by Joe Bongiorno
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Villeray—Saint Michel—Parc-Extension Mayor Giuliana Fumagalli officially launched her new political party, Quartiers Montréal, ahead of the November municipal elections. The borough mayor made the announcement at Nicolas-Tillemont Park on a sweltering Saturday afternoon and presented an all-female team of candidates vying for city councillor posts in the three borough districts.
According to Fumagalli, who had been serving as an independent since fallout with Montreal Mayor, Valérie Plante, a majority is needed to make substantive change at the borough level.
“What you want is to make sure that everybody that’s with you has the same vision, so we can actually move forward,” Fumagalli said. “This is what I realized that after spending so much time negotiating. What I needed is a majority, and the only way to have a majority was to create my own party and to have candidates run with me.”
Eyeing the majority in the five-person town council, Fumagalli said a fourth candidate for city councillor would be announced at a later date.
Elected borough mayor in 2017 under the banner of Projet Montréal, Fumagalli was excluded from the party in 2018 following allegations of workplace harassment and an internal investigation.
Addressing a crowd of supporters clapping from the shade, Fumagalli promised that her new party would prioritize the interests of the most vulnerable.
“We believe that the reinvestment and redistribution of funds in our communities will be the key […] to effect real and sustainable change,” said Fumagalli. “Together, […], hand in hand, we will change things.”
Fumagalli called for more borough autonomy in decision-making and action to deliver accessible, affordable housing.
“We will have an east-west bike path on Villeray,” she said.
Fumagalli also called for a bridge over the Francon quarry to connect the Pie-IX and St-Michel.
On policing, the mayor proposed more investment in the community and fewer officers.
“More police no longer means more security. [Clearly,] we don’t share the same perspective as the current administration nor the opposition that pretends to have the answer,” she said.
“We don’t need heavily armed police,” Fumagalli told Park-Extension News. “What we need are more resources for our communities in terms of community organizations. We need to start investing maybe in resources for mental health. We know that most of the calls to 911 are for mental health reasons. So, we don’t necessarily need a police officer to come. We need somebody who knows how to deal with somebody in distress.”
Although pleased with the opening of the passageway between de Castelnau and Ogilvy, Fumagalli said passageways should also be created where Park-Extension citizens have cut openings in the fences along Liège Street and de l’Epée Avenue.
Leonora Indira King is the Quartiers Montréal candidate for the district of Park-Extension while the two candidates running for the respective districts of Villeray and Saint-Michel are
Mariem Mathlouthi—an entrepreneur with a finance background and the owner of Café Velours—and Wendy Olivier—a former special education teacher and founder of the tutoring service Collaboraktion.
King introduced herself as a community outreach worker fighting for affordable housing, social justice, and climate justice. Currently completing a doctorate in psychiatry, King said she has worked with non-profit organizations in Park-Extension like Brick by Brick and Afrique au Féminin.
King said she would work to improve outreach and fill in the gaps between organizations providing resources to the needy.
“Park-Ex is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Canada,” King told Park-Extension News. “It also, unfortunately, happens to be one of the poorest. There are a lot of barriers that many of the immigrants unfortunately are facing, that then prevents them from finding work, accessing education, accessing health care, day care because of their precarious immigration status.”
In terms of policing, King said more investment in alternative forms of security would create a safer district in which Park-Extension residents experiencing domestic abuse or residents with precarious immigration status would be more inclined to ask for help.
“I think domestic violence and other kinds of things are very much taboo in the community,” said King. “They’re not going to call the police for help because it will just kind of expose other problems that they have. There’s also just so much distrust already in the system and in the police.
“What I would love to see more of is the creation of other types of security, like community security [and] community surveillance,” she said. “There are other neighborhoods that don’t necessarily have the police institutionalized, but they have other sources of community help.”