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Montreal, April 29, 2019 — Members of the Lasalle English-speaking Black community are calling on Borough Mayor Manon Barbe and Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante to put an end to their systemic marginalization and exclusion from sports, leisure and youth development services that have served the community well over more than three decades before the closing of Lasalle Boys and Girls Club last year.

At a press conference held today at the Caribbean Paradise Restaurant in Lasalle, members of the community of different generations unanimously demanded that Lasalle Mayor Barbe and Borough officials show greater respect and inclusion towards the community, as “first-class and full-fledge English-speaking and Black residents.”

They are asking the Borough to stop planning the public consultation measures that have been undertaken for several weeks regarding the future of what was known as the Lasalle Boys and Girls Club (LBGC), and services and programs to be provided at the LBGC premises, now known as 8600 Hardy.

The LBGC was closed in 2018 due to internal management problems. For years, it was considered as unique institution of the Lasalle English-speaking Black community, where many important sports, youth and social development programs and services were provided to people of all ages, most from the English-speaking Black and other visible minority communities.

Since then, the Borough has taken over the building and developed plans to reboot the center. On March 27 and in early April 2019, there were two public consultation meetings held by the Borough to discuss the future of the 8600 Hardy building. At both meetings, where the majority of participants were from the English-speaking Black community, yet there was little English used by Borough officials and no Black decision-making representation among these officials.

The community also challenged the Borough’s decisions that, in its opinion, smacks of racial insensitivity and exclusion, such the hiring of consultants who are Québécois from outside of Montreal and who speak little English, to conduct the study, and their proposed hiring of a temporary basketball program head, a Haitian coach from the East end with little connection to the Lasalle Black community. Yet there are several qualified coaches from the LaSalle English-speaking Black community available who were never consulted by the Borough.

“Many participants at the consultations protested the Borough’s way of doing things that demonstrates a profound disregard for the needs of the English-speaking population of Lasalle, particularly the Black community”, said Darrah Virgo, a long-standing volunteer whose son benefited from its activities and who ran the seniors’ program at the LBGC.

“The image, the message, and the process presented by the Borough effectively made us into second-class citizens in Lasalle where so many of us were born and raised,” Virgo added. “We’re not going back to the back of the bus,” she insisted.

“Lasalle Boys and Girls Club is the Cradle of our Community, just like the Negro Community Center for the Little Burgundy community,” said Desiree Galloway, a Black grandmother who attended seniors’ programs at the LBGC for years. “We are afraid that with the way the Borough plans for the 8600 Hardy’s future, we will be erased over time from Lasalle institutions.”

For Bryce Ojo-Carby, who had since his youth benefited from many LBGC programs, the LBGC’s closing has devastating consequences on Black youths, who are vulnerable and who have no other English-language culturally competent sports and youth programs in LaSalle. Many will have to go to NDG or Côte Des Neiges for these programs while some are at risk as they hang around fast-food restaurants.

The only English culturally relevant service is Lasalle Multicultural Resource Center, which is a reputable and needed resource but it does not have the funding for a facility and its sports program.

“Our young people are being uprooted and excluded,” Ojo-Carby said. “They don’t and will not have the benefits of programs I enjoyed while growing up in Lasalle.”

The community is asking Mayor Manon Barbe for a personal meeting as soon as possible, to make the consultation process truly inclusive, equitable and respectful towards the Black and other English-speaking groups. In the meantime, it calls for the third consultation meeting scheduled for tomorrow’s evening on April 30 to be shelved, pending “redesign.”

The community is also calling on Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante to step in, given the fact that the Borough seems to violate provisions of the Montreal Charter of Rights and Responsibilities regarding non-discrimination and the City’s duty to “reinforce a sense of belonging to the city” and to ensure “equitable provision of services (that) takes into account the diverse needs of citizens.”

Their call is supported by CRARR, pointing to the Borough’s failure to implement principles of diversity, equity and inclusion outlined in its own Action Plan 2018-2020 on Cultural Diversity.

“As the city as a whole is about to engage on public consultations on systemic racism and discrimination, there is perhaps no better example of systemic racial discrimination in sports, leisure and youth services than what is happening now in Lasalle,” said CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi. “It’s not too late to end this form of exclusion and do the right thing.”

According to the 2016 Census, 37% of the 76,900 residents of Lasalle, or 27,800, were from “visible minorities.” Of these minority groups, Black and South Asian residents were the most important, at 41% and 16% respectively. 60% of Lasalle residents were either born overseas, or have one parent born outside Canada. 18% were unilingual English-speaking, and 58% were bilingual.