Montreal?s diversity is under represented in city hall

As the dust settles on this month’s municipal election, it is becoming clear that the post-election city hall is not very different from the previous administration. Gérald Tremblay is set to begin a third term as mayor of Montreal, and Vision Montréal remains the official opposition.
The new, predominantly white council looks a lot like previous ones, too. Though visible minorities make up 26 per cent of Montreal’s population, only five per cent of city council is not Caucasian.

Fo Niemi, director of the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations said the blame for this discrepancy should not be laid on the minorities themselves. Rather, the responsibility falls to the parties for not recruiting minorities in the first place, he said. “It’s not for a lack of trying on the part of the minorities, it’s whether the parties give them a chance to run and get elected.”
Niemi suggested the city should initiate a training program to help minorities looking to run in elections. “You might need to raise $15,000 to win a nomination and this is a real barrier for minorities,” he said. “People who are traditionally excluded need more support in order to compete equally.”

Niemi cited the boroughs housing Concordia University’s two campuses as the grimmest examples of the major civic parties lacking racial minorities on their slates.
Though 28 per cent of the downtown Ville-Marie borough is comprised of visible minorities, “basically all the candidates from Harel’s party and Union Montréal are white,” Niemi said. The same applies to the Côte-des-Neiges8212;Notre-Dame-de-Gr’ce borough, he said, where minorities make up 41 per cent of the population.
Niemi applauded Union Montréal for being the only party to have minorities as elected members. Alan DeSousa, who is of South Asian background and Aref Salem, who is Middle Eastern, were elected in Saint-Laurent. Franz Benjamin, who is black, was elected in Saint-Michel.

As for Vision Montréal, whose 16-member caucus doesn’t include a single racial minority, they will “have to take extraordinary measures to compensate for lack of diversity to show that it is a party for all Montrealers,” Niemi said. “It must embrace the diversity of Montreal.”

By the numbers

65 members on City Council

3 Racialized or visible minorities on City Council

1.62 million residents

26 per cent of Montreal population is racialized minorities

*all numbers provided by the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations.

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