Montreal mayoral candidate files complaint with police over racist, violent message

·2 min read
Long-time community activist Balarama Holness, seen in 2020, is running for mayor of Montreal. He says he has been the target of hateful messages online. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Long-time community activist Balarama Holness, seen in 2020, is running for mayor of Montreal. He says he has been the target of hateful messages online. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press - image credit)

The leader of Mouvement Montréal, Balarama Holness, has filed a complaint with the city's police service after receiving an online message loaded with hateful, racist comments.

The mayoral candidate took to Twitter Thursday afternoon to share a screengrab of a French-language message that, full of racist terminology and poor grammar, encourages Holness to commit suicide or "ask someone to kill you."

The message also accuses Holness, who was born in Montreal and played with the Alouettes, of being an "immigrant bastard."

In the Tweet, Holness said he has been getting these types of "messages non-stop, people attacking me, our candidates, members of Montréal en Action. We are undeterred."

He tells people to vote for change on Nov. 7. Montréal en Action is the community organization, founded by Holness, that led the push in 2018 for a public consultation on systemic racism and discrimination in Montreal.

Holness's tweet quickly drew a strong response from the public as well as his two main opponents, Valérie Plante and Denis Coderre.

"These comments are unacceptable. Regardless of political allegiance, all candidates deserve respect," said Plante on Twitter.

Coderre, also on Twitter, said racist, sexist, homophobic and disrespectful words and actions are absolutely intolerable, as is bullying on social media.

Twitter users were quick to point out that the email address that appears in the screengrab Holness posted does not exist.

A spokesperson for Mouvement Montréal told Radio-Canada the message was sent through an online form available on the party's website on Thursday morning. The form allows you to enter in an email address before sending a message.

Montreal's police service never confirms the filing of a complaint or reveals details about investigations, but the Hate Crimes and Incidents Module (MICH) is aware of the matter, an SPVM spokesperson said.

"Online hate could turn to offline violence. And you know, for me, it was troubling," Holness told CBC News on Thursday.

Holness said while these types of messages are common, this one struck a chord.

"Normally, I see these and I just kind of brush them off. And this one was, I think, a violent message that was beyond the norm," he said.

"I think that it shows that there are issues with mental health, but more importantly, issues with divisions between people."

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