Hamilton owns its success
it is not a Toronto mentality making our city great place
Let me begin by stating clearly that I adore Toronto. I grew up in the GTA, did my undergrad at the University of Toronto, and have spent many afternoons rambling around the streets of Kensington Market.
I love Toronto, but I love Hamilton even more, and I can no longer watch idly as Torontonians try to claim Hamilton’s success as their own.
Recently, Toronto Life boldly declared on their cover, “Toronto’s new hot spot: Hamilton!” Thanks for the nod, big brother, but Hamilton is not actually a district of Toronto. It’s a whole other city, about 60 km away from you, as the crow flies.
I will gladly give credit where credit is due. We all know about the migration of many former Toronto residents to Hamilton, precipitated by impossible housing costs in Toronto. Yes, there has been some added financial and cultural energy pumped into Hamilton as of late, but no, it is not a Toronto mentality that’s making Hamilton a great place to live.
I have lived for significant lengths of time in Mississauga and Guelph, and have been in Hamilton now for two years. In my heart and soul, I am a Hamiltonian. This city speaks to and for me in a way that no other Canadian city ever has. Having grown and gone through many formative experiences in other places does not mean that those places can lay claim to my current success.
Hamilton has a vibe that is not akin to Toronto’s. I have felt vibes similar to Hamilton’s in Havana and Amsterdam, but in my experience, Montreal and New York are far more Torontoesque than we are. It’s not about proximity — it’s about attitude.
I hear two distinct sentiments from people who are new to visiting Hamilton: “It’s a pretty good city, if you overlook the bad parts,” and “I don’t know what those people are complaining about.”
The mentality that there is something not quite good enough in Hamilton’s esthetic sheen is one that stinks of Toronto. But, it’s not about the existence of a few shabby buildings. It’s not about the good and bad neighbourhoods. It’s not about the homeless population. All of these things exist in Toronto, in spades.
It’s about a long-held view that Hamilton is not elite, and those who cling to that opinion will never be among those who are contributing to Hamilton’s greatness. Being great, for Hamilton, does not mean being revered by our neighbours. It means being a strong, progressive, creative, and compassionate community that is rife with talent and ambition.
And, if you don’t “get” Hamilton, well, that’s just too bad for you.
We don’t need Toronto’s approval to let us know that we’re an incredible city all on our own, and we don’t need to pretend that we invented the oversized lawn sign to feel secure in our selfhood.
Those who are moving from the GTA or closer cities such as Burlington and Oakville because they see greatness in Hamilton are doing so because their attitude jives with ours, and we welcome them because we recognize that we are only made stronger by growing our community of like minds.
Rebranding as “HamOnt” rather than “Hammer City,” or “Steeltown,” has been part of an initiative to rejuvenate Hamilton’s identity. However, I see no shame in remembering Hamilton’s roots. We are so much more than a bunch of Toronto expatriates — the people and the industries that have led us to where we are now trace a deep and complex history, and include both ancestral residents and new arrivals who share a common vision.
Hamilton was also once called the Ambitious City. Perhaps it’s time we reinstate that title.
Laura Furster is a fine artist, literary writer, and journalist living in downtown Hamilton. She can be found on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram, and at www.laura-furster.com. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Being great, for Hamilton, does not mean being revered by our neighbours. LAURA FURSTER