UNB Alumni
Telling our #ProudlyUNB stories

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

Author: UNB Alumni

Posted on Mar 9, 2023

Category: UNB Fredericton , Inspiring Stories , Podcast , Education

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.

Where to listen: 

Links and resources:  

Thanks to:  

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