This policy brief is presented by the: Park-Extension neighborhood round table, Brick by Brick, the Tiger Lotus Cooperative and the Park-Extension Community-Based Action Research Network. It is submitted to the Office de Consultation Publique de Montréal (OCPM).
About the Authors
The Parc-Extension Neighbourhood Round Table is a local, multi-sector and multi-network concertation body whose main objectives are to provide the neighbourhood with a ten-year plan and to improve the residents’ living conditions.
Brick by Brick is a community organization which, since 2016, has been working to create a community housing project and a social centre in Parc-Extension. Brick by Brick seeks to address the needs of the neighbourhood’s residents while honouring their diversity through its various projects.
Tiger Lotus Coop is a cooperative focusing on community health that offers women and trans people education services and workshops in Montreal.
The CBAR network is a collective of scholars and community organizers working in Parc-Extension. They meet up to share and identify the neighbourhood’s research priorities, while promoting a collaborative approach to address social justice issues.
This brief was written in the context of a public consultation on systemic racism organized by the Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM). This initiative was instigated by the City in 2019, following a demand by citizens for a consultation on this matter. We have decided to focus on the issues and challenges arising from systemic racism in Parc-Extension. The concept of « systemic racism » seems particularly relevant to assess the obstacles and challenges that the racialized communities in Parc-Extension and Montreal face. Indeed, ethnoracial discriminations may emerge in a society or in an institution even when racist values are not explicitly stated.
We will focus on systemic discrimination and the problem of access to resources and social services, which both reinforce ethnoracial inequalities in the neighbourhood and in Montreal more broadly. First, relying on scholarly literature as well as substantive news articles, we provide an overview of the neighbourhood. Then, we summarize the discussions that were held at the public consultation facilitated by the Parc-Extension
Neighbourhood Round Table on September 28th . Finally, we suggest potential
1 More than forty people took part to the consultation. It is worth noting that the strategies used to promote it targeted mainly community partners in the neighbourhood. It lead to an underrepresentation of the residents at the event. Thus, while the brief reflects the opinions of the people who attended (members from organizations and political parties, as well as residents affected by the issue), it does not account for all of the issues pertaining to systemic racism in Parc-Extension. Given the tight deadlines to write this brief, we were not able to solicit feedback from the participants to inform our paper. However, we have asked our six facilitators to summarize the questions raised in their discussion groups and the solutions brought forward. We are also keeping the participants informed of any development and we will, following our submission, continue this reflection in the neighbourhood.
solutions to both the issue of systemic racism and offer recommendations on the overall structure of the public consultation led by OCPM and the City.
Summary of the Literature on Discrimination in Parc-Extension
Parc-Extension is a neighbourhood located on the west end of the Villeray-Saint-Michel-Parc-Extension borough, and separated from the Town of Mont-Royal with a fence that runs through its eastern border. Parc-Extension’s isolation was often been identified by the residents as a major issue (Di Cintio 2011; Colpron 2019). The neighbourhood is also one of the poorest in Canada : 79% of its population lives in rental housing (Montreal average: 60%), 39,7% of that same population’s income is below poverty line (Montreal: 36,8), 32,1 % of people aged 18 years or older do not have a diploma (Montreal: 14,7%) and the unemployment rate is about 15%, compared to 9% for the rest of Montreal (Statistique Canada 2016, Centre intégré universitaire de santé et de services sociaux du Centre-Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal 2016).
One of the obstacles that Parc-Extension residents face is that 56,5% of them have an immigrant background (Montreal average: 34%), which means they have to learn to navigate the various challenges that are related to the immigration process. For instance, they have to learn how to access social services offered to Montrealers. Also, they can be vulnerable to discrimination as well as systemic and individual challenges. The power imbalance between landlords and tenants, the fear of being evicted, the difficulties arising from having a limited social network and a limited knowledge of the local laws and procedures pertaining to housing laws, a limited knowledge of French and English, an unstable employment situation or a precarious immigration status are some of the concerns that were raised in a study on the neighbourhood conducted in 2018 (Beck, Guay & Paulson 2019 : 35). A 2019 study also suggests that landlords in Parc-Extension sometimes take advantage of the fact that their tenants are unaware of their rights to avoid making repairs in the apartments and to avoid solving major housing health issues, from moulds to rats, cockroaches and bed bug infestations (Fustic, Guay, Khalid & Hossain 2019). According to the Comité d’action de Parc-Extension (CAPE), issues related to housing are especially worrisome because of the low rate of available rental units compared to the Montreal average – with a vacancy rate of 0.6% for 2-bedroom units in October 2018, compared to 1.8% for the City for the same type of housing (Société canadienne d’hypothèques et de logement 2018) – and the relatively fast increase in renting costs in the neighbourhood. Those trends are the results of many factors, including the arrival of new technology companies in the Marconi-Alexandra sector and the recent opening of University of Montreal’s MIL campus (Nichols et al. 2019).
A study focusing on the residents’ access to healthcare services suggests that consultation fees, the fear of deportation (for residents without a status) and the lack of knowledge of the Quebec healthcare system constitute major obstacles in accessing care (Jessa 2015 : 73-74). Those issues were also underlined in the context of three public discussions organized by Concordia’s Office of Community Engagement and the local community organization Afrique au Féminin. At those events, participants, for the most part with an immigrant background, have highlighted many linguistic and systemic barriers to accessing health care services, such as the discontinuation of walk-in
2 services offered by the CLSC in Parc-Extension and the fear of police retaliation toward undocumented individuals.
Furthermore, the sociolinguistic reality of Parc-Extension’s residents warrants greater attention. A study on the public library in Parc-Extension, conducted for a class on ethnographic methods at McGill University, reveals that families of immigrant background in the neighbourhood use this space as an entry point from which to access many important resources for their integration, their socialization and their learning of French. However because all of the activities and services are offered in French, it becomes difficult for families who do not have a basic knowledge of the language to take part to the activities and to seek information from the library personnel. This can lead to a devaluation of their linguistic resources, because their languages are neither recognized nor valued. It can eventually lead to a marginalization of those families, prevented from accessing this key space in the neighbourhood (Ahooja 2019).
Ultimately, the literature highlights the many challenges and obstacles that affect the residents with an immigrant background of Parc-Extension directly, who constitute the majority of the population in the neighbourhood. These challenges and obstacles appear to be tied to the issue of systemic racism, because they perpetuate the inequalities and disadvantages among the racialized population in Montreal. It is worth noting that visible minorities constitute 63,5% of the Parc-Extension population (compared to the 32,9% average for Montreal), and that the interviews conducted by Beck, Guay and Paulson (2019), Fustic, Guay, Khalid and Hossain (2019) and Ahooja (2019) all indicate that the challenges related to having an immigrant background and those related to being racialized overlap for the residents in Parc-Extension. Indeed, while the issues of immigration and of racialization and racism are distinct, they tend to converge in the case of Parc-Extension, and thus require solutions that take them into account simultaneously.
Summary of the Discussions at the Consultation
2 This discontinuation was in part resolved by the newly created Parc-X Clinic on Jean-Talon, offering walk-in services once per week. However, access to family doctors remains limited in the neighbourhood.
Many realities and challenges were brought forward during the discussions held at our consultation. Among them, we can mention the following points:
● Visible poverty, the highly precarious situation of racialized residents, and the increase in homelessness in the neighbourhood;
● The lack of inclusion of visible minorities in the decision-making spheres (e.g.
school councils, public and political institutions);
● Racial profiling and heightened police presence in the neighbourhood;
● A feeling that municipal services are of lower quality (e.g. snow removal) compared to wealthier neighbourhoods and despite having a higher number of elderly people;
● Access to quality housing, public and health care services;
● Housing discrimination perpetrated by landlords who would rather rent to students and who reinforce stereotypes with the ways they treat the racialized tenants;
● Gentrification and its impacts on the residential displacement of the most vulnerable racialized households;
● Issues of environmental racism (air quality, pollution, poor quality of the housing units, low quality of life, etc.);
● Discrimination in employment, particularly as it affects racialized women (few opportunities of advancement towards positions of power);
● Lack of valorization, political will and private and public investments in a neighbourhood where the majority of the residents have an immigrant background and/or racialized;
● Cultural and linguistic barriers to social mobility;
● The refusal on the part of private and public institutions to take responsibility and matters in their own hands;
● The unilateral aspect of the decisions taken by public authorities, which directly affect communities who are racialized and / or have an immigrant background
(e.g. Bill 21).
More specifically, the participants have identified certain behaviours that reflect a recurring phenomenon of “cosmetic diversity” within certain institutions, businesses and working groups in Montreal and in Quebec, for instance:
● Including people of colour in promotional materials (to appear inclusive without truly being inclusive);
● Appointing a person of colour to head a project or to fill the “equity, diversity, inclusion” function of their organization. This, in turn, removes the burden of accountability from the organization as a whole, as its members expect that issues related to the lack of diversity will be solved by the presence of this person. As a result, this person bears the emotional and professional labour of the cultural change on their own.
Some participants have also raised the following points:
● The limits of change through the integration of racialized people within the government if the neoliberal structures continue to operate in the same ways and to pressure poor and marginalized people in society;
● The role of institutions such as the SPVM/Police and the education systems as major “perpetrators” of systemic racism;
● Intersectionality of issues and the limiting aspects of dividing struggles according to groups (women, LGBTQ+, First Nations, etc.) or according to various issues (environment, systemic racism, class struggle);
● Fierce competition among the communities that suffer from systemic racism, fuelled by the presence of funding programs that act in silos and the lack of transparency of the selection process;
● Employers benefit from government subsidies for hiring minority groups, yet they do not hire the workers past the stated hiring period;
● Epistemological injustice and unequal access to knowledge;
● The lack of appreciation and the limited efforts to implement the recommendations put forward by the various studies led in Parc-Extension or in similar contexts.
Potential Solutions and Recommendations
Now that we have identified some issues and challenges pertaining to systemic racism in Parc-Extension, we offer some suggestions that are neighbourhood-specific, basing ourselves on both the existing literature as well as the discussions held during the neighbourhood consultation. We also suggest ways to improve the very structure of the consultations, in the hope that it will inform the subsequent activities.
In the light of the research cited above, a few recommendations can be mentioned here:
First, raising awareness about tenant rights and the various ways to organize and advocate for better housing conditions is an important issue (Beck, Guay & Paulson 2019 : 35). This work is currently led in the neighbourhood, among other actors, by the Comité d’action de Parc-Extension. It would be important to make sure that the information on the services offered to tenants without a legal status be disseminated more widely.
To make sure that the recently arrived residents have access to the different services offered to them, the flyers prepared by the City could be translated in multiple languages. This would allow a better access to crucial information for the allophone and vulnerable residents of the neighbourhood.
Also, the presence of translators in the clinics would increase access to health care services (Jessa 2015 : 75), and allow residents to benefit from a broader range of services. In that respect, Parc-X’s public clinic initiative, launched in 2019 through the RLS network, allows asylum seekers to receive care free of charge as long as they are covered by the Blue Cross. The clinic works alongside volunteer students from McGill University to ensure on-site translation services in Urdu, Punjabi and Hindi. Also, during the public conversations organized by Concordia’s Office of Community Engagement, some participants argued for the development of various strategies to allow those who are not covered by Quebec’s health insurance plan (for instance, asylum seekers) to have access to healthcare services.
For children speaking minority languages in the neighbourhood, it would be important to grant them access to more multilingual resources at the library ( for instance, literacy activities in minority languages). Such an initiative would encourage them to learn their mother tongue in the public space and to foster positive identity building (Ahooja 2019).
As for the discussions held at the Parc-Extension consultation, they brought forward the following solutions:
1. Research and Development:
● Emphasize participatory research to help identify issues and develop solutions that are adapted to the context.
● Take into account the recommendations from previous research and consultations conducted in the neighbourhood or in similar contexts. Many studies were conducted and published on this issue (see the bibliography and the “Other Important Documents” section in this brief).
2. Organizational aspects
● Encourage a closer dialogue between public institutions and the population, namely through neighbourhood round tables ( e.g. through the creation of a systemic discrimination committee which would reflect the neighbourhood’s diversity).
● Organize public events so that the residents can get to know each other, share useful information and learn more about the services they are entitled to.
3. Municipal government:
● Translate the material created by the City and the boroughs in many languages, and make sure that interpreters are present in social service centres, to limit the linguistic barriers preventing the residents from accessing different healthcare services.
● Promote investments that are responsible and respectful of the racialized residents and that improve public services.
● Create a special investigation branch independent from the Montreal Police to inquire into police work and shed light on potential wrongdoing, following a recommendation made recently in a report (Livingstone, Rutland, & Alix 2018 : 90).
4. Training and Education
● Offer credible training to decision makers and administrators, so that they understand how systemic racism and discrimination work and their consequences on the concerned individuals and communities, so that public policies do not encourage marginalization, the feeling of exclusion and the forced displacement of residents.
● Promote strategies for colleges and universities to proactively recruit students from racialized and underrepresented communities in the neighbourhood to increase their access to post-secondary education.
● Invest more in social housing and rent supplements and financially support organizations that strive to increase social and community housing and combat racism in the rental market.
● Reinforce tenant protection and financially support organizations that work to advocate for their rights.
● Implement or reinforce abuse-prevention mechanisms to prevent landlords from abusing tenants’ rights (e.g. through “renovictions”).
● Inform the landlords and the new residents ( individuals, organizations, businesses) in the neighbourhood about how their arrival affects the less privileged residents.
● Invite public institutions ( governments, social services, universities and/or private projects benefiting from public support) to recognize and to limit, through an intersectional lens, their contribution to the gentrification of the neighbourhood and its surroundings through their development projects. In that regard, we wish to underline the importance of taking into account the voices of the residents in all wide-scale projects in the neighbourhood, at all steps of the process (design, preliminary consultations, follow-ups, etc.).
Finally, we would like to submit some recommendations that address the very structure of the activity:
● Provide more resources for the groups to organize proper consultations (for instance, time as well as financial and human resources).
● Offer translation services and promotional materials in multiple languages (i.e. not just French and English), to facilitate reaching out to allophone residents in the neighbourhood.
● On the consultation’s website, provide more options: French, English OR multilingual.
● Circulate more widely the consultation initiative through networks commonly used by migrant populations.
● Allow a greater time to present the concepts and a definition of systemic racism, notably to explain the difference between “members of ethnocultural communities”, “racialized persons”, “immigrants”, “first-generation Quebecers”, etc.
● Rethink the very format of the consultation, which limits the expression of the subject’s complexity and intersectionality. For instance, the consultation could be divided into different parts: first, an activity allowing participants to provide their definition of systemic racism, and a second activity aimed at finding solutions. Had the initial conversation been more informal, it would have created a warm and inviting environment for participants who may not be used to intervening in more formal spaces of deliberation and consultation.
● Finally, many residents have questioned the legitimacy of the entire process and its future developments. There is an insufficient amount of time given to the organizations and people involved in the consultation to get the participants’ feedback on the brief and its various recommendations. Furthermore, many consultations dealing with this topic or similar ones have been held in the past , and yet many residents are under the impression that there have been few concrete changes in the neighbourhood.
However, we support the Office of Public Consultation’s initiative and hope that these solutions and recommendations will contribute to the development of a strategy to address the challenges and obstacles identified here and to improve the consultation process, in order to make it as accessible as possible to the residents of Parc-Extension and Montreal.
The four organizations that wrote this brief have also offered to lead or to take part to the following projects, in the aftermath of the public consultation on systemic racism:
● Collaborate with local organizations, as well as researchers working in Parc-Extension, to keep documenting the realities and trends identified in this brief.
● Initiate and contribute to the organization of other consultations aimed at the residents Parc-Extension who are not in touch with community partners and which reflect the neighbourhood’s demographic and linguistic diversity (creating tools that are adapted to Parc-Extension’s cultural realities, offering interpretation services in the languages spoken in the neighbourhood, working alongside youth organizations, identifying key leaders that will be able to mobilize people in their networks to organize ready-made independent consultations in their communities, and then summarize the findings in informal, transversal and inter-community meetings).
Ahooja, A. (2019). Ethnographic study on migrant-background families’ language practices at a public library: Occupying the space. Manuscript non publié pour un séminaire de recherche de l’Université McGill.
Beck, A., Guay, E., & Paulson, L. (2019). Les visages de l’inégalité dans Parc-Extension. Relations, no. 802, p. 34-35.
Centre intégré universitaire de santé et de services sociaux du Centre-Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal. (2016). Conditions démographiques, socio-économiques et culturelles, Recensement 2016. Tableau de données compilé par le Service des connaissances de la Direction régionale de santé publique du CIUSSS Centre-Sud-de-l’Île-de-Montréal.
Colpron, S. (2019). Embourgeoisement : Parc-Extension sous tension. La Presse, (Lien consulté le 12 octobre 2019). URL :
Di Cintio, M. (2011). The Great Wall of Montreal. Geist , (Lien consulté le 12 octobre
2019). URL : https://www.geist.com/fact/essays/the-great-wall-of-montreal /.
Fustic, M., Guay, E., Khalid, A., & Hossain, S. (2019). Housing Instability, Social Disadvantage and Domestic Violence: The Case of Parc-Extension. Homeless Hub, (Lien consulté le 12 octobre 2019). URL :
Jessa, S. (2015). Healthcare for All! Access to Healthcare for Migrants with Precarious Status in the Parc-Extension Neighbourhood of Montreal, Quebec. The Prognosis, vol. 4, p. 68-81.
Livingstone, A. M., Rutland, T., & Alix, S. (2018). Le Profilage Racial dans les Pratiques
Policières. Points de vue et Expériences de Jeunes Racisés à Montréal. MTLSansProfilage ,
(Lien consulté le 24 octobre 2019). URL :
Nichols, N., Guay, E., Megelas, A., Cadieux, A., King, L. I., & St-Paul, R. A. (2019). Homelessness, Hardship and Public Action in Gentrifying Areas: The Case of Park Extension, Montreal. Homeless Hub, (Lien consulté le 24 octobre 2019). URL: https://www.homelesshub.ca/blog/homelessness-hardship-and-public-action-gentrifyi ng-areas-case-park-extension-montreal.
Société canadienne d’hypothèques et de logement. (2018). Enquête sur les logements locatifs, centres urbains : taux d’inoccupation. (Lien consulté le 25 octobre 2019). URL: https://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/fr/data-and-research/data-tables/urban-rental-market-s urvey-data-vacancy-rates.
Statistique Canada. (2016). Produits de données, Recensement de 2016. (Consulté le 12 octobre 2019). URL :
Other Important Documents
Almeida, J. (2017). Rapport sur le racisme systémique vécu par la communauté LGBTQ+ montréalaise. Conseil québécois LGBT, Montréal.
Khenti, A. (2014). The Canadian war on drugs: Structural violence and unequal treatment of Black Canadians. International Journal of Drug Policy, vol. 25, no. 2, p. 190-195.
Maynard, R. (2017). Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present. Fernwood Publishing.
Posca, J. (2018). Portrait des inégalités socioéconomiques touchant les autochtones au Québec. Institut de Recherche et d’Informations Socioéconomiques, (Lien consulté le 24 octobre 2019). URL : https://iris-recherche.qc.ca/publications/inegalites-autochtones .
Zinger, I. (2016). Human rights and federal corrections: A commentary on a decade of tough on crime policies in Canada. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, vol. 58, no. 4, p. 609-627.
Emanuel Guay, Tatiana Burtin, Alexa Ahooja, Rose-Anne St-Paul, Sophie Le-Phat Ho, Alex Megelas, Leonora Indira-King.
Translation from French by
Audrey Ann Lavallée.