In keeping with this collaborative approach, the ECI contacted the community organizations at the outset of the project to find out how it could most helpfully engage with and contribute to their work. The team decided that the best and most efficient way to assess the needs of the community was by means of an electronic survey. In late May 2011, they identified approximately 50 community organizations in Montreal which do work related to systemic inequalities. The survey – available in both French and English – was filled by approximately 20 organizations. There appeared to be strong community support for the initiative.
Most of the communities and individuals whom the community-based organizations work with encounter different types of discrimination, exclusion or inequality. The respondents asserted that gender, race, ethnicity and poverty are the main grounds of discrimination in Montreal. Some of them raised the fact that language and mental health are not well known causes of inequalities.
On the one hand, many of the respondents felt that their resources were limited in a number of ways. For instance, three organizations reported that they lacked basic knowledge about how to bring a complaint to the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal. On the other hand, the majority of the respondents asserted that they had access to some resources on how to address systemic inequalities. These organizations have a significant expertise in procedures such as filing claims at the Rental Board, and on running public education and awareness campaigns. Virtually every respondent asserted that research reports would be useful or very useful. Likewise, there appeared to be strong interest in legal research on specific issues facing the organizations’ clients. The majority of organizations also classified best-practices handbooks as well as policy recommendations as either useful or very useful. Moreover, most respondents were interested in having round-table discussions or conferences involving community groups, university partners, and/or policy-makers.