Coalition calls for more diverse Montreal City Hall

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Diversity in Montreal politics
WATCH ABOVE: On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, six Montreal city councillors have a message for municipal political parties - recruit more ethnic minorities. Global's Elysia Bryan-Baynes reports – Jan 18, 2016

MONTREAL – A group of city councillors, community organizations and former candidates said its time to have a council that represents the population.

As it stands, only six out of 208 councillors on the island of Montreal are visible minorities.

“We are in a society that’s evolving, but there’s still obstacles,” Valerie Gafoor from the West Island Black Community Association told Global News at a press conference Monday.

Longtime city councillor Marvin Rotrand said the issue is two fold: the first is getting minorities to feel they’re welcome to run for office and the second is getting political parties in Montreal to make a commitment to recruit and support minority candidates ahead of the 2017 elections.

“We know that many visible minorities are named at the last minute in districts where the parties are weak and don’t have a chance to win, just so they can say they ran a minority candidate,” Rotrand explained.

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“This time we’re asking all the party leaders to reflect on what they can do.”

The group said this isn’t about being politically correct.

Those already in the halls of power are convinced that it will actually make council more efficient.

“The diversity that we’re missing at city council is a huge opportunity lost because we have a homogeneous background, we’ll have homogeneous answers,” said councillor Steve Shanahan.

One of the only minorities on council, Frantz Benjamin, said his new role as chairman of city council means he has to stay neutral.

Nevertheless, he told Global News in an email: “I strongly believe that the issue of diversity at the city council is an important matter for all Montreal city councillors, and therefore, for all Montrealers.”

A motion supporting a diverse council will be presented at the next Montreal city council meeting Jan. 25.

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