Montreal is one of the most multi-cultural and multi-racial cities in Canada, with one in three residents identifying as a visible minority.
Community groups, however, say the diverse makeup is not represented in municipal politics.
“We don’t see ourselves reflected in the political parties,” said West Island Black Community Association chairperson Kemba Mitchell.
Snowdon Coun. Marvin Rotrand and a multitude of organizations from Montreal’s Black, Asian, South Asian and Arab communities want to change this by Montreal’s next municipal election, on Nov. 7, 2021.
They are calling upon city council to adopt a motion on Nov. 16 to promote visible minority candidates.
“All it takes is the political will of the party leaders to go out there, recruit good people, give them the support they need to get nominated and then help them get elected,” said Rotrand.
Similar motions were adopted in 2013 and again in 2016. Despite these efforts, visible minorities remain underrepresented in Montreal’s municipal politics.
There are currently 103 elected officials in Montreal. According to Rotrand, among 65 city councillors there are just 4 visible minorities and of 38 borough councillors, 3 are visible minorities.
“It’s important to be represented, it’s important to be at those decision making tables, our insight is important and as a Black anglophone female I don’t feel represented and I don’t feel heard,” Mitchell said.
Compared to the current council, advocates say a more diverse council will be better suited to address the needs of Montreal’s minority groups.
“The ability to transfer and translate what people are living so their situations can be improved,” said Sharon Nelson of the Jamaica Association of Montreal of what is important to her.
Rotrand suggested parties use resources such as the City of Montreal Elections Bureau and community organizations, to find competent candidates
“We want you to work with the non partisan instances of the city like the election bureau, the intercultural bureau and all these organizations here so you can be introduced to people who have a lot of value to bring to Montreal city council.”
He then wants candidates to be set up for success, rather than treated as token candidates to make a quota.
“We don’t want minority candidates in seats where they’re basically props rather than candidates who are going to win, we want them in winnable seats,” said Rotrand.
Ensemble Montreal Coun. Alan DeSousa, who is one of the council’s visible minorities, said the party has always valued diversity, and sought candidates from all walks of life.
“We believe fundamentally by representing the wide breath of talent that make up Montreal, the diversity of Montreal we bring better candidates to the forefront,” he said.
While DeSousa commends Rotrand’s motion, he says other party’s need to play catch-up.
Global News emailed the city for comment, but they refused.
Rotrand and the groups involved hope to see the motion adopted, in order to bring a representative slate of candidates by next November.