Racism and discrimination in Montreal? This question may have many answers depending on who is giving them. At first sight, just by walking through most of its neighbourhoods, visiting a shopping mall, or riding the metro or a bus, one of the striking characteristics of the city is its ethnic and racial diversity. Montreal also enjoys a reputation as a cosmopolitan city. We like to think of our city as an example of multicultural achievements, a place where tolerance and coexistence among peoples from different origins make up a community where one is pleased to live.
However, there are some clouds over that ideal picture. Signs of systemic racism and discrimination are still present, and that’s why around 22,000 people signed a petition to the City of Montreal asking to hold public consultations on this issue (15,000 is the minimum to request such undertaking). The Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM), an autonomous entity, will then hold a series of public sessions starting with an Information Meeting this May 15 at 7 p.m. at 777, boul. Robert-Bourassa, Métro Square-Victoria-OACI. On this occasion, referential material will be presented by officials of the City of Montreal, and by representatives of those who requested the consultation. There will also be a question period.
The consultation will follow with sessions devoted to various aspects of the issues of Systemic Racism and Discrimination:
Thematic Session on Culture – May 21, at the Grande Bibliothèque (475, boul. de Maisonneuve E., Métro Berri-UQAM) at 7 p.m.
Thematic Session on Employment – May 28, at Cégep Saint-Laurent (625, avenue Sainte-Croix, Metro Du Collège) at 7 p.m.
Thematic Session on Racial and Social Profiling – May 29 at OCPM (1550 Metcalfe St., office 1414, Metro Peel) at 7 p.m.
Session devoted to OCPM Contribution to the Consultation – September 28 at OCPM (1550 Metcalfe St., office 1414 Metro Peel) at 12 p.m.
Itinerant Information sessions – October
Deadline to register to participate in citizens’ sessions, orally or in writing: October 31, at 4 p.m.
First participatory session for citizens – November 4 at OCPM (1550 Metcalfe St., office 1414 Metro Peel) at 7 p.m.
Attendance to these meetings is free, but for actual participation registration is required.
This April, the City of Montreal issued a Consultation Document which will be presented at the Public Information Session. The document is available in both French and English, at the website of the City of Montreal, www.ville.montreal.cq.ca
In the city document discrimination is defined as “Distinction, exclusion or preference that is founded on a ground prohibited under the Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and that effectively nullifies or compromises a right or a freedom protected by the Charter, or the exercise of that right or freedom. Prohibited grounds for discrimination: race, colour, gender, gender identity or expression, pregnancy, sexual orientation, civil status, age (except to the extent provided by law), religion, political convictions, language, ethnic or national origin, social condition, disability or the use of a means to compensate for a disability.”
For its part, racism is defined as “Theory or ideology, based on the assumption that there are separate human races, which considers these races unequal. Racism leads to hostile and contemptuous attitudes and behaviours towards certain people because of their colour or of their ethnic or national origin. Racism finds expression in subtle, indirect and insidious forms, founded on the idea that certain cultures cannot be assimilated into the dominant culture, tradition or lifestyle of a national or majority group. Genetics has shown that races do not exist, that human beings belong to a single species. Yet, racism is a reality, a social phenomenon with serious consequences for victims and societal relations.”