February | Joel DeBellefeuille
Meet Joel DeBellefeuille. JETELOVE’s Montrealer of the month. February .
Human rights activist, founder of the Red Coalition, Director at Bloc Montreal , entrepreneur, lobbyist, speaker, husband and father.
In honour of Black History Month, we chose the impactful Joel DeBellefeuille as our Montrealer of the month and had the pleasure of sitting down with him for a candid interview.
JETELOVE asked; “ At what point in your life did you realize that it was your calling to be the voice of people who weren’t being treated fairly?”
He says; “In 2009, I was stopped by police in Longueuil, and I was racially profiled. On the police report, they mentioned that because I was driving a luxury vehicle and because of my name, they didn’t feel that it matched my race. I took the city of Longueuil to court. It took me 3 to 4 years, but I won the case. These type of things infuriate me, you can’t just sit by and watch these injustices take place. Fast forward to 2012 where I was driving my son to daycare years later, once again, I was stopped by police for no apparent reason, saying that it was a random stop. There was obviously more to it than that. I once again took them to court, and for the first time in Canadian court, they ordered the police force to collectrace related data on interceptions. This was a huge win for not only myself, but for minorities in general that have been racially profiled for years and years.”
JETELOVE asked; "What motivates you to want to help others? Joel replied ; " It’s my duty to raise awareness and to create positive change. I have been using the media as an outlet to get this message across for years now. I have been interviewed by many different media outlets across the country in the hopes that people step forward and create positive change by sharing their experiences and being vocal “.
Joel created the Red Coalition in 2018 but only incorporated it as a not-for-profit in July 2021. The organization is a federally registered lobby group which fights discrimination in Canada. Recently, the Red Coalition were informed by students and their families attending College Bourget, a private school in Rigaud, Quebec that students of colour are being mistreated, spat at, and insulted right under the nose of the administration. The Red Coalition denounced the mistreatment of the students in the media, saying that the family tried to reach out to the school administration after having made several complaints and were met with resistance from the school. They then served the school with a demand letter, demanding a sit down and offering to guide them through sensitization with their teachers, their administration, their board and of course, apologies were demanded for the students and their families . They have involved two cabinet ministers and are waiting to hear back from them any day now. Joel emphasizes the importance of having people come forward and speak up. " Speaking up is key, we need to make a difference. We need to teach not only our children, but those that surround us every day, what is acceptable and respectful and fair and what is not."
JETELOVE asked; “How would you bolster human rights literacy?”. He replied; " We need to continue to sensitize people to what systemic racism is, and the difference between systemic racism and racism. If you don’t change the system, no solution will ever come out of this. Many have become complacent, and accept that this is our reality, that it’s sometimes unjust, and that racism exists, and decide not to talk about it in the hopes that it just goes away. In this day and age that is unacceptable. “
What are the greatest challenges in your global community? We asked. Joel says: " Getting people to speak up."
“ What is your philosophy regarding work / life balance? Joel says; "Just to be present in the moment, when I’m with my family, I’m with my family, when it’s time to work, it’s time to work. There are a lot of moving pieces in the day to day but you need to be able to focus and deal with it one at a time. “
JETELOVE asked; "Do you feel that there are sufficient resources to help those in need?" Joel replied; "We need to see a change regarding homelessness both on the provincial and municipal level. Also, regarding systemic racism, there isn’t enough support. The Red Coalition is self-funded and we currently have 9 volunteers; however, we do have enough work for 40, as we get multiple calls on a daily basis."
We asked Joel how he prioritizes multiple projects when they all seem equally important. He says; "They are all important issues, we look where we can make significant change for the population as a whole, what is for the greater good of the people”, he says.
JETELOVE asked; "How can we participate in helping stop systemic racism in the day to day?”Joel says: " It is extremely important to recognize what systemic racism is. It starts at the top. I would love our Premier to acknowledge the terminology and to better understand the difference between systemic racism and racism so that change can occur once people have been properly trained and sensitized”.
We asked, “Tell us about your greatest work related accomplishment”. Joel says: "My greatest work related accomplishment was the decision to move forward with the Red Coalition." He initially wanted to start a political party which would predominantly stand up for issues related to race, as well as candidates from various ethnic backgrounds.
“What plans do you have in the next five years?” we asked. Joel said he would love to expand the Red Coalition so they could continue to help people. It would be ideal for it to be from the East to the West. He would love to have an office in each province. Currently there is an office in Ottawa and Quebec and continue to fight, defend and educate. Not only talkthe talk but walk the walk.
Thank you Joel for being the voice for so many, for your hard work and perseverance. We look forward to accompanying you on this important journey.
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