Advocates say Montreal anti-violence forum needs more English-speaking minority voices
A prominent Montreal advocacy group says it is ready to file a formal complaint with the city’s ombudsman about a recent violence forum organized by the city’s police.
They say the event left out several English-speaking community groups, which amounts to a lack of adequate representation.
The event, officially called the Montreal Forum for the Fight Against Gun Violence, entered its second day on Thursday. Speakers came together to discuss new ways to prevent violent crime in the city.
A guest list sent to CTV News includes lawmakers, police officers, school board officials and representatives from several organizations and community groups.
However, the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), a well-known advocacy group on police-public relations issues, took issue with some of the names that were not on that list.
Despite a request to the city, according to CRARR, it was not invited to the event, nor were several other community groups located in areas where non-white English-speaking communities live.
“Their exclusion is symptomatic of the institutionalized marginalization of (racialized Anglophone) communities and organizations,” read a press release on Wednesday.
CRARR highlighted several of these groups in its release, including the Black Community Resource Center, the Canadian Council of Muslim Women – Montreal Chapter, the LaSalle Multicultural Resource Center and the Black Community Association of West Island.
“It looks like we’re being left out,” said CRARR member Gabriella Marquez-Fry.
Marquez-Fry told CTV News that she believes the event goes against the spirit of Article Two of Montreal’s Charter of Rights and Responsibilities, which reads:
“Human dignity can only be preserved through a sustained and collective struggle against poverty and all forms of discrimination, and in particular those based on ethnic or national origin, race, age, social status, marital status, language, religion, sex, gender. identity and expression, sexual orientation or disability”.
“(The forum) includes the mobilization of a large number of community and institutional organizations, including members of ethnocultural and Anglophone groups,” reads a press release from the Montreal Police Service (SPVM) to CTV News.
“Urban safety is a shared responsibility that requires concerted action. The SPVM joined forces with partners from different backgrounds to provide itself with all the means necessary to act in the face of the urgency of the situation.
Police noted that representatives of the five English school boards in the Montreal area were present at the forum, as well as the Association of English Parents’ Committees.
“It was important for our school board to participate in the forum so that we can work with our community partners and find solutions that will increase people’s sense of belonging and safety and prevent violence,” read a statement from Cindy Finn, superintendent of the Lester B. Pearson School Board, provided to CTV.
Members of other groups that do not specifically target English speakers but serve large numbers, such as the YMCA, were also present at the event.
A report on the forum’s findings will be published in the coming weeks.
‘A VALUABLE ASSET’
Youth violence has been a widely debated topic in Montreal following the deaths of several young people over the past two years.
Among those victims are Amir Benayad, 17, who was shot dead in the Plateau neighborhood in January; Jannai Dopwell Bailey, 16, who was stabbed and killed last November; Thomas Trudel, 16, killed the same month and Meriem Boundaoui, 15, shot dead in a drive-by in February 2021.
Most recently, 16-year-old Lucas Gaudet was stabbed outside St. Thomas High School in Point Claire on February 8.
Her mother, Lynne Baudouy, also hoped she would get an invite to the event. She told CTV she hopes future forums will feature more English-speaking community groups.
“Hold more of these meetings,” she said. “Our children are suffering. In the long term, it is the children who need the most help.
“Especially in the minority communities on the West Island and the poorer communities as well. They are the ones who need the most help. she continued.
“What can they do? They can invite parents who are really affected by this.
Joan Lee, president of the West Island Black Community Association (WIBCA), says she supports a complaint to the ombudsman about what she described as a missed opportunity for the forum.
“We are not invited to express our opinion, to give our opinion and I think that would be very valuable for them,” she told CTV.
“We’ve been around for 40 years, and we’re here and we’re ready to be part of, you know, the band to make our city better, to make our city stronger, and to help prevent crime.”
— Published with files from Ian Wood of CTV News