Statement from YWCA Hamilton CEO Denise Christopherson on the Ottawa blockade and protest

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Like many organizations and individuals across Canada, YWCA Hamilton is appalled by the events that have unfolded in Ottawa this week.

The prominent display of white supremacist symbols, the disrespect for Indigenous cultures, acts of harassment against the Two Spirit/LGTBQSIA+ community and racialized individuals, and the lack of consideration for the people, infrastructure, and businesses in Ottawa continue to be shocking and demoralizing.

Many Canadians are feeling angry, upset, and perhaps even reliving trauma or discrimination that they have experienced – feelings that may be intensified as we mark the first days of Black History Month. People in Ottawa are afraid to leave their homes, go to work, send their kids to school, or simply walk through their neighbourhood. This is unacceptable. The protestors are committing acts of violence under the guise of fighting for freedom – freedoms which they are clearly enjoying as they continue their protest without facing arrests or any form of police intimidation.

At YWCA Hamilton, we are committed to doing everything we can to combat hate, discrimination, and prejudice. We are dedicated to working both inside and outside our organization to identify and eradicate hate in all its forms.

That’s why we are proud to share that we have received an investment over two years for anti-racism/anti-hate programming.

This new funding will allow us to provide concrete supports to both individuals and groups to address and combat racism and hate. Working with community partners, this funding will help us provide crucial information and supports —including legal support, advocacy, culturally sensitive referrals, workshops, translation support, and recovery strategies – for those who have experienced hate, as well as helping provide access to basic needs like housing, healthcare, and employment that often create racism-related barriers for Queer, Trans, and Indigenous, Black and racialized people.

The funding will also help connect people in the community through support groups, cross-cultural dialogues, and partnerships to help address the root causes of racism and hate, as well as empowering participants with tools that can help them cope with and respond to trauma. We are looking forward to sharing more about this exciting and vital programming as plans progress in the coming months.

To compliment this work, we have also applied for additional funding that would allow us to engage in research and programming with community partners to counter radicalization to violence. This could include organizing and hosting conferences, workshops, and seminars with businesses and organizations in the community with the ultimate goal of equipping participants with the tools to recognize and help prevent acts of hate and discrimination.

Events like the Ottawa protest show us that hate, discrimination, and prejudice are alive and well in Canada, and we need to actively fight against it. We remain hopeful that with continued investment, education, and the right tools, we can help stop the spread of hate in our community.

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