In spite of the chilly typical winter afternoon on Febraury 6, 2010, citizens of Hamilton gathered for a rally entitled ‘An attack on one is an attack on all’. The rally is organized by concerned citizens to support the new refugee reception centre ‘New Dawn’, which is managed by Settlement and Integration Service Organization (SISO) – the largest settlement services provider of the city. The center receives new refugees, who can stay in the center for a period of a week or two until they arrange stable housing. The welcome house is aimed at helping ‘transition refugees and immigrants into our culture within a harmless, supportive, educational facility.’
Recently, the center and individuals affiliated with the organization have been targeted by anonymous hate messages. A flyer with an anonymous sender found its way to mailboxes of the neighbourhood, branding the New Dawn Reception center as a ‘threat’ to the community. The flyer describes concerns of the center being a potential disruption for the ‘seclusion enjoyed’ in the neighbourhood. The author of the flyer also clearly shares his/her view that a refugee center in the community will invite potential crime scenes and inevitably lower propriety values.
This is not the first time such hate activities were targeted towards immigrants. SISO’s chair and a Columnist at Hamilton Spectator, Hussein Hamdani was recently attacked with similar anti-immigrant messages with a note pinned on one of the organization’s vans.
It is estimated that only in the past 10 years, more than 35,000 immigrants chose Hamilton as their new hometown. The unemployment and poverty rate is high among immigrants, posing a challenge for the city’s mandate of ‘making Hamilton the best place to raise a child.’ SISO has been playing a great role as a leading settlement organization by providing services that help newcomers to settle and integrate at a relatively faster rate. In the past two years, SISO has grown its wings in the community, opening new facilities in different parts of the city, including a downtown based youth centre named ‘The Globe’, a business hub center on the mountain and the New Dawn Reception Center.
Racially biased hate attacks are not new to Hamilton. Even though police claims hate crime numbers have been dwindling recently, there is also a concern that most cases are not reported. In 2008 and 2007, 69 and 86 hate crime incidents were reported to the police. Police reports shows that blacks have been on the receiving end of most of these attacks, followed by Jews and East Indians. Recent incidents include the firebomb attack on the city’s largest mosque that was thrown through the mosque’s front window. Police also anticipates that upcoming events including the 2010 Olympics and the 2010 G8 Summit might incite some hate related incidents.
The government of Canada and the City of Hamilton have been showing their commitment to creating welcoming environment to immigrants. SISO’s work which is mainly funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) showcases the government’s commitment. As part of its settlement and integration mandate, SISO also has a hate crime prevention program which is implemented in collaboration with Hamilton Center for Civic Inclusion.