Montreal, 24 March 2022 - The 23rd edition of Action Week Against Racism and for Equal Opportunities (AWARE 2022), which is celebrated by the United Nations every year on 21 March, has as its theme this year "Welcoming Refugees and Migrants in Quebec". As part of these activities, the Bahá'í Community of Saint-Laurent organized a round table on racism and racial prejudice in the form of a common meeting to reflect and exchange on possible solutions to eliminate the causes of racial prejudice. This virtual meeting took place in the presence of about forty people coming from all walks of Laurentian society and elsewhere in Montreal. The two guest speakers were Ms. Éliane Gabbay and Ms. Carmelle Rukiza.

Mr. DeSousa, Mayor of St. Laurent, Vana Nazarian, City Councillor and member of the Côte-de-Lièsse District Borough Council were among the dignitaries present at the meeting.

Two musical performances were included in the program: the video of “O Peoples of the World!” composed by Lucie Dubé and her choir which brought together 40 choral voices on the Unity of Humanity - text extracted from the Bahá'í writings and at the end, the presentation of another extract from the Bahá'í writings on Racial Harmony read by Janie and accompanied by guitar by her sister Oréanne Cardinal-Fernandez.

The mayor of Saint-Laurent, as usual, began the meeting with his inspiring and encouraging words for those who work in the path of unity of humanity, especially racial harmony. He gave the example of the St. Laurent neighborhood, a highly multicultural and multiracial community representing 53.5% of visible minorities, different ethnicities and languages that have been living in harmony on the territory for a long time.

Despite the current conflicts in the world, says the mayor, we must never be discouraged because ultimately we have no choice but to learn to live in peace! We think a lot about the people who are suffering now because of the situation in Ukraine, continued Mr. de Sousa, and we hope that, after tonight's discussion, we can come to a conclusion and think about ways to eliminate the conflicts! 

Our first speaker, Ms. Eliane Gabbay, was a partnership advisor at the Ministère de l'Immigration et des Communautés Culturelles, now known as MIFI (Ministère de l'Immigration, de la Francisation et de l'Intégration) and sat on the Board of Directors of CARI Saint-Laurent for many years.  She is currently a project manager at the Centre d'appui aux communautés immigrantes de Bordeaux Cartierville (CACI).

She has done a detailed analysis of the causes of unconscious prejudice, integration of immigrants, the role of the media in reinforcing prejudice, the role of parents and educational institutions and finally the role that history has played in justifying this action. From the age of three, Ms. Gabbay said, children begin to have prejudices because of the influence of family and surroundings. 

She also mentioned the importance of the role of the family and the education given to children. It is desirable that parents promote the integration of races and colours in the life and education of children. Having friendly relationships with other cultural communities and encouraging frank conversations to build bridges and collaboration between people are essential.

In her speech, Ms. Gabbay was asked to answer the following questions:

a.         Unconscious racial prejudice and the ways in which the causes of racial prejudice can be eliminated.

b.         The role of society, especially the family and the environment in the fight against racism and prejudice in order to build a dynamic, just and inclusive community.

Carmelle Rukiza, our second speaker who considers herself a global citizen and believes in the unity of humanity, spoke on "How can individuals and institutions work together to strengthen racial equity in our communities?"

Inspired by the Bahá'í teachings, she shared the belief that young people can make meaningful contributions to the betterment of the world.  Living in Paris, she is the facilitator of a spiritual empowerment program for pre-teens aged 11 to 15 that aims to strengthen the development of intellectual and moral skills, develop their talents and qualities to plan and carry out a wide variety of service projects in their community (e.g. visiting the elderly, tending a community garden, etc.) This group of young people has given themselves the name: "The Happy Helpers"!

During the questions and comments period with Ms. Gabbay and the participants many themes on prejudice were discussed. Mr. Mayor commented that one of the reasons for prejudice is lack of knowledge of others. Being anchored in one's homogeneous environment and isolating oneself from others gives us certain prejudices. To solve this challenge, in Saint-Laurent, public spaces have been created to promote multicultural and multiethnic get together. These spaces give musicians and artisans of all trades, including the culinary arts, the opportunity to share their talents with others and to break down some of the barriers that cause prejudice.

The presentations of the two speakers were very enriching. They gave us the opportunity to reflect together on racism, discrimination and racial prejudice which is one of the afflictions of our society! These ideas on how to move our community towards a vision of racial unity to build together a more just, equitable and inclusive world, so that we can live better together, encourage us to be proud of our Unity in Diversity!



Bahá'í Center


177, av des Pins E
Montréal, QC H2W 1N9
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Phone: 514-849-0753

Click here for map and hours



Montreal Shrine


1548, av des Pins O, Montreal
Phone: 514-568-2104

Click here for map and hours


S5 Box