Barrie Integrity commissioner recommends removal of Downtown BIA Chair
BARRIE, ONT. -- The city's integrity commissioner is recommending Barrie city council vote to remove Rob Hamilton as Downtown BIA chair.
The former Barrie Mayor and current BIA chair is facing possible removal after comments he made during a zoom meeting in the Fall of 2020, which lead to a formal complaint last month.
During the September 22nd meeting, the report says when a BIA board member introduced the topic of the Safe Consumption site being considered downtown by the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, Hamilton claimed that "downtown is not comfortable or safe and that people are carrying on like a bunch of Mau-Maus."
The integrity commissioner's report said this comment was a derogatory term used towards Black people dating back to a Kenyan rebellion against white colonialists.
The report read, "[Hamilton] ought to have reasonably known that the remarks he made at the BIA meeting with reference to residents of the city of Barrie were inappropriate, offensive, insulting or derogatory."
On Sunday, CTV News spoke with Queen's Professor Bruce Berman, who has studied the Mau-Mau group for several decades. He says many who use the term don't know the origins.
"It is a slur," said Berman via zoom. "It's an application of the British characterization of the Mau-Mau Movement in Kenya from the 1950s, and it was described as savage, primitive violence directed at killing all white people in Kenya."
In the report, Hamilton apologized for not being aware of the term's origins and regrets using it.
"I was unaware of its historical origins, and my use of the phrase was not intended to be derogatory," Hamilton's apology read. "However, I do understand how it was received in that way and the harmful impact that has had regardless of my intent, and I regret using the term."
The apologies didn't end there. In the report, Hamilton regretted for saying later in the meeting that drug users "are not a productive contributing citizen."
"I also fully regret my statement that suggested individuals with addictions issues in our downtown are unworthy citizens," the report read. "I apologize for the disrespect I have shown Barrie citizens with those remarks," his comments read.
The integrity commissioner recommends that city council impose the following sanctions such as; being removed as Chair of the BIA and attending training on addiction as a mental illness and human rights training as a condition of remaining on the BIA Board.
Councillors are expected to vote on the sanctions at Monday's council meeting.