Following Sunday’s municipal elections in Montreal, many are praising what could be the most diverse city council elected in the city’s history.
The elected mayor of Côte -des- Neiges -Notre-Dame-de-Grâce Gracia Kasoki Katahwa, the first black person to hold the post, does not take it lightly and says that this new milestone in the city’s history is significant.
Gracia Kasoki Katahwa surprises Lionel Pérez to be elected mayor of Côte-des-Neiges-NDG
“Because many of us couldn’t grow by having people in leadership positions that looked like us,” he told Global News.
Fo Niemi, director of the Center for Action Research on Race Relations, a group that fights for racial equality, said people like Kasoki Katahwa are setting a new standard.
“I think there are 11 members of the new city council,” he said.
By self-identification, he added, that equates to 15 percent of the 65-member body, noting that there were only four councilors of racialized origins after the 2017 municipal elections.
Results of the Quebec municipal elections: Côte-Des-Neiges – Notre-Dame-De-Grâce
Dominique Ollivier, a former director of the city’s public consultation office who won her seat at Vieux Rosemont, believes the new face of Montreal’s city hall is a turning point.
“For me, it’s the best thing that could have happened to me,” he laughed.
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante appointed Ollivier to head the city’s executive committee, another first for a black person in the city.
“I think what happened in 2017 was a wake-up call for many political parties,” Olivier said.
During this last campaign, the three main parties had several candidates of racialized origins.
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But Kasoki Katahwa cautions that the work for diversity is far from over.
“We must make sure we continue working to have a more diverse city council,” he emphasized.
Niemi agrees that more is needed.
“Most of the new racialized councilors tend to be French-speaking from the center or from the east. [of the city]”He noted, stating that he would like to see more racialized and indigenous English speakers represented.
However, Ollivier is hopeful about what the city has accomplished so far.
“The new generation can recognize itself,” he said. “They can have role models and they can start to think and dream that yes, this is possible.”
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