Coalition Against Discrimination
The Coalition Against Discrimination brings together over fifty community organizations, professionals , educators, academics, and social and economic stakeholders, notably members of visible minority, immigrant, and Aboriginal groups in order to work against the dramatic rise of intolerance in Québec City. The Coalition facilitates ongoing dialogue between members, resulting in amazing leverage against discrimination and toward the implementation of policies and values to counter discriminatory behaviours.
A young black woman of Haitian origin, Mirlande Demers instigated the Coalition after becoming cognizant of the many racial slurs and offensive comments disseminated on the radio station CHOI FM 98.1, exacerbated by the 9/11 tragedy and the dismantling of a prostitution ring in Québec City. Realizing the magnitude of the situation, Mirlande undertook to fight back; upon conducting outreach , Mirlande discovered that many individuals and organizations supported her initiative, and were in fact waiting for someone to mobilize in this manner. The Coalition was formed.
Opening the Debate on Racism in Québec City
The Coalition is remarkable in its ability to address the concerns of all its members, allowing committees to form and work cohesively, yet independently. It investigates and disseminates the findings of different studies on discrimination, organizes committees of experts into public fora and lectures about racism and hatred, and participates in various cultural activities, such as plays and documentaries about discrimination. Members of the group visit schools and organize workshops in order to inform the public about the downfalls of discrimination.
Thanks to the Coalition, the debate on racism is now open in Québec, which sets a precedent. The group has worked in many innovative ways to raise awareness in Québec City of the issues surrounding racism and discrimination. The Coalition continues to network and is gaining increasing influence in Québec City, and is in the process of making two movies – one explores the contributions of immigrants to society and the other addresses hate propaganda.
Combating Widespread Denial of Racism and Discrimination
The main challenge that the Coalition continues to tackle is the denial of the existence of racism and discrimination, both by the public and Québec City’s municipal administration; the City does not provide any financial support and in fact, does not support the Coalition’s activities. Despite this lack of support, the group is able to realize its goals with the help of in-kind contributions from concerned organizations, free access to community media, and the tireless efforts of its members, particularly Mirlande Demers.
In Québec City, racism and discrimination are deeply embedded in society, and manifest themselves through covert means, such as workplace exclusion. This leaves members of minority groups without the ability to support themselves, and most leave the area. The Coalition Against Discrimination believes that the problem will never be solved if members of minority groups continue to leave. Through demystifying the issues of racism and discrimination as well as networking, the Coalition is successfully mobilizing toward the full inclusion of minority groups in Québec City.
Sharing Best Practices
The Coalition Against Discrimination would discuss the situation in Québec City, highlighting its strategies and approaches toward ending racism. The presentation would describe the Coalition’s model of participatory democracy in mobilizing different members of society.
Mirlande Demers,Coalition AgainstDiscrimination, Québec City, QC