MONTREAL -- Montreal has a new official leader in the fight against racism.

On Wednesday, Bochra Manai was officially confirmed by the city's executive council as the city's first Commissioner for the Fight Against Racism and Systemic Discrimination.

“The appointment of Bochra Manai is a first in the municipal world. It raffirms our firm will to continue our actions to fight against racism and systemic discrimination in the City of Montreal,” said Mayor Valerie Plante in a statement. “I am confident she will be able to mobilize all municipal teams to accelerate organizational transformation, towards a city that is more just, inclusive and representative of its diversity.”

Since 2018, Manai has led Parole d'ExluEs, a non-profit organization that “fights against poverty and social exclusion through speaking out, mobilizing and supporting citizen initiatives,” according to its website.

Manai has also been involved in academia at the University of Ottawa, Universite de Montreal and and Universite de Montreal a Quebec.

“It is with great pride that I accept this new professional challenge,” said Manai in a statement. “I will be able to put forward my skills in developing strategies to counter discrimination, my leadership in putting into action anti-racist interventions as well as my strengths to raise awareness, develop tools and strengthen the city's capacity to fight against racism and discrimination.”

Fo Niemi, director of the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations, praised Manai's appointment, saying she is “well known and highly regarded in many sectors, especially in the French-speaking community.”

Niemi expressed hope that Manai would reach out to minority groups who have felt left out of the current administration, especially Montreal's Black, South Asian, and Jewish communities.

“This is basically an obstacle to overcome very quickly and I hope that Ms. Manai will be actively engaging with these communitiies in order to bring them in and make them feel included in every process that will be set in place,” he said.

The creation of the commissioner position was announced in October and was the result of a recommendation in a report that accused the city of turning a blind eye towards racism. At that time, Plante described the position's responsibilities as including advising political bodies on how to combat racism and ensuring citizens are aware of their rights.  

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