Integrity Commissioner recommends former mayor be removed as BIA chair, attend human rights training following September’s derogatory remarks

Report to be presented to Barrie City Council at Monday's meeting

Barrie’s Integrity Commissioner is recommending the chair of the Downtown Barrie Business Association (BIA) be reprimanded for comments made during a meeting last fall.

During a September 22, 2020 meeting of the BIA, Board Chair and former Barrie mayor Rob Hamilton is heard using derogatory language. A video that surfaced online shows Hamilton referring to people in the downtown “carrying on like a bunch of Mau Maus,” according to an Integrity Commissioner’s report to be presented at City Hall on Monday. The term Mau-Mau is a derogatory term towards Black people, originally referring to Kenyans.

Integrity Commissioner Suzanne Craig said in her report his comments were “inappropriate, offensive, insulting and derogatory.”

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A formal complaint was filed with Craig’s office on March 16, 2021. In her report, Craig says she reached out to Hamilton for a response. Hamilton indicated he wasn’t aware of the historical origins of the words he used and that he didn’t mean it to be derogatory. “However, I do understand how it was received in that way and the harmful impact that has had regardless of my intent and I regret using the term,” he said in a letter to the Integrity Commissioner dated April 9, 2021.

Craig points out in her report that while Hamilton acknowledged he used derogatory language, he never explained why he did so. Craig adds Hamilton did not explain why, when another board member tried to say ‘everyone who lives downtown and walks downtown is a worthy citizen of Barrie, and we should treat everyone as a citizen,’ Hamilton interrupted to say ‘that is just not true.’

Hamilton’s comments were made during a discussion of the BIA board surrounding potential supervised consumption site locations.

Despite Hamilton’s apology to the Integrity Commissioner, Craig’s report indicates it does not absolve him; the Integrity Commissioner is recommending Hamilton’s April 9 apology letter be made public on the city’s website, that he be removed as chair of the BIA, and attend training on addiction as a mental illness and human rights training as a condition of remaining on the BIA board.

The report will be presented at the Monday, April 26 meeting of Barrie City Council. Officials are expected to vote on whether to accept the recommendations within the report then. It will be streamed live through the city’s YouTube channel.