Hearings into systemic racism in Montreal only a start, activist says

Public consultations organized by the Office de consultation publique de Montréal are looking into the issue of systemic racism in Montreal.

A petition to launch the consultations garnered 20,000 signatures last summer

Balarama Holness, the former Projet Montréal mayoral candidate for the borough of Montreal North was one of the people who spearheaded the initiative to demand the public hearings. (Antoni Nerestant/CBC)

Sometimes, when Balarama Holness walks down the street in Montreal, people will stop him and tell him to keep fighting the good fight.

Holness is one of the people who launched a petition in July 2018 demanding that the city hold a public consultation on systemic racism.

The petition garnered 20,000 signatures and the first of the hearings kicked off Monday night.

"I'm always happy to lend my voice and anything I can do to ensure that everyone in Montreal is adequately respected and represented," he said. 

Holness said his main priority in the consultations organized by the Office de consultation publique de Montréal is addressing the underrepresentation of visible minorities in City Hall. 

"Right now, the executive committee is largely homogenous, and that does not reflect the diversity we have in Montreal," Holness said on CBC Let's Go.

Holness, who is also a former Projet Montréal candidate for Montreal-North, emphasized that including people of colour from diverse backgrounds, especially women and members of the LGBTQ community, is crucial. 

Holness said the sports infrastructure is lacking in marginalized boroughs such as Montréal-Nord and Saint-Laurent, and says many people of colour have told him they feel underrepresented in the media.

Public consultations are a start, but Holness says all Montrealers will need to work to ensure the city becomes more inclusive, and that any potential recommendations are implemented.

"The work really is going to start after the consultation." 

With files from CBC Let's Go