Montreal has a diversity problem at city hall.
A woman may be in charge, which is a historic shift in Montreal’s municipal politics, but, unfortunately, white people still run the show.
Montreal City Council is comprised of 65 councillors. In the aftermath of Sunday’s election, only 5 represent a visible minority or marginalized community.
The majority of city council members are, as the numbers demonstrate, white people, which certainly doesn’t reflect Montreal’s diverse ethnic makeup.
About 31% of the Montreal population belong to a visible minority, according to the latest StatsCan census data.
And yet, only 6% of City Council members are from a visible minority community, notes CBC.
All of them are part of Équipe Denis Coderre, the official opposition party.
Some progress has been made in this last election.
For example, Cathy Wong, city councillor in Ville-Marie, is the first Asian women to be elected in Montreal. That’s a big deal, but it’s also rather surprising.
Only a few days ago, no Asian woman had ever been elected to a position of municipal power in Montreal, demonstrating the city’s commitment to white people in politics.
For what it’s worth, the lack of diversity at City Hall may not be all because of subversive racism or xenophobia.
A researcher in diversity in Canadian municipal politics told CBC that visible minority candidates aren’t all that likely to run for office.
Whereas male candidates will campaign themselves, no prompting needed, visible minority candidates, much like female candidates, need to be asked.
Still, the current lack of visible minority city councillors is a “right now” kind of problem.
Without strong representation of Montreal’s diverse ethnic communities, City Hall can’t make informed decisions that will benefit all Montrealers.
Culture, background, and lived experience inform policy decisions. If nearly everyone on City Council is a white person who’s always lived in Quebec, the result will be a municipal government who only looks out for caucasian Quebecers.
White people can be sensitive to issues facing visible minority communities, obviously, but that doesn’t trump an actual connection to said communities.
So while Valérie Plante’s election is a huge win for women in municipal politics in Montreal, and beyond, the new mayor needs to do more for visible minority candidates.
Projet Montreal is basically an all-white party. It doesn’t look good and, more importantly, it doesn’t reflect the real Montreal.