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Controversial appointments | Work after the storm



We must stop tearing ourselves apart over the past of those appointed to fight racism in public institutions and tackle the substantive issues, argued Bochra Manaï on Monday.

Two years after being mired in a controversy almost identical to that which surrounds Amira Elghawaby today, the commissioner for the fight against racism and systemic discrimination for the City of Montreal has launched a call to move from debate to action. .

Faced with the ongoing controversy in Ottawa, “I tell myself what I told myself two years ago: we have to focus on the work to be done and there is a lot, a lot, a lot of work,” said Manaï in a telephone interview with The Press. These scandals about the past of “people whose professional trajectory has led them to activism or to do research” are “often women”, she underlined.

“We need all the will, all the good souls to help us work, she added. I just can’t wait for us to be able to talk about the problems of incidents and hate crimes, to see how we overcome certain realities that we experience. »

The choice of Manaï as commissioner the City of Montreal had led to an outcry in January 2021.

Mme Manaï had notably publicly affirmed that “Quebec has become a reference for extremist supremacists around the world” with the adoption of Law 21 on the secularism of the State. The Legault government had qualified the appointment of Mme Manai of “error”.

The 41-year-old said she remained “very calm” in the “extremely intense” storm. “There has not been an appointment that has not made noise in these files, so I expected that there could be noise, she said. I was determined to start on Monday morning as a municipal official. I was focused on my work. »

“I have experienced things in my life, and that did not destabilize me that much, she reported. It was the commemoration of the attack on the Quebec mosque. [dimanche] and we talk about tragedy, we talk about extremely difficult lived realities. We have to go back to what these positions exist for, that is to say, to counter issues that, socially, we really need to change. »

“Both hands in the engine”

Since then, Manaï works “both hands in the engine” of the municipal administration in order to fight against discrimination there – in particular in human resources files. “Me, my job is to make sure that all the policies, all the organizational practices, everything we do as positioning, all of that is aligned with our commitments,” she summarized. “To explain to those who do not understand what they need to understand, to write [des documents] with some [gestionnaires]. »

Tasked at the beginning of 2021 with developing an “action plan”, his team instead drafted a series of 12 commitments, which were unveiled in March 2022. The municipal administration promises in particular to strengthen the fight against profiling, to lead an awareness tour against hate crimes and to offer police training on “de-escalation”.

The recruitment of people from cultural and sexual diversity is important, but the adaptation of workplaces to these individuals is just as important, underlined Manaï, which multiplies training for managers of the municipal apparatus.

If we don’t ensure that there is a culture of integration and inclusion, all our efforts are useless.

Bochra Manaï, commissioner for the fight against racism and systemic discrimination of the City of Montreal

Bochra Manaï said she was particularly proud of the intervention of her office at the 911 central of the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal.

“These are the people who receive the calls from citizens who are in panic, who sometimes do not know what to do. The idea was to assist them in the analysis of the calls to “de-profile” the calls which are already tinged with bias and prejudice,” reported Manai.

Should attendants report to police an allegation that black youths in a park are part of a “street gang”? That a man lingering in a train station is “Muslim”? These are questions of this type that have been discussed with the employees.

“I would sometimes like us to go even faster, but I am very aware that it is a liner which is quite heavy, she continued. The challenge I live is having to move some – to pull them out, but without losing them – and, on the other hand, to respond to the wishes of citizens who would like it to be already perfect. »

With Isabelle Ducas, The Press

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