Representation is a defining feature of a true and functioning multicultural society. Whether it be in the realm of media, governance, or law-enforcement, every community, racial demographic, and cultural identity should feel it is adequately represented.
Of course, representing all racial and cultural identities is a rather ambitious (and perhaps idealistic) task, but that doesn't mean a city shouldn't strive to ensure all members of a multicultural population feel valued, no matter their background.
But when it comes to representation and diversity, Montreal isn't even trying.
The Lack Of Representation In Montreal
Despite being home to the third largest immigrant population in Canada, who account for 23% of the city's entire population (according to a 2011 census), a majority of which are visible minorities, Montreal really only caters to one racial identity.
One need only look at some pretty stark figures regarding diversity in the city's government and law enforcement bodies to recognize this fact.
Of the entire Montreal police force, only seven per cent are visible minorities, for a total of 324 officers. Only 56 of that total are women of colour.
Looking at the Montreal's city councillors, a mere six of the total 208 are visible minorities.
And while both the SPVM and the City of Montreal have called for more diversity within their respective organizations, nothing has really changed: both are still dominated by caucasians.
This is especially troubling given the fact that the police force and city council are the two Montreal organizations with the most power when it comes to how the city is governed. The lack of diversity in both creates a distinctly singular perspective and focus, one that is sometimes overt but largely subconscious.
Think about it: when you have a group of people who are all from the same background and shared similar life experiences, said group will have an inherent absence of varying perspectives and opinions. Even further, they will be led to making decisions that will benefit their shared community, likely not even being aware of how said actions can harm other groups.
The Problem With Montreal's Lack Of Diversity
To put it plainly, Montreal has a bias towards white people, unwittingly or not, and that creates some very real problems for all non-white communities.
A group dominated by one identity can, of course, consider the wants and needs of others, but they wouldn't be informed by lived experience and cultural understanding. Without actual members of multiple communities and identities present in governing bodies, a bias for one group will be maintained.
The issue is self-perpetuating as well. With only white people represented in these important municipal positions, people of other racial identities can't place themselves in those roles, or assume they couldn't attain such a position, and the cycle continues.
And that's exactly the problem we are dealing with in Montreal. Even though Montreal's population as a whole is considerably multicultural, representation only exists for white people.
Unfortunately, that leaves a large number of Montrealers without adequate representation. Even Quebec media seriously lags when it comes to diversity.
An Issue Across The Province Of Quebec
Montreal journalist Dan Delmar recently addressed this issue, pointing out that of all 80 nominees for the Gala Artis, only two were of visibly minorities. Delmar explains how this issue of artistic diversity could easily be solved "if [Quebec] broadcasters bother to encourage actual diversity."
Except broadcasters in the province really aren't, demonstrating how diversity and representation is a Quebec-wide problem not exclusive to Montreal.
To be quite honest, not many are probably that surprised to hear Quebec as a whole isn't exactly a paragon of cultural diversity. But Montreal, consistently heralded as a liberal and forward-thinking city, should be.
In fact, the city's future depends on it. If this reality doesn't change, Montreal's continued decline will be the only result.
That may seem slightly hyperbolic, but one only need look to Quebec's immigration trends to see evidence of this fact. Immigrants coming to Canada are more likely to find homes in any other province, with almost no new arrivals heading to cities inside Quebec, and because of this, Quebec's population is stagnating.
Yes, immigrants do choose to come to Montreal, but for how long? According to a Globe and Mail analyst, by 2031 only one in three citizens of Montreal will be a visible minority. In contrast, "people of European background will be a minority in both Toronto and Vancouver" by the same time.
And if you're a new, non-white immigrant, would you not choose to live in a city that is far more multicultural and seemingly accepting of different peoples? The answer is obvious and disastrous for Montreal. Without incoming immigrants, Montreal will continue to stagnate, culturally and economically.
But we shouldn't be looking to the future, because Montreal's distinct absence of diversity and representation is an issue for people right now. Unfortunately, there isn't a quick-fix for an issue like this, but we can commit to creating a more accepting, diverse setting in our city every chance we have.
That means talking about Montreal's racial biases. That means hiring and appointing more visible minorities. That means supporting communities that aren't your own. And ultimately, it means not being afraid to embrace change.