A Short History of CCAR

 

The founding meeting of the Community Coalition Against Racism took place on January 18, 1990, at the United Steelworkers Hall, 1031 Barton Street East, Hamilton.

 

In attendance were the following:

 

- Mike Webber, Sr. (now deceased) from the Mayor’s Race Relations Committee and from the Caribbean Cultural Association;

-Fleurette Osborne, from the black community;

-Budh Singh Dhillon, Secretary, Sikh Society of Hamilton-Wentworth;

-Michael Quigley;

-Elise Hopkins;

-Marlene Thomas-Osborne, from the Mayor’s Race Relations Committee and the Dominica Association;

-Joe Leibovitch, student;

-Peter Leibovitch, President, United Steelworkers of America (USWA), Local 8782;

-John Pascoe, USWA;

-Ted Jez, USWA;

-Robert Storey, Labour Studies, McMaster University;

-Chai Chu Thompson, from the Mayor’s Race Relations Committee;

-Bernadette Twal, from the Palestinian Arab Community;

-Andrea Horwath (now Ward 2 City Councillor);

-Peter Shebib, from the Mayor’s Race Relations Committee and the Arab community;

-Maria Wallis;

-Lawrence Hart, from the Jewish Community Centre;

-Jeffrey Levy, from the Jewish Community Centre;

-Mark Silverberg, from the Jewish Community Centre;

-Marjorie Ricketts, from Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the black community;

-Elta Hull, Human Rights Committee, CUPE 794 (hospital workers);

-Sant Singh Sidhu, President, Sikh Sangat, Hamilton;

-Lloyd Turner, Afro-Canadian Caribbean Association;

-Fred Loft, President, CUPE Local 5 (city outside workers) and the native community;

-Ken Stone, from the Mayor’s Race Relations Committee; also Chairperson the Human Rights Committee of the Hamilton and District Labour Council.

 

          There were a number of issues and events that combined at that particular moment to propel these representatives of labour and some of Hamilton’s major ethnic communities to come together to form a grassroots anti-racist organization. First among these was the attempt by a cabal of four (white male) alderman to scuttle the Mayor’s Race Relations Committee set up by Mayor Bob Morrow and co-chaired by Dr. Harish Jain of McMaster University. The fact that the Committee had been successful in opposing racism in the taxi industry and in the Hamilton Market, not to mention in quietly resolving disputes involving local businesses, landlords, and city government, only earned it the animosity of these aldermen. In particular, they were irked by the Committee’s success in persuading the city government proactively to try to recruit visible minority and native persons onto local volunteer boards and commissions and also to support the California Grape Boycott by declaring a Grape Boycott Week in Hamilton (to benefit the struggle of Chicano farmworkers in the USA to unionize.)

 

At this time, the provincial (Liberal) government was instituting policies and procedures to recruit visible minorities in a big way into policing and, along with the federal government, was willing to integrate religious symbols into police uniforms, such as turbans for baptized Sikhs.  Alderman Murray, who was also a police commissioner, denounced the proposal to allow Sikh officers to wear turbans. In response, the Mayor’s Race Relations Committee called for his resignation from the Hamilton-Wentworth Police Commission.  This was the last straw for the Cabal of 4. These aldermen started a campaign to “reorganize” (i.e. eliminate) the Mayor’s Race Relations Committee.

 

          Secondly, Alderman Tom Murray, the most notorious of the Cabal of 4, circulated from his office at City Hall, a racist document that purported to be the official position of the Korean War Veterans Association. This document opposed employment equity (a policy of opening the doors of employment to groups in society, like non-whites, native people, women, and persons with disabilities, who had been traditionally excluded) as unfair to whites. In fact, the Association repudiated the document. Nonetheless, without verifying its authenticity, Murray sent the document to all the other aldermen, the other police commissioners, and many city staffers.

 

          A third issue was the widespread circulation of a racist pin from Alberta that showed stereotypical views of non-whites looming large over a cowering white person with the words, “Who is the minority in Canada?” And a fourth was the postering along Concession Street on the Mountain of white supremacist posters attacking Jews and non-whites. A fifth issue was the discovery that a bookstore on Parkdale Avenue North was selling hate literature about Jews.

 

          Still another concern was the attack on bilingualism and on francophones in Ontario by the movement among some city councils to promote English-only policies in their municipalities. Such a resolution was passed in Sault Ste. Marie, which some aldermen, like Tom Murray, wanted to pass in Hamilton.

 

          For all these reasons, then, the group gathered at the Steelworkers’ Hall to form CCAR and elect Peter Shebib as chairperson.  The Coalition decided, as its first public act, to hold a press conference at Hamilton City Hall later that month.

 

          Over the remainder of that year, the Coalition raised money through donations and the sale of a (union-made) button, which said “STOP RACISM IN HAMILTON!”. Two hundred buttons were purchased by Mayor Bob Morrow and distributed to city staff and aldermen to wear. The Labour Council bought one hundred.  Letters to the editor were organized as well as meetings with MP’s and MPP’s. Several public forums were held, including one at the Steelworkers’ Hall to celebrate March 21, the International Day for the Elimination of Racism.

 

          CCAR adopted a mission statement, a constitution, and terms of reference. (See below.)

 

          In little over a year, the continued existence of the Mayor’s Race Relations Committee was assured, the Parkdale Avenue bookstore was dealt with by police, no further white supremacist posters were pasted up, and, one by one over the years, the members of the Cabal of 4 were defeated at the polls by the voters of Hamilton. Employment equity legislation was enacted by the subsequent NDP provincial government, which also increased the pressure on police to diversify their recruiting. Finally, the movement for French-only municipalities in Ontario petered out and even Sault Ste. Marie rescinded its infamous resolution.

 

          Having seemingly completed its mandate, CCAR went into dormancy…

      

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