Visible minority candidates seek to better reflect face of Montreal
Published Wednesday, September 25, 2013 5:25PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 26, 2013 7:44AM EDT
A 34-year-old native Quebecer of Scottish-Italian and Pakistani origin, Sameer Zuberi wants to be the new face of city council for the Pierrefonds-Roxboro borough.
“I think we need good people involved in city government and that’s why I'm presenting myself,” said the Projet Montreal candidate.
People from 54 different cultural communities live in the A Ma Baie-Cloverdale area he hopes to represent.
A look at the current Montreal city council, however, and it's almost as if areas like A Ma Baie don't exist.
There are three visible minority city councillors out of the 65-member council and in the borough councils – a total of 103 elected councillors. Other than that, “the council’s essentially white,” said Marvin Rotrand, a long-time councillor in the Cote-des-Neiges-NDG borough running under the Coalition Montreal ticket.
Rotrand has been pushing for Montreal to hire more members of minority groups and visible minorities, and feels the council itself needs to better reflect Montreal's diversity.
“It has to change because 25 per cent of the population of Montreal is visible minorities,” he said.
Mayoralty candidate Denis Coderre said he’s working on it, adding that his party is on its way to recruiting a more mixed group of municipal candidates.
“It's all about representation. So I've been working on that from east, west, north, and south, that you will have that kind of balance. But it's not just based on people we elect,” he said.
With candidates like Zuberi, Projet Montreal so far seems to have the highest number of candidates from visible minority groups.
“Nineteen of them are minorities, visible minorities,” said leader Richard Bergeron. “I'm very confident that many of them will be elected and the composition of the council will change and also the composition of the borough council will change.”
Marcel Coté, too, wants more representation from different communities, but says it isn't always easy to find.
“I tried very hard to recruit members from different minority groups. I wasn't too successful,” he said.
Coté said he couldn’t simply look at candidates’ ethnicity, but at their overall qualifications. There's the question of willingness, he said; not everyone is willing to enter the demanding political sphere.
“Politics for a successful businessman or woman is a low-paying job,” said Coté. “It is a special challenge to get visible minorities elected.”
Mayoralty candidate Melanie Joly seems to also have made an effort; at a recent event she was flanked by candidates from visible ethnic groups to her growing team.
There's also independent mayoral candidate Louai Hamida. The 36-year-old was born in Syria and moved to Canada in 2002.
The successful quality control specialist said he doesn't necessarily consider himself a visible minority.
“Maybe yes, maybe no. It depends, you know? I can blend in any community in Montreal,” he said, suggesting, perhaps, he’s the new face of Montreal.
“I think I look like Montreal. Montreal is like a bouquet of flowers and full of colours, so that's how I look,” he said.