Balarama Holness, accompanied by 30 fellow-activists, arrived at Montreal City Hall in July 2018 with the needed signatures to force the city to hold consultations on systemic racism. A report released Monday called for far-ranging changes at many levels. (Radio-Canada / Romain Schué)

Montreal mayor commits to action after damning report on racism

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante says she is ready to act on a report released Monday that says the city has turned a “blind eye” to systemic racism and discrimination in police and city administration.

“I want you to know that Montreal is a city where every Montrealer is entitled to have their dignity respected,” she said at a news conference following the report’s release.

“I’m firmly committed to implementing systemic solutions to these systemic problems, without delay because there is no time to lose.”

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante held a news conference on Monday following a report detailing problems of racism in the city. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Plante said she would introduce a motion to “formally recognize” systemic racism, appoint a commissioner to counter racism, hire more minorities to public posts and improve accountability among the Montreal police service.

The report by the Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM), concluded the city has “neglected” the fight against racism and discrimination and does not recognize the systemic nature of the problem.

It was the result of a 20,000-signature petition presented to the city nearly two years ago, which triggered public hearings on systemic racism.

It calls for 38 measures to combat–among other things–racial profiling, boost the hiring and promotion of minorities and make city politics more representative of the city’s demographic reality.

The city’s approach to issues of race and discrimination, the OCPM found, “turns a blind eye to the debate regarding the relationship of power between majority and minority groups.”

A protester at a Montreal demonstration on Sunday against Quebec’s relgious neutrality law holds a sign that reads ‘For religious neutrality, against discrimination.’ (CBC News)

As a consequence, “the city does not question its policies and practices, nor its role in the production and perpetuation of inequalities within its various jurisdictions, such as employment and public security.”

Meanwhile on Sunday, dozens of people gathered outside Quebec Premier François Legault’s Montreal office to stage a sit-in, protesting the province’s ban on religious symbols. 

The most controversial section of the law, known as Bill 21, bans civil servants in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols such as a hijab or kippah. 

Elsewhere, on the Canadian Prairies, about a 1,000 people gathered in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on Saturday, chanting “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice No Peace.” 

Hundreds of people marched through downtown Saskatoon calling for an end to police brutality and systematic racism in Canada and around the world, saying Canadians and the institutions that serve the community need to do better. (Morgan Modjeski/CBC)

On Sunday, a group in Saskatoon called for defunding the police–saying the police and health systems should be restructured so there are specific services for people with mental health concerns to go to.

As well, anti-racism protesters lined up along the east and west ends of the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts early Saturday morning in Vancouver for a rally in support of Black Lives Matter and defunding police forces.

The protesters declined to comment to CBC News, but said the protest was peaceful, and held signs with slogans like “Care Not Cops,” “Support Black Trans Women,” and “Defund VPD.”

With files from CBC News (John MacFarlane, Benjamin Shingler, Morgan Modjeski, Michelle Ghoussoub), RCI

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