"We live in a francophone province in a francophone city from a legislative perspective, but the reality of Montreal is far different," the leader of Mouvement Montréal said in an interview with MTL Blog.
"So, for us, it was important to re-establish the identity of Montreal, which is one that is inclusive."
"This is not a contested question," Holness said, citing a survey showing most Montrealers believe the city is bilingual. "We all know Montreal is bilingual and multicultural and it is something that we should embrace and recognize."
"Moreover, Montreal beyond that is even trilingual," he continued. "There are people from all over the world who speak Mandarin, Cantonese, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian. And all of these languages make up the diversity of Montreal, and it enriches us all."
Rather than contributing to the decline of French in Montreal, Holness said his language policies would help preserve it by offering non-francophones incentives to learn.
"The fact that we are going to incentivize and ameliorate the chances of anglophones to work in the City of Montreal means they'll be able to learn French through their employment activity," he said. "We're going to be increasing la francisation des anglophones."
"Right now, what's happening is that we're excluding anglophones," he continued. "They're moving to demerged cities such as Westmount, such as Côte Saint-Luc, such as Kirkland. They're not being incorporated into the reality and to the economic life of Montreal, and we're just pushing them all away."
Holness wants more jobs for people with spotty French
If elected, Mouvement Montréal would work to create a more inclusive municipal workforce because it's currently falling short in terms of ethnic and linguistic diversity, he said.
Of the city's roughly 25,000 municipal employees, "only about 2% of those in management positions are visible minorities and even less of those are anglophone," Holness claimed.
To change that he plans to lower the French language requirements for municipal jobs.
"Right now, when you go in for a [municipal] job, there is an evaluation based on your capacity to speak French," he said.
"So, we want to create assessments and evaluations of language that are less severe to allow individuals to get into the workforce. And then they can learn French, once they are on the job, through their interactions with their coworkers and with the public."
"The idea is that anglophones, especially those that are visible minorities, should have an easier time getting into the workforce," he continued.
'They don't want to be inclusive'
On November 7 people will vote to elect a mayor as well as 46 members of Montreal's City Council.
The current mayor, Projet Montréal's Valérie Plante, is seeking re-election and her main challenger is the previous mayor, Ensemble Montréal's Denis Coderre.
As Plante recently introduced an "action plan" to promote the French language in Montreal and Coderre is reportedly open to provincial government-led language reform, Holness accused his opponents of trying to impose provincial ideas on the metropolis.
"Valérie Plante is from Rouyn-Noranda, Denis Coderre is from Joliette," he continued. "And there's this whole idea that the regions are imposing on Montreal their vision for Montreal. And the question is, what do Montrealers want for their city?"
"Many people across the region say Montreal is the only francophone city in North America, and they're right, but Montreal also has a bilingual multicultural reality," he said. "So you have Quebec City trying to impose an identity on Montreal does not meet reality, which is multilingual and multicultural."
"We need a multilingual and multicultural policy and beyond that, a political party that reflects that diversity through and through," he added.
Projet Montréal does not reflect that diversity, he concluded, explaining how he helped organize a grassroots anti-racism movement, which he says prompted the city's public consultation agency to hold a series of hearings on systemic discrimination in 2019.
As a result, Plante created a commissioner on systemic discrimination and promised to hire more minorities for municipal jobs. But Holness had sharp words for the mayor, saying she only took those steps out of "obligation."
"The reason why there was a public consultation on systemic racism and discrimination is because the administration had an all-white French executive committee when they were elected in 2017. Period. That's their vision of Montreal," he said.
"They don't want to be inclusive," he said. "Mouvement Montréal, my political party, is by its very nature, authentically diverse. We've done in two months what it took them nearly two decades to do, which is have a diverse team."
This article contains graphic content that might not be suitable for some readers.
Police services in Sherbrooke held a press conference this past Thursday to explain how first responders mistakenly threw away the charred body of a woman into a dumpster at a nearby police station. First responders on the scene believed the body to be a silicone mannequin.
At approximately 10:04 a.m. on July 23, the SPCIS was called to a fire in a wooded area at the intersection of Rue Roy and Rue Cabana. Witnesses reportedly saw a person burning a silicone dummy.
Sherbrooke police were called to assist — within minutes of their arrival, both agencies decided to dispose of what appeared to be a dummy in the SPS garbage disposal, which is not accessible to the public.
At approximately 2:15 p.m., a man in psychological distress contacted the SPS to report his wife missing.
After launching an investigation, the SPS used the woman's cellphone signal to locate her car, which was found on Rue Cabana, near where the fire first responders had located the same morning.
"At approximately 6:30 p.m., the decision was made to retrieve the alleged mannequin to see if it was contributing to the search," said Danny McConnell, Sherbrooke police chief.
After recovering the alleged mannequin, responders realized that the body belonged to that of the missing 64-year-old woman — she reportedly died by suicide upon setting herself on fire, though an investigation is still ongoing.
The Sûreté du Québec have reportedly been asked to assist the coroner's office in the investigation of the woman's death.
"We take the situation very seriously," said SPCIS director Stéphane Simoneau.
"I am personally committed to getting to the bottom of this intervention, which is unusual, to say the least, perhaps shocking."
Mamadi III Fadi Camara, members of his family and two neighbours are suing the Montreal police (via the City of Montreal) and prosecutors (via Quebec's Attorney General) for damages amounting to $1.2 million. Camara is a Montrealer who was wrongfully arrested by the SPVM for attempted murder in January 2021.
This article contains graphic content that might not be suitable for some readers.
Camara, who is Black, says that he was the target of "racial profiling" and "abusive force" by Montreal police, according to court documents shared with MTL Blog.
On January 28, 2021, Camara was stopped by SPVM officer Sanjay Vig off Highway 40 in Parc-Extension for allegedly using his cell phone while driving, the document states. Camara denies the accusation.
During the stop, officer Vig was attacked by an unknown assailant.
More police arrived on the scene after Camara dialled 911 for help and he was allowed to leave, the filing continues.
After trying to return home, however, Camara was apprehended by police.
The document describes a forceful arrest in which officers are alleged to have dragged Camara through his car window and "[thrown] him to the ground."
One officer is said to have "placed his boot on Mr. Camara's head and pushed it into the snow."
Camara was placed in detention for six days.
He was cleared of all charges and released on February 3.
The document states that Camara has experienced "a deep sense of humiliation" and "post-traumatic shock" as a result of his experience with police and in detention.
What else does the court document allege?
The document states that "the only reason that explains the persecution of Mr. Camara despite corroborating evidence and the opinion of three officers that he was only a witness is the colour of his skin and his ethnic origin."
It also claims that officer Vig gave a false statement about the traffic stop and wrongfully accused Camara of the assault.
The document further states that "from the first minutes of the investigation, the SPVM plunged into a tunnel vision, leaving out crucial evidence."
The SPVM declined to comment on the lawsuit for this story, citing a desire to not "interfere with or compromise the ongoing process."
The lawsuit amounts to $1.2 million in damages sought among all plaintiffs, including a total of $940,000 sought by Camara for financial damages, "damage to his reputation," "the unlawful detention of six days," "moral damages" and "punitive damages."
This article's cover image is used for illustrative purposes only.