​Real Talk on Race is CBC Montreal's special series exploring personal conversations and experiences around race in the city.

At Quebec's National Assembly there are only a handful of MNAs out of its 125 who are not white.

Why doesn't it reflect the true diversity of Quebec? And what can be done to change that?

CBC Montreal's National Assembly correspondent Ryan Hicks spoke to four people with first-hand experience.

Meet the politicians

Saul Polo

Saul Polo, born in Colombia, is the Liberal MNA for Laval-des-Rapides. (CBC)

Saul Polo is a Liberal MNA for Laval-des-Rapides and a former president of the Quebec Liberal Party. He was born in Colombia.

He says he made the move into politics after witnessing the challenges qualified people in the Latin American community face in having the credentials recognized here.

Maka Kotto

Maka Kotto, born in Cameroon, is a Parti Quebecois MNA for the Montreal riding of Bourget. (CBC)

Maka Kotto is a three-term Parti Québécois MNA for the Montreal riding of Bourget.

He's also a former Minister of Culture in the Marois government and was born in Cameroon.

He says former Parti Québécois leader Bernard Landry encouraged him to make the jump into politics after his career as an actor and author.

Amir Khadir

Amir Khadir, born in Iran, is an MNA for Quebec Solidaire in the riding of Mercier. (CBC)

Amir Khadir is an MNA for Québec Solidaire in the riding of Mercier. He was born in Iran.

He says he realized after his involvement in defending public health care and raising awareness about social justice issues, that becoming involved politically could change those issues in a deeper way.

He also felt the need for a new voice in provincial politics, different from the traditional parties.

Marlene Jennings, school boards

Marlene Jennings, the first black woman from Quebec elected to the House of Commons, is a former Liberal MP for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine. (CBC)

Marlene Jennings is a former Liberal MP for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine. She is the first black woman from Quebec elected to the House of Commons.

She says after decades of grassroots community work, her extended family pushed her to run for the Liberal nomination in 1997.

Why so little involvement?

Our guests discuss why there are so few visible minorities at the National Assembly.

Kotto, who shared his ideas in French, said the progress women have made in politics should serve as inspiration for improving diversity in Quebec politics.

"We can all raise awareness," Kotto added.

"In each political party, we can all direct our efforts in a way so that the diversity we see throughout the province will be reflected at the National Assembly."

The effects of the Quebec Charter of Values


Our guests discuss how to encourage more people of colour to run for provincial politics.

"There's work around developing a collective consciousness," Kotto said.

"We are very divided. We have not yet validated our common identity," Kotto said. "We need to apply this approach in schools, in the media, film and television, so that the same consciousness develops not only for the majority francophone community — but also among the minorities, and the historical anglo minority of Quebec."

Kotto added that we're not yet a united people and work needs to be done to address the absence of diversity in popular culture.

"From the moment that collective consciousness does not exist, then we live along margins, like silos," Kotto said.