Encounter isn’t surprising, says Kojo Damptey
Julia Lovett-SquiresFlamborough ReviewMonday, March 29, 2021
An open letter detailing an incident of racial profiling in Waterdown in late March has sparked community outrage after residents shared photos of the unsigned letter on social media.
According to the letter, a driving instructor was out with a student when they said they were “stalked” by a couple in a white SUV. The instructor and the student, who the letter said are Asian and Black, respectively, were then threatened and reported to the police.
It was the student’s very first driving lesson.
“Was the sight of a Black person driving a car around your neighbourhood, obeying traffic rules with an Asian passenger that concerning that you had to follow us, call the police and confront us?” the letter read in part.
Hamilton Police were unable to provide information about a call for service related to the incident.
The letter alleges the incident took place on Carl Crescent and the young student — new to the country — was “distraught” following the encounter.
“You destroyed this young lady’s impression that Canada is a welcoming and friendly place to live.”
According to Kojo Damptey, executive director of Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion, this encounter isn’t surprising.
“I think these things happen all the time, it’s just that we don’t hear about it,” he said.
Per capita, Hamilton has the highest rate of hate crimes in Canada and according to Damptey the numbers are under-reported.
“We are actually looking at developing an online hate reporting platform that residents can report these incidents,” he said, adding the initiative is currently in the consulting stage.
When the letter was posted to social media, there was community outrage and sadness.
Teresa Sopko, owner of Lifeline Driver Education Centre — whose driving school is not connected to the instructor or student — said she was sorry the student had that experience.
“That’s just inexcusable,” she said.
Sopko said she’s concerned that a rise white supremacist attitudes has come not only to Flamborough but to the province and the country at large.
“It’s very sad that we even would have that kind of thing in our community,” she said.
Ward 15 Coun. Judi Partridge called the incident “heartbreaking.”
“I am beyond disgusted at a recent racial harassment incident in a Waterdown neighbourhood, where a local driving instructor and a young female immigrant student taking driving lessons was stalked and threatened,” she said in a statement. “There is no reason for this blatant racist act to happen — not in Waterdown, not anywhere.”
Partridge encouraged the acts to be reported to the police and noted that the community as a whole must do better.
Police said if an encounter is believed to be racially motivated, there are ways to rectify and take action — including an online hate crime reporting portal.
“We’ve heard loud and clear that people need a way to report to police that doesn’t involve visiting a police station,” said Hamilton Police media relations officer Const. Inderjit Bharaj in an email.
To make a report, visit: https://hamiltonpolice.on.ca/report-crime/online-reporting/report-hate-crime-online.
“Hate in Hamilton is not acceptable,” Bharaj said. “Left unchecked, we know hate crime can have a far-reaching impact on communities.
“By reporting hate crimes and incidents, police can make sure the appropriate resources are assigned to make our community safer.”
A few days after the flyers had been posted in the neighbourhood and made their way online, they were taken down, but it is unclear by who.
“We’ve been doing this work for over 19 years in Hamilton and we see these incidences all the time so I think that many white Canadians don’t want to admit that they engage in racist behaviour and racist rhetoric,” said Damptey. “When racialized people come forward to talk about the racist experiences that they faced, people want to dismiss those experiences.”