Local community groups launching their own systemic racism probe

While the Quebec government has scaled back its planned systemic racism investigation to a one-day forum, community groups in Montreal are moving ahead with an inquiry of its own.

The Couillard government decided against investigating the issue, under intense pressure from opposition politicians who suggested the implication was that all Quebecers were inherently and overtly racist.

The government is held its one-day forum on Tuesday in Quebec City, with round-table discussions dealing with employment, discrimination, and the French language. Municipal and provincial representatives took part, as well as representatives from some community groups, though there were precious few non-whites in attendance.

The alternative inquiry, called the Table of Dialogue Against Systemic Racism, was announced on the same day in Montreal, and plans to hear from those who say they're victims of systemic discrimination — in their dealings with police and other institutions, both public and private.

A coalition of 46 groups will be taking part. Haroun Bouazzi from AMAL Québec — an association representing Arab and Muslim Quebecers for religious neutrality — calls the government's one-day forum "unacceptable" and "sad", and insisted the goal of the exercise was never to accuse people, but to highlight the problems that non-white, non-francophone Quebecers face.

"We don't care if people are racist. What we care about is the fact that the parliament today, if we talk about political institutions, is almost entirely white," Bouazzi said. "What we care about is public institutions or private institutions, the second you go a bit higher in the hierarchy, everyone is white."

Newly arrived Quebecers, and other non-whites, face significantly higher unemployment rates than their white counterparts, he says.