Avoiding fragmentation, opportunism, and collective death.
By Clarence S. Bayne
Montreal and Quebec Blacks have a tradition of deciding for themselves and engaging in innovative activism.
Montreal is the home of Marie-Joseph Angélique (1774), the Black Writers Congress (1968).
It gave birth to, and nurtured, the National Black Coalition of Canada (October 1968); its leadership negotiated Black Canadian participation in the Second World Conference on Black and African Arts and Culture, Lagos Nigeria (Dr. Dorothy Wills, Principal negotiator, and Dr. C. Bayne, 1978).
Montreal English-speaking Blacks lead in the anti-racism rebellions of the sixties and seventies: the struggle against the railways by the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car porters (A.R. Blanchette); and against Diamond Taxi and the Hilton Hotel of Canada Ltd. (The Baylis Case, April 1965); the Anthony Griffin marches, and the riots of the Black and Caribbean students at Sir George Williams University (1969).
Montreal is the home of the second largest Black population in Canada, home of Reverend Este, Oliver Jones, Oscar Peterson, Charlie Biddle, the Black Theatre Workshop, Black Festivals, the Universal Negro Improvement Association, Maison d’Haiti, Coloured Women’s Club and the Union United Church (celebrating 110 years of activism), a friend and refuge to Viola Desmond and Marcus Garvey and his family, host to Nelson Mandela, incubator of the Jackie Johnson story.
Montreal’s Black community is capable of re-engineering itself; we don’t need a Toronto elite to organize us. We will not tolerate the disrespect shown by the National Federation of Canadian Blacks that ignores our initiatives and structures and proposes to duplicate or replace them. We have created, worked with and supported, many National agencies in the past. We will continue to do so.
But we will not tolerate external disrespect of our history of work, contributions and achievements, and disruptions of the delicate and patient efforts to manage the unique social and political situation of Blacks in Quebec.
It is presumptuous of the Federation to tell us that it will allow us to select one person who will represent Quebec Blacks on their National Council, and a person who will accompany Montreal Black organizations when they meet City Hall and the Government of Quebec. Clearly, the leadership of the National Federation is a victim of misinformation, blind uninformed enthusiasm, and self-aggrandizement. But it has no excuse for getting its top leadership trapped in a futile “flip chart” low validity data collection process, with no central implementation mechanism.
Searching the Landscapes of Montreal and Quebec for Solutions
From late 2016 to March 2018 Montreal Black organizations have had at least 25 community meetings, workshops and conferences: consultations with the federal and provincial governments, the City of Montreal, Sud-Ouest Borough, and the Cote-des-Neiges-NDG borough. From these sources the following summaries of the Black Community priorities ere developed, adopted by the Black Community Forum and presented to all levels of government. Each organization may assign a different ranking to the items in this list, we know of no Black organizations or network of organizations that have rejected them as not been critical and comprehensive.
The following priorities are a significant representation of the needs of Blacks in Montreal.
1. Support for the Black Family
2. General Health and Mental Health
3. Youth, Education, Employment and Employability
4. Arts and Culture
5. Rights and Freedom: Anti-Racism Strategies
6. Economic Development
7. Reinforcement of Community Structures
8. A Black Community libraries, archive and communication network system
For fifty eight years (beginning in 1960) the Black English-speaking communities of Montreal have engaged Quebec governments by making demands for a fairer and more inclusive settlement and development of Quebec and Canada (Val Morin Black Community Forum 1992). More recently, there has been a revival of Black community demands for inclusiveness and full participation in the development and decision-making of Montreal and Quebec societies. (The Yolande James Task Force 2005, and Black Community Forum, June 16, 2016).
The following summary of the emerging demands and recommendations symbolize a page that we can all be on. The Montreal Town Hall (March 25, 2018) of the National Federation of Canadian Blacks added nothing to this (Yvonne Sam, Montreal Journalist, March 25, 2018).
DEMANDS AND RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE RECORDS OF TEN KEY BLACK COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS, CONSULTATIONS, WORKSHOPS AND CONFERENCES.
1. Quebec must end its isolation and deliberate neglect of the Black English-speaking communities for what seems to be no other reason than that their members are Black and that they inherited the language of English from a history of slavery and colonization by the British as opposed to the French.
2. It is imperative that the government and office of the Premier of Quebec act to remove all elements of systemic biases in the Quebec Charter of Rights. This can be accomplished without compromising the French language and culture. Thus the failure of successive Quebec Governments and parties to significantly increase the number of Blacks and other visible minorities in government agencies and administration, especially bilingual Blacks, is evidence of the persistence of racial and linguistic bias (the Colour Line) in the civil service. Also, governments must protect minorities in these toxic environments against the “push back” of bearers of racist and discriminatory practices (Community Contact, March 29, 2018).
3. All levels of Government must act to ensure a greater diversification, and the representation of Blacks and other minorities at all levels of planning, policy and decision-making in the public and private spheres. Under-representation is largely responsible for the persistence of systemic racism and discrimination in the society.
4. It is imperative that the Provincial Government of Quebec revisit the recommendations of the Yolande James Task Force (2005) to determine whether they are accomplishing the purposes they were supposed to have accomplished.
5. It is imperative that the City of Montreal revisit and respect agreements reached between the City and the Black communities to improve relations and services to the community:
a. The agreements of the 2004 City Task Force on the Black Communities of Montreal signed by the City and five Boroughs under the Tremblay Administration
b. The agreement of the City of Montreal (Cabinet du Maire et Comité Executif 2016-2017) with the Black Community Forum under the Coderre Administration to meet as needed to find ways to facilitate and improve the services to the Black English-speaking communities and create an environment that provides a fairer competitive advantage for Black Community organizations.
6. The Black Community Organizations (French and English-Speaking) at meetings with the City of Montreal (2017) and consultations with the Minister of Heritage (February 2018) made the following request concerning the protocols for processing grants:
a) All government agencies make sure that there is someone dedicated to helping organizations follow through the granting process, helping the project to get priority, and to have ongoing follow-up sessions over the course of the project and as part of the planning and development process.
b) The juries judging the projects need to be reflective of the community and accommodating of the cultures and nature of the complexities involved in trying to adapt corporate evaluation methods to not-for-profit managerial situations. They must avoid imposing departmental administrative priorities on the communities they serve.
c) They must avoid making the constraints so specific and being so inflexible in their interpretation of the specified criteria, for it is not always possible to fit every cultural situation and priority into the “same box.”
d) That the City Government stop its arbitrary termination and changes of the terms of agreement between the City and the Black communities of Montreal.
7. All Governments must Increase support in all Black communities for training in “areas such as business, real estate acquisition, and financial investment techniques,” financial and institutional support for initiatives directed at exposing Black youth at an early age to business and self-employment as an alternative career possibility.
8. All levels of government must provide support for the initiatives being explored by the BCRC in collaboration with the Quebec Board of Black Educators, the BSC and the CEDEC to assist English-speaking Black graduates get jobs in Montreal and Quebec; stop the brain drain and strengthen the vitality of the community.
9. The provincial Government must revisit the Yolande James Task Force recommendations (2005) for the full participation of Blacks in Quebec society to ensure they are effectively serving the purposes that they were intended to.
10. All government policy makers must understand that one shoe does not fit all: by addressing the needs of the English-speaking minority community in Quebec, it does not mean that the needs of the Black English-speaking communities are addressed.
All levels of government must fund the capacity of Black community organizations to empower them to provide services on a long-term basis to the community; and to enable them to maintain an ongoing and professional relationship and dialogue with all levels of governments: institutions, public policy and decision makers. It is a requirement of any true democracy.
11. Governments in their funding decisions must give priority to agencies currently strained and working on a project-to-project basis. Emphasis must be given to programs that have a proven track record, and proven success. This was articulated at all meetings and in particular the consultations with Minister Kathleen Weil, and Minister Mélanie Joly.
12. There is a major need for cultural spaces in the Black community. The community is losing vitality and cultural spaces, as exemplified by the tragic loss of the NCC Building (Coalition of Little Burgundy: 514-932-4302), and the near loss of the Union United Church.
13. A group of organizations consisting of the Black Community Resource Center (BCRC), the Black History Month Round Table (BHMRT). Union United Church and the BSC library and archives oral histories and displays continue to seek City and Provincial support for developing Black creative tourism based on Caribbean carnival arts and the contributions of Blacks to the cultural development of Montreal over the last 120 years.
14. Black and English-speaking minority performance arts and artists have been marginalized in terms of operating and capital funds, and support for artists. The English-speaking Black community recommend that Federal, Provincial and Municipal funding to BTW and other Black artists, literature, and media be greatly increased.
Dr. Clarence S. Bayne, Professor Emeritus and Director of ICED, Concordia.
Associate Editor of the International Journal for Community Development and Management Studies (IJCDMS)
President of the Black Community Resource Center
Dr. Bayne is a founder and Past President of the Black Theatre Workshop, co-founder of the Black Studies Center, the Quebec Board of Black Educators. He is a co-founder and past president of the National Black Coalition of Canada. He Is the Chair of the Secretariat of the Black Community Forum.