Employment of former neo-Nazi at City of Hamilton raises concerns

A former member of a neo-Nazi group has been working for the City of Hamilton for several years, according VICE.

In a story published Wednesday, VICE says Marc Lemire, a known white supremacist, has been working as a network analyst in the IT department.

In a statement sent to CHCH News regarding Lemire’s employment, the city said it would not comment on any matters relating to individual employees.

“While it is important to the City to provide residents with accountability and transparency with respect to City business, programs, initiatives and services, the City does not provide comment on any matters relating to individual employees,” said Jen Recine, Communications Manager from the City Manager Office. “We have a thorough and robust investigation process, and in the event that an investigation substantiates a policy violation, appropriate disciplinary action is taken.”

The city says it ensures a safe and respectful workplace for all staff and takes any allegations of inappropriate behaviour or possible misconduct “very seriously.”

Concerns over what information Lemire can access in his role have sparked some outrage. Hamilton lawyer and local activist Craig Burley says he spoke with Maria Pearson, who was serving as councillor at the time, back in 2018 and raised a red flag about hate speech involving a city staff member.

A meeting was then arranged between Burley and two members of the city of Hamilton Human Resources team in November 2018. Burley says he raised concerns about Lemire being a part of the team that reviews or screens communications coming into and leaving city owned email addresses.

City councillors met Wednesday night for a scheduled council meeting at 5 p.m. at City Hall. Following the meeting, councillors discussed the matter involving Lemire behind closed doors.

Former Hamilton councillor Matthew Green said he was “disgusted” to learn that the former leader of the Heritage Front was working for the city. Green, who was the first visible minority to ever be elected to council, said he finds it “frightening” that Lemire would have had access to his political and personal online information.

“I have deep concerns about this breach of public trust knowing now that this person may have had complete and undetectable access to these communications,” said Green. “Furthermore my time as a City Councillor provided a deep insight into the culture of City Hall and given the information detailing the removal of Marc Lemire from the City of Hamilton organizational charts, IT staff reports, the telephone directory, and staff email directories I find it unfathomable that the most senior City staff, the City’s HR department, and all the way up to the City Manager did not know about employment and perceived threat of Marc Lemire.”

Green says he will be exploring any options of forcing an investigation into whether there were any other potential breaches of the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act during Lemire’s employment.

According to The Hamilton Spectator, the city’s manager Jannette Smith said she is vowing a “thorough investigation.”