Photo by Kyle West
Hamilton city council has committed to taking an equity and inclusion lens to municipal decisions going forward.
Two weeks ago, Mayor Fred Eisenberger brought a motion to city council to implement a new equity, diversity and inclusion lens into city policies.
The motion passed unanimously and calls for a report to be brought forward on how to introduce an EDI lens to all city initiatives.
Attached to the motion was a draft version of an equity, diversity and inclusion handbook.
The motion also includes an allocation of $5,000 for city council to hold an EDI summit.
The new lens builds on the recommendations highlighted in Hamilton’s equity and inclusion policy implemented in 2010.
Ward 1 councillor Maureen Wilson said an EDI lens will require the city to be more specific and concrete when it incorporates equity and inclusion into different policies.
According to Wilson, it is not about quotas and targets, but about a shift in decision-making that will require city council to include the perspectives of all communities.
The EDI lens will first be applied to issues concerning housing and homelessness.
However, Wilson sees potential for it to affect how the city envisions issues like transit, helping to consider the ways that different communities, like women or bikers, get around in Hamilton.
Eisenberger’s motion followed debate at city councillor over the city manager search committee and interview process, which some individuals, including Wilson and Ward 3 councillor Nrinder Nann, criticized for not taking a diverse and inclusive approach.
Denise Christopherson, the CEO of the YWCA Hamilton and chair of the status of women committee, has called for city council to adopt an EDI framework for years.
Christopherson said she is encouraged by the support for the motion at city council and appreciative of the efforts of Wilson and Nann in pushing this forward.
“It’s been in the works for a long time,” Christopherson said. “To develop a framework, this is going to be a multi-year work project that hopefully gets ingrained in everything they do at city hall. So when they’re putting forward a proposal, it’s about, have they gone through the lens of inclusion? Who have they consulted with?”
The YWCA Hamilton currently runs multiple programs providing housing for non-binary people and women without places to stay.
Christopherson is hopeful that the new lens will result in more funding for programs like these.
“I like to say that the city should have a hand in all marginalized communities,” Christopherson said. “Hopefully we see more investment in those necessary programs.”
Community organizer Sophie Geffros is also optimistic about the new lens and what it could mean for current city council issues.
“I’m cautiously excited about it, because it signals to me that the city is at least beginning to acknowledge that designing a city around the needs of straight, white, middle class, able bodied men is not just ineffective but can be actively harmful for its marginalized citizens,” Geffros said.
As the city still awaits a report on how the lens will be implemented, activists and supporters of the motion are hopeful about the many policy areas a city-wide EDI framework could effect change in.