Race and language

The divergent reactions of Premier Legault and Mayor Plante to the shooting deaths of two teens was disappointing at best and prejudicial at worst. When 16-year-old Thomas Trudel was shot and killed last week it provoked an outpouring of alarm and seeming emotion from the political class. Premier Legault tweeted his support for the family and laid a bouquet of flowers at a memorial to at the site of his death. He went as far as saying he, “doesn’t recognize Montreal anymore.” Mayor Plante addressed the city from the site of Trudel’s killing.

But when 16-year-old Jannai Dopwell-Bailey was killed in Cote des Neiges on Oct.18 and laid to rest several days ago, there was no such outpouring or dramatic words. Even though both Thomas and Jannai were described as “good kids, bright and outgoing with solid futures.” But Jannai was black. And an Anglophone.

It was not lost on anyone in this city that the deafening silence from public officials was at least benign neglect. His brother Tyrese put it eloquently, “Trudel’s death was horrible and a complete tragedy and his family is in so much pain. We sympathize. Big time. But in the eyes of the leaders of society — and then that becomes what ordinary people think — Trudel is a victim but Jannai was part of a problem. It’s not so complicated.”

“Part of the problem.” Four very important words in the way political leaders react in this city and province. There is a double standard at play in the way minorities of colour and non-francophones are treated every day and in every encounter with those in power. At its most charitable it may be called benign neglect. At worst, it’s outright discrimination whether on skin colour or language.

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