down as the city evolved.
In the early 2000s, there were five major gay bars people could go to: The Werx, the Rainbow Lounge, The Embassy, M Bar and The Windsor, all of which were located in Hamilton’s downtown core. Since then, all of these bars have shut their doors.
For James Dee, a McMaster alum and Hamilton resident since 2004, bars such as the Embassy were an important aspect of their experience with Hamilton’s queer community as a place where they could go without threat of violence.
“We maybe have a little bit of drama and be kind of mean to each other….But when the lights came on at the end of the night you know everyone was checking in with each other like 'text when you get home and so I know you're safe,'” Dee said.
While Hamilton’s queer scene thrived in 2004, it was not without violence. In that same year, Hamilton Police Services, among other municipal agencies, raided the Warehouse Spa and Bath and arrested two men for indecent acts. That raid was followed by protests from Hamilton’s LGBTQA2S+ community.
“It felt a lot more dangerous to be visibly queer in 2004,” Dee said. “I think it's easy to kind of romanticize the time when we had brick and mortar spaces but it's also easy to forget why we needed those spaces so much.”
Dee believes that, to some degree, places closed down due to a decline in need, but also points to the gentrification of Hamilton as another key reason these spaces disappeared.
“It's not just the story of queer Hamilton, it's the story of Hamilton in general… a lot of the places I used to enjoy hanging out [at] are now bougie coffee shops,” Dee said.
For example, following the shuttering of the Werx’s door, the building was converted into the Spice Factory, a popular wedding venue.
“All across the board, [the gay bars] catered to people with less money,” Dee said. “They don't survive downtown anymore.”
For Sophie Geffros, another long-time Hamilton resident and McMaster graduate student, the loss of brick-and-mortar spaces has meant a segregation within the community.
Geffros, who spent their teen years in Hamilton, had many of their formative experiences at bars such as the Embassy, where they met older members of the LGBTA2S+ community in addition to those their own age.
“There is still an isolation that I think that can only be combated by in-person interaction,” Geffros said.
“We're a little more fragmented. Like if I'm going out… I'm going to be going out with people I already know who are members of the community,” they added.
For Geffros, the loss of Hamilton’s queer spaces is especially harmful, as these spaces were often the most accessible hangouts for queer people living in rural communities that lack direct bus service to Toronto.
“Those are people who are particularly isolated, who are often closeted throughout the week and would come to Hamilton on the weekend to blow off steam and be amongst themselves. That's a real loss,” Geffros said.
While there are no longer any physical LGBTQA2S+ spaces, there are opportunities for Hamilton’s queer community to converge. Dee is one of the founders of Queer Outta Hamilton, a collective that runs monthly queer pub nights, typically at Gallagher’s Pub.
In addition, there are other organizations that offer workshops and events, such as Speqtrum Hamilton, the NGen Youth Centre, Pride Hamilton, the McMaster Students Union Pride Centre and others.
There are also many LGBTQA2S+-friendly bars and clubs, such as Sous Bas, which offers queer events, typically in partnership with Queer Outta Hamilton.
While Hamilton may have lost its major physical queer spaces, the community continues to support each other the best they can.
On the evening of Jan. 24, Josh Marando was voted in as the next unofficial president-elect of the McMaster Students Union.
Marando, a fourth year arts and science student, garnered over 600 first-choice votes compared to the second-place candidate Jeffrey Campana.
Overall, Marando received 40 per cent of the 2,654 first-place votes.
Marando’s platform consists of 12 pillars, touching on issues like mental health support, sexual violence and education costs.
Marando learned of the news of his victory via a phone call from the current MSU president Ikram Farah at 9:00 p.m. on Jan. 24.
He was surprised by how early he got the call.
“I was not expecting to hear as soon as we did. Last year, I knew that they heard at around 3:10 a.m, so when Ikram called me at 9:00 p.m., I was not really sure. I thought she was joking at first. I really expected her to say, ‘Just kidding,’” Marando said.
Marando was relieved to hear he won, admitting the last few days of the campaign were the most stressful ones. On the last day of polling, he went home in the afternoon to relax on his own before his campaign team gathered to await the results.
“We just invited the core team over because either way we just wanted to be happy because I think we did run a pretty good campaign and I think we are all pretty proud of the work that we did, regardless of what the outcome would have been,” said Marando.
After receiving word of his victory, Marando quickly sent a text to his parents.
“I sent a nice little text in our group chat just saying that I won,” Marando said. “I think my parents still don't fully understand what it is. They do not really know what the MSU does. There are obviously so supportive because they know it's something I have been working on for a very long time and they're just very, very excited.”
Looking ahead to the next few months, Marando said he will begin implementing smaller projects, like creating a student lounge in the McMaster University Student Centre, while continuing to consult different services on bigger projects, like academic accessibility and mental health support.
Marando is also focused on formulating a plan to advocate against the provincial government’s changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program and student fees.
“Something that I am trying to do is fully understand the changes, fully see what impact that will have on students and see what we could do differently than what we were doing before,” Marando said. “We have been advocating to this government for however many months now and we still saw this happen, so clearly something needs to change.”
Reflecting on his campaign, Marando believes he was successful because his message resonated with what students truly wanted.
“Something that we really try to do is just talk to students and see what exactly they wanted, and also some things that they would have wanted when they were in first year,” Marando said. “The people see the MSU president that shirt and jacket and suit and it feels very disconnected from students, but I think the real way that you can create meaningful change is by being one of the students and really connecting with them during this process.”
Slated to begin his term in May, Marando is excited and optimistic about the job in front of him.
CW: mentions of violence, anti-Semitism
By: Daniella Mikanovsky
On Oct. 30, McMaster students, faculty and staff gathered on the field near Burke Science Building to mourn the deaths of the 11 people who lost their lives during the Oct. 27 Tree of Life synagogue mass shooting, committed by a man espousing Nazi rhetoric.
The McMaster community was joined by rabbis and Hamilton community members as they addressed the tragedy that unfolded the previous weekend.
The vigil, organized by McMaster Hillel, the Jewish community organization on campus, sought to honour the victims, reflect on the pervasiveness of anti-Semitism and encourage hope and a united community.
[spacer height="20px"]At the memorial service, Max Librach, the president of McMaster Hillel, spoke about the victims and the relationship between the tragedy and his own experiences.
“I myself was praying in a synagogue on that same day. I do not for a second forget that this could easily have happened right here, in my own community,” said Librach.
Fourth-year McMaster student Max Greenberg recited El Ma’aleh Rachamim, a prayer for the departed soul of the dead. Greenberg’s prayer was followed by a poem about the Pittsburgh shooting. After the poem was recited, a few Psalms and the Mourner's Kaddish, a prayer recited in memory of the victims, were said.
The mourners were joined by members of other faith groups who expressed their commitment to advocacy and combating anti-Semitism and discrimination against marginalized communities.
Rabbi Hillel Lavery-Yisraëli of the Beth Jacob Synagogue in Hamilton praised the Jewish community’s sense of unity and solidarity.
“We must draw strength from our community, our peers, and the communities of friends and supporters we are fortunate to have, and forge on forward, actively fighting hate and bringing about a better tomorrow,” he said.
In the multi-faith vigil co-organized by Rabbi Hillel later that evening at Temple Anshe Sholom, several faith leaders joined mourners in addressing the importance of togetherness and solidarity.
Judith Moses Dworkin, the director of McMaster Hillel, encourages and appreciates the allyship during this difficult time.
“We know that we have many partners on campus who continue to show us their support. We urge our friends in other communities to join us in speaking out and countering anti-Semitic hatred whenever and wherever it rears its ugly head. Only together can we truly heal from events like these,” she said.
Anti-Semitism continues to manifest itself in Hamilton, both subtly and more overtly. According to the CBC, in 2017, Jewish people were the most targeted group in religious-based hate incidents in Hamilton.
In the recent Oct. 22 municipal election, Paul Fromm, a self-proclaimed white supremacist associated with the neo-Nazi movement, garnered 706 votes.
“We have experienced some anti-Semitism in Hamilton over the past few years, but nothing more than graffiti, threats, and publication of a hate newspaper,” said rabbi Hillel. “Nonetheless, after the attack we are all feeling afraid and vulnerable. When all is said and done, we are not that much different from Pittsburgh,” he said.
McMaster Hillel is hopeful that they can support the Jewish community in the wake of the tragedy and increase public awareness about anti-Semitism and hatred on campus and in the community.
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