The City of Montreal is naming a commissioner to take on the fight against racism and systemic discrimination in wake of a scathing report calling for widespread change.
Mayor Valérie Plante, who announced the measure Friday, said creating the new position will help make Montreal a safer and more inclusive place to live and work.
“The creation of this position is a very strategic one,” she said. “It shows how seriously we take this issue.”
In June, Montreal’s public consultation office made 38 recommendations following months-long public consultations on racism and systemic discrimination. The report found the city had turned a “blind eye” to issues faced by Black, Indigenous and other racialized Montrealers.
As a result, the office of public consultations recommended the creation of a new commissioner to counter racism. The office said that it did not believe any existing structure with the city would be able to “make the necessary changes.”
The commissioner will be tasked with launching an action plan to help all city departments address racism within their ranks, according to Plante.
As part of the role, the commissioner must also inform Montrealers and municipal employees about their rights and about the tools available to them if they are victims of discrimination.
Plante said the person chosen will also work alongside the city’s appointed commissioners for homelessness and Indigenous affairs. The anti-racism commissioner will also be supported by three staffers, according to Plante.
The job posting will be available on the city’s website next week.
‘It’s a great promise’
Fo Niemi, co-founder of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations, said credit has to be given where it is due.
“There is a problem of systemic racism in the City of Montreal at the public administration,” he said. “And there is a certain willingness to do something about it.”
While the measure is a first good step, he said, it will take time to see how the creation of the new positions and the action plan unfold.
“It’s a great promise,” he said. “It’s a great undertaking but of course over time we will have to look at what kind of results it’s producing in order to see if its promises are kept.”
Lionel Perez, the head of opposition party Ensemble Montreal, questioned the amount of time it took for the Plante administration to announce the creation of the commissioner.
“If it’s a true priority for the administration, they would have done this months ago,” he said. “As a quick reminder, when it came to putting together bike lanes during the pandemic it took them three weeks. But for a job posting on such an important societal issue it took them four months?”
Plante, for her part, said the city was moving forward as fast as it can while dealing with the novel coronavirus health crisis.
— with files from Global News’ Brittany Henriques, Amanda Jelowicki and the Canadian Press