#27: Balarama Holness on education, politics and confronting systemic racism

Balarama Holness (MEd’16) is a former CFL athlete turned social entrepreneur, community organizer and anti-racism activist. A native of Montreal, he played professional football for the Montreal Alouettes, with whom he won the Grey Cup in 2010. He’s also well educated, having earned a Master’s in Education from the University of New Brunswick and a Bachelor of Civil Law and Juris Doctor from McGill University. In 2018, Balarama gained political notoriety by gaining support to force Montreal’s municipal government to launch a public inquiry into systemic racism and discrimination in the city. In 2021, Balarama announced his run for Mayor of Montreal under a new, community-led political party, Movement Montreal. Now, he’s published a book that recounts his journey from an ashram in West Virginia to becoming a leader in Montreal committed to reshaping society as we know it.

In this episode:

  • His unusual upbringing and how he felt marginalized upon returning to Montreal.

  • How he got into football and how sports got him back on track.

  • Why his advanced education was his way to empower himself and his needs in society.

  • The step into politics and activism, and ideas for how citizens can press for true democracy and open access.

  • The tensions between Quebec and “Rest of Canada” (and Montreal) over discriminatory laws.

  • How he and others are pressing forward to eradicate racism in Montreal and beyond.

Links and resources:

Balarama Holness website

His book, Eyes on the Horizon: My Journey Toward Justice

Thanks to:

Our alumni host, Katie Davey

Music by alumni artist, Beats of Burden

Our alumni Affinity Partners, TD Insurance and Manulife

  To listen to UNBeknownst and for more info on the podcast, the hosts and how to subscribe to new episode alerts, visit our website

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