Valérie Plante commits to change after report finds Montreal has ‘neglected’ fight against racism

Public consultation report says substantial changes needed to resolve what is widespread problem

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante held a news conference on Monday following a report detailing problems of racism in the city. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante says she is committed to addressing systemic racism and following up on recommendations laid out in a new report detailing problems in the city.

Plante said she would introduce a motion to “formally recognize” systemic racism, appoint a commissioner to counter racism, hire more minorities to public posts and improve accountability among the Montreal police service.

“I want you to know that Montreal is a city where every Montrealer is entitled to have their dignity respected,” she said Monday at a news conference in response to the report.

“I’m firmly committed to implementing systemic solutions to these systemic problems without delay, because there is no time to lose.”

The report, released Monday by the Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM), is the result of a 20,000-signature petition presented to the city nearly two years ago, which triggered public hearings on systemic racism.

It concluded the city has “neglected” the fight against racism and discrimination and does not recognize the systemic nature of the problem.

It arrives at a time of global reckoning on the issue. Recent protests in Montreal in response to last month’s killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police also coalesced around local tensions — including Premier François Legault’s denial of the existence of systemic discrimination in Quebec.

The city’s approach to issues of race and discrimination, the OCPM found, “turns a blind eye to the debate regarding the relationship of power between majority and minority groups.”

As a consequence, “the city does not question its policies and practices, nor its role in the production and perpetuation of inequalities within its various jurisdictions, such as employment and public security.”

On the subject of the Montreal police and racial profiling, the report says major changes are needed. It calls for two experts on racial profiling to be added to the city’s public security committee and for changes to police training.

The report says an “understanding of the phenomenon of racial and social profiling” and “the necessary skills to bring about a change in the culture of the organization” should be requirements for hiring the city’s chief of police.

Tens of thousands of people have been taking to the streets in recent weeks in anti-racism protests in Montreal. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

38 recommendations

The commission outlined 38 recommendations that call for sweeping changes: greater transparency, specific targets and accountability at the executive level, for everything from hiring for city positions to policing to cultural programs to housing.

The report’s first two recommendations, both of which Plante committed to acting upon, are for the city to “publicly recognize, without delay, the systemic nature of racism and discrimination and commit to fight against these phenomena,” and to create the role of a commissioner to counter racism and discrimination.

The report also calls for the city’s services to Indigenous people to be revised “in order to better adapt the services to the demographic reality” of that population, and for better resources and more stability for the city’s Indigenous Affairs Commissioner.

Most of the city’s efforts around racism amount to programs and policies to integrate immigrants and don’t address systemic discrimination, the report says.

Balarama Holness spearheaded an initiative calling for hearings on systemic racism in Montreal. (Jérôme Labbé/Radio-Canada)

 

As of now, it says, Montreal has seen few results in the fight against systemic racism because the actions it has taken “are sparse” to begin with. No political or administrative leader is accountable for that file, and no data is being collected that might help document discriminatory practices and policies.

The report observes that the City of Montreal has had staffing diversity plans for a decade, and in that time not a single upper management role was filled by anyone who self-identifies as a visible minority, ethnic minority or Indigenous person.

A need for better data

A common theme in a number of recommendations is the lack of data available to adequately assess programs. The report calls for the city to produce and make public, every three years, “comparative and differentiated populational data” in areas such as housing, social and economic development and democratic participation.

“The main takeaway is you cannot fight what you do not name,” Dominique Ollivier, president of the OCPM, told CBC News.

The report recommends that data be tracked and made public on city hiring, attendance and funding of cultural programs, and the outcomes of complaints around racial mistreatment.

The hearings were prompted after a group submitted a petition in July 2018 calling for Montreal to look into systemic racism and discrimination.

Under municipal regulations, the city is compelled to hold public hearings on the subjects of any petition signed by at least 15,000 citizens.

SOURCE

John MacFarlaneBenjamin Shingler · CBC News 

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