Last week, Tatiana Burtin (the Round Table’s Community Mobilization Officer) and Samiha Hossain (a Park Extension resident), alongside Emanuel Guay (researcher), presented a summary of the Report on Systemic Racism in Park Extension to the Montreal Office of Public Consultation (OCPM).
TOWARD A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE RESIDENTS’ NEEDS
The Table has seized this opportunity to thank the municipal actors, non profit organizations and citizens that made the city-wide consultation possible. This initiative has allowed for an in-depth reflexion on the impacts of systemic discrimination in Park Extension, where 56,5% of the residents have an immigrant background (Statistiques Canada, recensement 2016).
The Table shared some of the citizens’ recommendations from the September 28 Consultation on Systemic Racism and Discrimination, at the core of the report submitted to the OCPM, namely:
- Hiring multilingual staff to promote better access to municipal services;
- Listing and promoting programs that foster citizen and community engagement;
- Emphasizing initiatives that work toward the autonomy and empowerment of vulnerable families.
Finally, the Table has emphasized the importance of involving the youth to solve issues pertaining to systemic exclusion and to encourage social mobility, although few recommendations account for that in the report. By inviting a young resident to share her opinion in front of the Commission, the Table wanted to emphasize this promising avenue.
UNDERSTANDING THE IMPACTS OF SYSTEMIC RACISM ON THE RESIDENTS
Samiha, a resident of the neighbourhood, has offered her insights to the Commission. She is the co-founder of Montreal Populaire, a collective that organized many consultations to tackle municipal issues through a multidiscplinary and progressive lens.
Her experience and her involvement give her a unique perspective essential to understanding the impact of systemic racism in the neighbourhood. She is, for instance, the only tenant in her apartment complex who speaks both French and English. Ever since she was a child, she has acted as a translator for her neighbours, assisting them with their Régie du Logement documentation. The other tenants, who are allophones, are facing lingustic barriers preventing them from fully understanding theirs rights and obligations as tenants.
According to Samiha, the borough must create local bodies encouraging visible minorities to contribute to community life and address issues of systemic racism. More visible minority women could be invited to become members of Boards of Directors, and the youth could be encouraged to get involved in youth councils.
Samiha also shared that some programs that had a positif impact on the neighbourhood no longer exist. The defunct Eco-quartier has now been replaced by Ville en vert, which operates across the Villeray-St-Michel-Parc-Extension borough. The former organization used to favor the hiring of trilingual local individuals who could more easily inform the residents on issues of sustainable development. The hiring of multilingual staff who speak the community’s languages was highly helpful to the residents and could be replicated elsewhere, for instance when it comes to raising awareness about tenants’ rights.
While the consultation process allowed the Table and its partners to hear directly from the residents on how systemic barriers affect their lives, the consultation exercise, in its format, had its limitations.
At its own consultation in Park Ex, the Table and its partners have found it hard to reach the most vulnerable and/or allophone immigrant populations. While all the participants were comfortable enough to discuss in French or in English, the organizers faced two majors challenges:
- Defining the concept of systemic racism and expecting people to differentiate between it and its manifestations.
- Creating a space in which people whose mother tongue is neither French nor English to share and translate their deepest emotions pertaining to their experiences of discrimination.
In light of those challenges, The Table has informed the OCPM that it will be taking steps to ensure that the future consultations be more inclusive. It will come up with self-consultation tools to transcend the linguistic and educational barriers and to allow communities to express themselves in a safer, more informal environement leading to more genuine expression. The Table offered to work alongside the City and OCPM to implement solutions that are adapted to the neighbourhood’s context.