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"Normal people apologize"

By Joel Ceausu The Suburban, April 30th, 2023

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante missed an opportunity says Joel DeBellefeuille. The Red Coalition (RC) and Black Class Action Secretariat wrote to Plante last month concerning the various cases of racial discrimination, harassment and institutional indifference experienced by municipal employees that were highlighted in a Le Devoir report triggered by the RC, whose director Alain Babineau left the city’s much vaunted Bureau of the Commissioner to Fight Racism and Systemic Discrimination (BRDS).
As reported in The Suburban, the cases ranged from racial slurs, to a city manager having his car wheels tampered with, and even BRDS staff feeling targeted at a workshop for managers.
RC executive director DeBellefeuille says workers have not received an official and public apology from the mayor on behalf of the city, nor any response to their letter. “If you choose to do neither, the city's position and yours in this matter would become apparent” he writes. “You are in a position to create real positive change in the fight against racism and discrimination in the city of Montreal. Too bad you didn't take the opportunity to do the right thing.”
The document also calls for creation of an organization “independent of the municipal administration and non-partisan, whose primary mission is to receive and investigate all complaints of harassment, including individual and systemic discrimination, submitted by employees of the City of Montreal.”
DeBellefeuille said the immediate reaction to the report included “a panic by city director Serge Lamontagne who sent an e-mail to everyone saying to put out a message of zero tolerance,” followed by a second BRDS report, with announcements of a new streamlined and fast-track approach to dealing with cases.
“But there was no official apology from the mayor. This is important” he told The Suburban. “We see big hoopla for a week and a half, but the mayor of Montreal never went to the camera and said ‘What happened to these people was really unacceptable and I would like to apologize and we promise to do better.”

The cases occurred under current and previous municipal administrations, so no ruling party is untainted.
Putting things in motion is fine says DeBellefeuille, but to say “I'm sorry” is something that would resonate heavily within the ranks of the public service and among the political class, making the issue all the more important in their daily deliberations and dealings.
“We have to speak in the language of normal people. And normal people apologize.”
The Suburban asked the mayor's office for comment. Spokespersons for Valérie Plante – who is currently touring European cities – did not respond or acknowledge The Suburban’s queries.
The letter also denounces “the silence of black elected municipal officials from both parties, the majority of whom, despite having been made aware of these situations, have chosen to remain silent.”



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