The dissolution of Mont-Royal riding must not be allowed to stand. We must respond to the "fierce urgency of now!"

By Beryl Wajsman on March 22, 2017

The decision of the Director-General of Elections to eliminate Mont-Royal riding cannot be allowed to stand. It is about the compromise of our most basic rights as citizens. It is about the disenfranchisement of our suffrage. It is about the second largest population of the economically vulnerable on the island not having a place to turn to. It is about anglophones and allophones losing a voice in our Assembly of law and legislation. It is about natural communities torn asunder with some moved into ridings represented by elected officials with neither the time nor understanding of their particular needs. It is a decision of egregious hypocrisy. 

cbc_daybreak_201703.jpgAt a time when government throws money at "diversity", the most culturally diverse riding in the province will disappear. At a time when we are told by Quebec that the rights of more than a million non-francophone Canadian citizens will be respected, part of their elected representation is nullified. At a time where reasonable accommodation is promised to the smallest of groups, the largest minority is once again made to swallow the abnegation of part of its communal existence. And at a time when all societies strive for equitable voting rights, this decision reinforces Quebec's malaise of having urban ridings almost twice the population of rural ones. How can Montrealers have the equal political rights guaranteed by the Quebec Charter when we need almost two votes to match the clout of a single vote in a rural riding.

The Electoral Commission's decision to preserve Sainte-Marie–Saint-Jacques, a riding that had been slated for abolition, while not taking into account established natural communities in other ridings is perverse. Québec Solidaire's Manon Massé and her constituents argued that merging her riding with downtown Montreal would drown out the voice of some of the city's most disadvantaged residents and particularly of the LGBT community. 

She was correct. So why is the same logic not equally legitimate for the riding with the largest number of visible minorities in the province? The commission clearly reacted to political pressure. And appropriate political and community pressure. Then it decided to sacrifice an anglophone, allophone riding. Over the past forty years - and it is time to state this without nuance - the non-francophone communities in Quebec have had assaults on their language, schools and traditions. The elimination of Mont-Royal is a direct attack on the power of our vote. It is an attack on basic principles of democratic equity and equality.

Whether we triumph in this battle or not, if we do not at least stand up for our dignity and say "enough", we will have shamed ourselves. Many have responded with grace and courage to the messages, interviews and exhortations that have abounded over the past week. Many of you have responded positively to the call for funding a legal challenge. There are over $6000 in commitments. But one last thing must be done.

We have lent our support to the organization of a public manifestation. The only demonstration of popular will our politicians and bureaucrats seem responsive to is when we stand witness in public to the principles that matter to us.Letters and reasoned appeals are to often insufficient. Many elected officials are involved in this. It was very successful. We need to so these again and again.

We do not have much time before this decision becomes irreversible. There are elected officials who have stood up and been counted against this odious act. City Councillor Marvin Rotrand, TMR Mayor Philippe Roy, CDN/NDG Mayor Russell Copeman, MNA David Biirnbaum and even Mayor Coderre have condemned it.  Cote St. Luc, Hampstead and Outremont have joined  CDN/NDG and TMR in passing formal resolutions of opposition. Marvin has presented one at Montreal City Hall. But even elected officials cannot do it only with words. Nor can we. We all need your bodies. We need you at the forefront. 

A victory cannot be achieved from the comfort of our homes with emails and social media posts. It is time for all of us to stand together.  There is a fierce urgency of now that we must respond to. 


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Beryl P. Wajsman

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