One out of every five immigrants in the Montreal region reported experiencing discrimination or unjust treatment in the last five years.
The number of hate crimes reported by Montreal police increased by more than 50 per cent from 2016 to 2017, rising to 311 reports, particularly those motivated by hatred based on religion, race and ethnic origin.
In a city where the immigrant population rose to 34 per cent of the total population in 2016, the unemployment rate for new immigrants remains double that of non-immigrants.
It is against this backdrop that Montreal’s office of public consultations started its hearings into the issues of systemic racism and discrimination that fall within the jurisdiction of the city of Montreal, with a general information session Wednesday night in the ballroom of the EVO Hotel with roughly 200 in attendance. A number of thematic evenings on the topics of employment, racial and social profiling, and culture will be held in addition to information sessions where members of the public can ask questions of city officials. The process is expected to stretch at least to the end of the year, and a report will be filed early in 2020.
The consultation came after a petition bearing 22,000 signatures was filed with the city clerk’s office last summer and deemed valid on Aug. 29 , compelling city officials to begin the process of organizing the consultation.
“We are ecstatic that this is finally happening,” said Balarama Holness of Montreal in Action, which organized the petition. “Montreal signed a declaration against racism in 1989, and there were multiple consultations and commissions on the topic held, but we found the recommendations were not followed.
“So this is a time for Montrealers to come together to form a coalition of organizations and engaged citizens to ensure that the recommendations that come from this consultation are implemented.”
Among the issues are the underrepresentation of visible minorities in numerous employment fields as well as the civil service and institutions like the police force or Montreal’s political class. It will also study the lack of diversity seen in Montreal’s cultural sectors, the lack of funding and communication by the city to promote them, and the spectre of gentrification expelling citizens of colour.
Montreal in Action wants an action plan on systemic racism and discrimination to be produced, with a budget attached to it.
At Wednesday’s meeting, members of Montreal’s deaf community, the physically handicapped and Indigenous communities called for more action to protect their rights. Fo Niemi, executive director of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), stressed that it was important for members of Montreal’s English community to make their concerns heard.
“We know that this (city) administration is not very strong where the English speaking community is concerned and we need to look into that. … We have to look at the appointment of English-speaking people of all backgrounds to the boards and commissions at the city level, because we are worried that racial diversity could only take place in French.”
Recommendations based on the hearings will be made to city council and the office will publish the report of its findings in the 90 days following the last day of hearings. A schedule of the hearings can be found at the public consultation’s website at www.ocpm.qc.ca, and hearings will be broadcast live on their site.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019