Montreal creates commissioner for the fight against racism and systemic discrimination

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante removes her face mask as she arrives at a news conference, Friday, September 18, 2020 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS-Ryan Remiorz

By Katelyn Thomas, CTV Montreal 

MONTREAL — The City of Montreal has officially created the position of a commissioner for the fight against racism and systemic discrimination as well as a bureau out of which the person will operate. 

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante made the announcement at a news conference on Friday morning. She pointed out that the creation of the position was the second recommendation that came out of the OCPM report in the spring, which accused the city of turning a blind-eye to the problem. 

“The first (recommendation) was to recognize there is systemic racism and discrimination throughout the city…,” Plante said. “So, we did.” 

“The third was to appoint an elected official specifically to that dossier,” she continued, highlighting her choice to give the role to Cathy Wong, city councillor for the downtown borough and a member of the Commission de la sécurité publique. 

The job posting will be made public on Wednesday, Plante said. The person who will occupy the role will be responsible for advising political bodies in the fight against racism and discrimination, to do consistent moderating of the processes of municipal services, and to make sure citizens and employees are aware of their rights. 

“This is more than just a symbol," Plante said.

“The commissioner for the fight against racism and discrimination… will play a strategic role to ensure Montreal becomes a fair and more inclusive city," Wong added. 

Plante pointed out that today's announcement means the city has responded to the first three recommendations from the OCPM report. 

“I’m proud to have done this so quickly," she said. 

The bureau will be composed of a team of professionals "with varied expertise and experience, including a city resource specializing in racial profiling who will work full-time within the police department of the City of Montreal," the city said. 

“The SPVM has unveiled its policy on police checks, this summer, it was the first in Quebec…,” Wong said. “Training of patrol officers has already started, it’s already underway.” 

Plante and Wong are inviting Montrealers to share the job posting when it goes up in order to find the "rare pearl" who will occupy the position. 

When asked about Premier Francois Legault's refusal to characterize the racism in Quebec as "systemic," Plante responded: "It's for the premier to decide which words he wants to go for, but I do think that recognizing that it exists doesn't make Quebecers or Montrealers racist." 

She said that acknowledging its existence rather points out "collective biases, stereotypes we've been carrying without even knowing it." 

"I can definitely say that naming is part of the process," she said. "It is important to name things." 

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