Harsh words for Plante administration at hearings on racism

hearings gazette

This evening was the first of several public hearings held as part of Montreal's consultation on racism and systemic discrimination, and perhaps the most passionate voice in the room was a former Projet Montreal candidate who doesn't think the party has what it takes to confront those issues head-on.

Balarama Holness ran alongside now-mayor Valérie Plante as the Projet candidate to be mayor Montreal-North in the 2017 election.  But shortly after he lost that race, he began to call out what he says is a city council much less diverse than the city it serves at the pleasure of — a council that is 90% white, serving a city where nearly 40% are not.

Holness says it was his disappointment in a roundtable the Plante Administration held on systemic racism that inspired him to spearhead the petition — garnering 22,000 signatures — that forced the public consultation office to hold these new hearings in the first place.

He said despite publicly welcoming the launch of the consultation, Holness says the mood within Projet Montreal and from the Mayor's office has been clearly dismissive.

"They did not participate, did not attend the [private portion of the] consultations," Holness said, adding, "This consultation, by city hall, has been largely ignored."

He says there are real ways the city can help break down barriers between white and non-white Montrealers, including expanding after-school extracurricular programs and making sure boroughs with a larger population of colour, like Saint-Laurent and his home of Montreal-North, receive equal funding to the city's whiter boroughs, like the Plateau-Mont-Royal and Rosemont.

After several more public hearings, the commission running these public consultations will issue a final report with recommendations on how to move forward.

And when asked by reporters if he thought Plante and his former party would implement those recommendations, Holness said no.

"We're going to need [new] people that run for Mayor, that run for city council and borough councils, mobilize and have people who are concerned about this issue to be elected," he said.

"With the current administration, yes, the recommendations would not be implemented."