More than a third of Montrealers belong to visible minorities and more than two out of five speak a language other than French at home.
Yet the boards of Montreal’s transit authority, housing agencies and parks authorities continue to be mostly white and francophone, the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) told public consultations on systemic discrimination and racism Thursday.
“We need boards and commissions that are a reflection of the city and not a reflection of the executive committee,” executive director Fo Niemi said in an interview after his presentation to the Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM).
Niemi and Alain Babineau, a former RCMP officer who now advises CRARR, analyzed the composition of four boards: the Office Municipal D’Habitation De Montréal (OMHM), Société d’habitation et de développement de Montréal (SHDM), Société de Transport de Montréal (STM) and Société du Parc Jean-Drapeau (SPDJ).
They found the board of the OMHM is entirely white and francophone, while the SHDM has one member of a visible minority and one member of a cultural minority on its nine-member board. The STM’s 10-member board, which includes four municipal councillors and two suburban mayors, has no visible minorities, although some of the politicians who sit on it, like vice-president Craig Sauvé, speak English. The SPJD’s nine-member board, which was shuffled by Mayor Valérie Plante in June 2018, is entirely white and francophone.
“When we did the research on these city agencies and boards, we realized that there’s still a lot of exclusion, starting with anglophones of all racial backgrounds,” Niemi said.
Particularly disappointing is the SPJD’s board, whose shakeup last year could have presented an opportunity to be more representative of Montreal’s demographic reality, he said.
Niemi said Mayor Valérie Plante has failed to deliver on making the city more inclusive since she took power two years ago.
“I would give them six out of 10 in terms of promising commitments but about three in terms of achievements,” he said.
He recommended that Montreal annually make public all discrimination complaints, grievances and lawsuits against the city, Montreal Police, the STM and paramunicipal agencies.
He also proposed that the city’s inspector general act as a watchdog against discrimination by city agencies and contractors.
The city has lagged in increasing its hiring of minorities, including anglophones, he said. The lack of job opportunities for graduates of English-speaking universities is a concern the city should address through its hiring practices, he suggested.
Niemi also said that rather than participating in mediation, Montreal police have chosen to mount long legal challenges in racial-profiling cases. “We feel that they’re multiplying the procedures to set up these cases to fail,” he said, noting that justice delayed is justice denied.
The consultations will continue until Dec. 4.