Update: Two alleged assaults linked to cancelled public meeting on Hamilton tiny shelters

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Published September 12, 2023 at 9:52 am

COURTESY OF @JOEYCOLEMAN VIA X
COURTESY OF @JOEYCOLEMAN VIA X

A public meeting about the tiny shelters plan in Hamilton was cancelled Monday night (Sept. 11) because of “serious health and safety issues” including two alleged assaults police are investigating. 

Several hundred people attended the meeting at the Bennetto Community Centre regarding the pilot for small, heated cabins that City council approved last month. The planned location near residences in the North End had sparked backlash, with residents and critics saying the public was not consulted about the site before it was selected for the pilot.

“I’m extremely disappointed that tonight’s meeting could not proceed. I was looking forward to hearing from Hamiltonians on this tough issue,” Hamilton Mayor Andrea Horwath wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “We need to be able to discuss hard topics without threats & violence. Thank you to those who attended to calmly share their point of view.”

During the open house, some of the attendees “engaged in physically and verbally aggressive behaviour toward security officials,” the City said in a press release.

City officials told attendees and those outside the venue that the meeting could not proceed because of safety concerns.

Ward 2 Councillor Cameron Kroetsch, who was supposed to attend the meeting along with the mayor, didn’t immediately respond to inthehammer.com‘s request for comments and more information.

“The City will be doing a full review of the HATS village community meeting to see what lessons can be learned to inform consultations moving forward and what the City needs to ensure public safety,” the City said in an emailed statement shared with media. “The City supports community dialogue that occurs in a way that is safe and respectful. The City will not tolerate any abusive or intimidating behaviour and will always prioritize public safety.”

Police seek information and video from meeting

“One (alleged assault) was brought to our attention last night but the complainant did not wish to move forward with the investigation,” said police spokesperson Jackie Penman in an email to inthehammer.com today (Sept. 12). “The other instance was shared on social media and we proactively reached out to the individual.”

Police are asking individuals with information or video from the meeting to contact Det. Sgt. Cathy Lockley at [email protected] and or at 905-546-3833. 

Penman said the City had hired private security for the meeting but officers responded to a call for assistance at the community centre at 7:05 p.m. Sept. 11. 

North End resident Roland Smythe (@SmytheRoland) said on X that he was at the meeting and those who were waiting for it to start were told it was being cancelled because of “capacity issues.” 

In a message to inthehammer.com on X, he said “at no point did they tell anyone at the meeting that there were safety issues.”

He added: “They actually didn’t even really announce that the meeting was cancelled – they just told some people by the entrance to the gym and let attendees propagate it themselves. Eventually one attendee got on a chair near the front of the room and announced to the crowd that the city had canceled the meeting, then she tried (mostly successfully) to calm everyone down.”

In his post on X, Smythe said he saw plenty of security and police. “I was there and at no point did I feel unsafe. It was definitely tense, but I didn’t see any threats or violence. It’s a controversial issue though, it should expected to get tense. People love their neighbourhoods and feel they’re being taken from them. They better not cancel every session that feels tense.”

Ward 2 Councillor Kroetsch said he supports the decision to cancel the event “when things got out of hand.”

“I’m disappointed that the HATS meeting in the North End couldn’t take place tonight due to safety concerns,” he wrote on X. “I’ll post when I know more about next steps.”

There was conflicting information on whether the people that posed safety concerns were from the neighbourhood.

Ian Fox (@whytock79), an elementary school teacher from the neighbourhood, said on X that he was standing beside a group of four or five “mouthpieces” and believed a few of them were from the neighbourhood. 

He criticized the City for choosing a small venue, saying the City knew “that neighbourhood wants answers and there would be a large turnout. This could have been easily avoided.”


Meeting criticized as ‘very poorly organized’

Joey Coleman (@JoeyColeman), an independent journalist who runs The Public Record news site, said he saw  “aggressive and threatening” individuals in the back, who he believed were not from the neighbourhood.

“They gave me a few shoves and tried to seize my phone,” he wrote on X. “I had to ask a friend to walk with me home for safety reasons.”

He reported that the room had reached its fire code capacity. “There were some individuals who forced their way into the room,” he wrote. 

Victoria Mancinelli (@vcmancinelli), director of public relations, communications, marketing and strategic partnerships for labour union LiUNA, described that it was “peaceful” at first in the gym.

“From where I was in the gym, it was peaceful. There was a small altercation at the beginning but aside from that it was peaceful and we just stood around talking and waiting for an hour. Some shouts here and there,” she wrote. “That being said, violence and threats must never be tolerated and both sides deserve a respectful forum to express their concerns and ask questions.”

She said she felt trust was “eroded” for many of the residents in Ward 2. 

“Very poorly organized tonight and it just fuelled growing tensions and lack of confidence. Sad that we can’t even get a community meeting right,” she wrote on X. “If tonight was not a clear example that we need to reevaluate the proposed site location for the Tiny Homes Pilot in Hamilton, I don’t know what is. After an hour of waiting in the gym with a line of 100+ outside who were denied entry, the meeting was abruptly cancelled. … I hope that there will be a future opportunity for city staff to address the concerns of the North End in a more organized forum so we can reach a resolution, whatever that may be.”

Resident feels community was ‘abandoned’

Manny Oliveira (@oskeemannyo), an attendee, criticized what he said was lack of leadership in a post on X.

“Ward 2 constituency has been left abandoned.  Important meetings like this one and no leadership from councillor or mayor present.  Just shows what they care about.  The ‘agenda’ and nothing else.”

The location of the newly approved Hamilton Alliance for Tiny Shelters (HATS) pilot was controversial with many residents and stakeholders such as labour union LiUNA raising concerns about the lack of consultation with them.

Mayor Horwath had planned to attend the meeting. 

The first neighbourhood meeting about the tiny shelters site occurred on Aug. 26 without any serious incidents.

City council approved the plan for the tiny shelters pilot along with the revised encampment protocol on Aug. 18. 

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