Montreal's councillors are overwhelmingly white
Published Wednesday, November 8, 2017 12:36PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, November 9, 2017 7:27AM EST
In a city where one out of every three people is a visible minority, its new city council does not reflect that diversity.
Out of 103 people elected in Montreal on Sunday only seven are visible minorities.
That is prompting many people to say Projet Montreal and other parties need to recruit more members of visible minorities as candidates.
Projet Montreal has two borough councillors who are members of visible minorities, but neither will be seen at City Hall.
Meanwhile voters elected four city councillors and one borough mayor from Team Denis Coderre, including Montreal's first female Chinese councillor, who are members of visible minorities.
“I have never had a model in politics that was Asian – that was an Asian woman, said Cathy Wong, elected as a Ville-Marie borough councillor. “What we are seeing today is that we don’t have a municipal council that is representative of the reality of Montreal.”
The Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations, CRARR, said Mayor-elect Valerie Plante is therefore unlikely to reflect the city's population with her executive council, and with the people appointed to paramunicipal boards like the STM.
However Plante said she may appoint members of Team Denis Coderre to her executive committee in order to have some representation from ethnic communities.
"It's a strong signal that we need to work harder to make sure that witihin our employees within the city of course but also from the cabinet and the people in the political area that we reach to people from different backgrounds it so important," said Plante.
Among all candidates, 21 percent were members of visible minorities.
Chris Erl is researching municipal politics, and said when politicians do not accurately reflect the population, that can affect the decisions they make.
"I want to understand who's elected to local government and how that impacts how local government functions and whether or not it's classified as representative of the people or if there are ways it can be improved so that people can actually have more of a say at City Hall," said Erl.
"Because we deal with day-to-day issues, on the ground, at City Hall. It's garbage collection, it's plowing of snow, it's things like the metro and the police. It's very important things to our day-to-day life," said Erl.
He said that poor representation of visible minorities is common at municipalities across Canada.
In total, 21 per cent of people who ran in Montreal's municipal election were visible minorities.
Erl said part of that may be due to white men being more likely to put their own names forward when entering politics, while women and members of visible minorities often only run after being asked.
“Parties need to do a much better job of reaching out to visible minority candidates and visible minorities need to start asking to run for office as opposed to being approached by political parties,” he said.
When it comes to social housing, public transit and access to services, Wong – who was recruited by Denis Coderre – said immigrants and cultural communities may have different needs and therefore different voices.
“People from different backgrounds have to be involved in those discussions and have to be present when we debate and when we adopt new policies. That will have an impact on these different realities,” she said.