The Black community knows a thing or two about the anti-racism struggle in Montreal having been on the frontlines over the past several decades.
Some will dare say that it’s a struggle that reaches as far back as the early history of this city.
But things really started coming to a head in the late 1950s and 60s as the community grew and Montreal became increasingly uncomfortable with its growing Black population.
And as more Blacks and other minorities came, evidence of racial discrimination became more pronounced.
The expectations has always been that it would be up to city administration to take bold action to undo the decades of racial injustices that have sidelining our community and others.
Today it’s Valerie Plante, yesterday it was Denis Corderre, before him was Gerald Tremblay who took over from Pierre Bourque who unseated Jean Dore, who came after Jean Drapeau, each as mayor of Montreal, was called upon to address the impact of racism on Blacks in this city.
Aside from the posturing of a few of them, especially Pierre Bourqe who was unique in his efforts to reach out to Blacks and other minorities, not much has changed.
Sadly after years of agitating and facilitating false promises our community whose roots in Montreal are deeper than most other so-called cultural groups, remains over-represented among all the indicators of marginalization.
We stand at the top of the list among those who are unemployed and under-employed, victims of inadequate housing a primary targets for unjustified acts by the police. As well, our community is economically stunted.
All of which can be attributed to the historically entrenched systemic racism that reaches back to Montreal’s ugly past.
However, of late there have been increased demands on the city administration to come to terms with the deeply ingrained pattern of marginalization and its impact not only on the Black community but also on all minority groups in Montreal.
In June last year we had this 258-page report handed to Mayor Valerie Plante that laid bare the extent of the problem in Montreal along with 38 recommendations for the administration to begin doing something about it.
The report prepared by Office de consultation publique de Montreal (OCPM), came out of public consultations held between August 2018 and December 2019 following a petition signed by over 20,000 Montrealers calling on the City to have these hearings on systemic racism and discrimination.
The consultations heard from more than 7,000 Montrealers and were able to determine that “…serious historical injustices have led to and have perpetuated the social and economic disadvantages that currently exist among certain segments of the population.”
The report called on the City to act now because it stated that the “Inequities involving these populations and subsequent generations must cease; it is a question of fundamental rights.”
High on the list of the 38 recommendations, which Plante accepted with in a strangely enthusiastic manner was for the creation of the position of commissioner to counter racism and discrimination.
To her credit, just six months later she was able to name someone to the position.
That person, announced earlier this month is Bochra Manaï, an academic who holds a PhD, two Master’s degree and heads a community organization in the east end of the city.
All good except Ms. Manaï, is not Black.
And as far as we know, she has no connection with the struggle against systemic racism that minority groups have been waging for much of the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s in Montreal.
It’s a damn shame, isn’t it… how easy it is to overlook Blacks when it comes to the allocation of positions of influence and power.
That’s why among the captains of industry, politicians and appointed big wigs, it’s so difficult to find a Black person.
It’s not that we’re incapable, it’s the vestiges of slavery and manifestations of entrench and systemic racism.
So when individuals and groups cried out against the appointment of Ms. Manaï, it has nothing to do with perceptions of her capacity.
It has everything to do with how out of touch Mayor Plante seems to be with the realities of race in Montreal.