Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Bromley Armstrong Made it His Mission to Right the Wrongs

By Neil Armstrong

Photo credit: Eddie Grant      Bromley Armstrong presents the Bromley L. Armstrong award, initiated by the Toronto &York Region Labour Council, to retired trade unionist, Herman Stewart, on May 30, 2014 in Toronto.

Bromley Lloyd Armstrong was fearless, outspoken and a strong fighter against injustice and racial discrimination.

The veteran civil rights and human rights leader, community organizer and trade unionist passed away peacefully at Centenary Hospital in Scarborough, Ontario on August 17, 2018 at the age of 92.

Growing up in Jamaica in the 1930s, he considered trade unionist, Alexander Bustamante, who later became Jamaica’s first prime minister in 1962 “a role model and hero of mine.”

“When I left school and went to work for R. Hanna and Sons, I did everything possible to emulate “Busta,” as he was called, by trying to effectively represent the interests of the thirty-five workers in my department,” says Armstrong in his autobiography “Bromley: Tireless Champion for Just Causes” written with Sheldon Taylor.

That concern for the working class would underpin his early involvement in the labour movement after he left Jamaica for Canada in December 1947, starting with his first job as a factory worker at Massey Harris (later named Massey Ferguson), a multinational corporation.

He was concerned about the poor working conditions there and became active in the United Auto Workers Union, Local 439 from 1948-1956, and was a member of the Toronto and District Labour Council from 1949-1956.

“Bromley Armstrong was a dedicated civil rights activist who fought not just for his fellow Jamaican-Canadians but for everybody who was discriminated against because of race,” says Ruth Lor Malloy whose work with Armstrong is documented in the National Film Board of Canada film, “Journey to Justice,” directed by Roger McTair and “Welcome to Dresden, a film directed by Esery Mondesir.

“I had the honour to work with him in 1954 on the Dresden restaurant discrimination cases, along with Hugh Burnett, and the Joint Labour Committee on Human Rights. He was very bitter about the racial slurs he experienced in Canada but instead of just feeling sorry for himself, he made it his mission to right the wrongs. He will be sorely missed,” she said.

Their efforts tested the effectiveness of the Fair Accommodations Practices Act passed by the Leslie Frost government in 1954. They were keenly interested in Chapter 28, section 2 and 6 which stated that: "No persons shall deny to any person or class of persons the accommodation, services, or facilities available in any place to which the public is customarily admitted because of the race, creed, colour, nationality, ancestry, or place of origin of such person or class of persons."

Speaking of their test of the law, Lor Malloy said: "Our group did some testing and as a result of our test and a later one we did, the restaurant owner was fined."

Photo contributed 
Alan Borovoy, Ruth Lor and Bromley Armstrong on June 15, 2012 at a meeting of the Ontario Human Rights Commission which marked the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Ontario Human Rights Code. The Ontario Human Rights Commission was established in 1961 as the successor to the Ontario Anti-Discrimination Commission (established 1958). Borovoy was the Canadian lawyer and human rights activist best known as the longtime general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA).

Armstrong was born in Kingston, Jamaica on February 9, 1926 – the fourth of seven children to Eric Vernon and Edith Miriam Armstrong (nee Heron).

He became the youngest member of the Negro Citizenship Committee in 1951 which organized a delegation, led by community stalwart, Donald Moore, to Ottawa in 1954 to urge the federal government to change Canada’s immigration policy which discriminated against people of colour.

June Veecock, a retired director of human rights at the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), says Armstrong made the greatest contribution in fighting racial injustice, starting at Massey Ferguson working with trade unionist, Dennis McDermott.

She said although Armstrong left the labour movement many years ago he maintained that spirit of activism fighting injustice.

“I would say that Bromley had my back while I was in that position because it wasn’t easy. We were trying to get our affiliates to come onboard with OFL policies against racial discrimination – discrimination of all forms.”

Veecock said she could always rely on Armstrong to give her a historical perspective in terms of the early efforts of the labour movement in fighting racism and discrimination.

She was honoured to be the first recipient of the Bromley L. Armstrong Award established by the Toronto & York Region Labour Council in 2004 to “commemorate
the courage, dedication and outstanding service of Bromley L. Armstrong to the
Labour and Human Rights Movement in Canada.”

Herman Stewart, a former president of the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA) and a retired trade unionist, and Marie Clarke Walker, secretary-treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress, have also been recipients of the award.

“I got involved in the Black community in Canada because of Bromley,” says Stewart noting that his first encounter with Armstrong was back in 1981.

Stewart was appearing before the Ontario Labour Relations Board as a union organizer and Armstrong was a member of the tribunal hearing the case.

As soon as the meeting was adjourned for lunch, the elder trade unionist went over to talk with Stewart.

He did two things which typified the kind of man he was, said Stewart. “The first thing he said to me was, “It’s good to see you because there’s so few of you in leadership in union. I’m going to get you a list of the others and you guys must keep in touch, call them up, go meet for lunch because we need more of you in the labour movement.”

The second thing was that he needed people like Stewart to get involved in the community and the best way to do that was to join the JCA.

Armstrong, one of founders of the JCA in 1962, served as its third president from 1971-1972.

Stewart was a bit hesitant because he was involved in the New Democratic Party (NDP) and in the labour movement, but Armstrong pointed out to him that he was not doing anything directly with the community.

“He said we need that kind of voice that you have, meaning on the left, to balance things at the JCA and his argument was so powerful that I joined.”

Stewart said he quickly looked to Armstrong as his role model and mentor because he stood for things that he strongly believed in, such as social justice and “calling a spade a spade and not being afraid to rock the boat” thus becoming a “champion of the working class.”

He said Armstrong knew that his life might be in danger when he went to Dresden, “where they wouldn’t let black people sit in the restaurants” and he challenged them.

“When people could not rent apartments in Toronto, Bromley with the help of the Labour Council of Toronto went out and he challenged them. He exposed them and those are characteristics that showed me the type of person he was and I gravitated to him.”

Stewart continued: “Our community is richer for him because today we can go in any restaurant to eat, if we have the money. We can go and rent any apartment if we want. Back in 1947 when Bromley came here they had parks downtown that had signs that said ‘No Blacks Allowed.’ Today, we can go in any park and sit down and relax. We did not have any human rights when Bromley started on this journey and today we have human rights. Whether it was human rights, whether it was accommodation, whether it was immigration, he was always there.”

He said Armstrong’s legacy has to be cherished. “Every time we think about all the things that have changed for the better in Toronto we have to associate that with his name because he was a leading voice.”

Armstrong helped establish the umbrella organization, the National Council of Jamaicans in Ontario, which eventually expanded to the National Council of Jamaicans and Supportive Organizations to include other Caribbean nationals. He served as its first president in 1986.

“He pushed for the credit union that the JCA had because he thought that financial independence would empower our community. He was very disappointed when we lost that and that was one of his hopes – that we would some day get that credit union back up.”

Photo credit: Eddie Grant   Bromley Armstrong presents the Bromley L. Armstrong award to the 2014 recipient, Herman Stewart, accompanied by Marie Clarke Walker, left, and June Veecock -- both have been recipients of the annual award.

Clarke Walker describes this moment as bittersweet -- “It’s bitter, obviously, because we all want our mentors, our icons to be around forever.”

She says Armstrong was someone she would take advice from because he knew the movement and knew her from the time she came to Canada.

“He was somebody I trusted. Why I say bittersweet is because everything that’s happening right now with 45[Donald Trump], the rise of the alt-right, the rise of hate, the rise of discrimination…he worked so hard to combat all of that and to see it now rearing its ugly head in the way that it is, I don’t think that he would want to be around to see,” she notes, indicating that after the stroke he suffered a few years ago she thinks he’s in a better place.

She said Armstrong’s public persona was the same as he was personally – he was kind, gentle and thoughtful.

“He talked about racism, discrimination out in the public; he talked about those things at home as well.”

She said after the stroke she went to visit him with her mother, veteran trade unionist Beverley Johnson, and although it was difficult for him to talk at times “he spent the entire visit talking about politics, politics of the trade union movement, politics of the country – that was his joy, that was his love and that was his passion.”

Clarke Walker said Armstrong read the newspaper everyday and if anyone called and asked for advice he would give it to them.

She said he never stopped talking about how proud he was of members of the community that spoke out and spoke up and that continued to challenge around racism and discrimination.

The CLC secretary-treasurer said one of the reasons she was able to get through the issues she faced in the labour movement was because of Armstrong who alongside another trade union leader Fred Upshaw constantly told her that they were proud of her efforts. They also provided her with constructive criticism.

“I think in the last couple of years we’ve lost a number of people in the Black community who truly believe in justice and were not about themselves.”

Lascelles ‘Al Peabody’ Small, a longtime friend, describes Armstrong as a pioneer who fought to get black people employed as operators of Toronto Transit Commission vehicles, not just as cleaners of the lines.

“A lot of things he fought for, he was respected on Bathurst Street; he was respected on Eglinton Avenue. He was highly respected.”

Small noted that Armstrong, then a commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, played a leading role in the demonstration held outside city hall in August 1978 after Nova Scotia-born Buddy Evans was fatally shot by a police officer at the Flying Disco Tavern in Toronto.

“I arrived at the Toronto city hall at 9: 00 a.m. along with Contrast newspaper publisher, Al Hamilton, entrepreneur Denham Jolly, and a few others. We joined those who had assembled. They were mostly young people, and together we marched around city hall,” writes Armstrong in his autobiography.

Photo credit: Francine Buchner       Karen Richards of TD Canada Trust presents the Lifetime Achievement Award to Bromley Armstrong at the 29th BBPA Harry Jerome Awards on April 30, 2011.

The community stalwart was a founder or founding member of numerous organizations, including the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, Black Business and Professional Association, and the first Caribbean Soccer Club.

He also sat on many boards and committees, including the Toronto Mayor’s Committee on Race Relations, Canadian Centre for Ethics and Corporate Affairs, the Gleaner Company (NA) Inc. and JN Money Services (Canada).

Armstrong was also the publisher of the Islander newspaper from 1973-1977 which chronicled “events affecting the various solitudes making up Canada’s 1970s’ Black community.”

In 1994, he was invested with the Order of Canada; in 1992, the Order of Ontario; and in 1983, the Order of Distinction, Jamaica.

Photo contributed   R. Roy McMurtry, chancellor of York University and Rhonda Lenton,  president and vice-chancellor pose with Bromley Armstrong who was conferred with an honorary Doctor of Laws on June 11, 2013.

On June 11, 2013, Armstrong received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from York University for his demonstrated dedication, passion and lifelong commitment to the battle against racism.

The longtime resident of Pickering, Ontario is survived by his wife, Marlene, his best friend for forty-seven years.

He was father to children, Lana, Linda (predeceased), Everald (Ada), Malcolm, Kevin (Andrea), Bromley Jr. (Jay), Anita, Desmond (Alice), brother to Monica (Frankie), grandfather to eighteen grandchildren, great-grandfather to seventeen great grandchildren, uncle and great-uncle to many nieces and nephews and a great friend to many.

Visitation will be on Tuesday, August 28, 4:00-8:00 p.m. at McEachnie Funeral Home, 28 Old Kingston Road in Ajax, Ontario.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. at the Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, 796 Eyer Drive in Pickering, Ontario. Interment will follow from 12:30-12:45 p.m. at the Erskine Cemetery, North Corners of Fairport Road and Finch Avenue in Pickering.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to P.A.C.E. Canada (pacecanada.org/donate).

Photo credit: Francine Buchner 
Labour and human rights leader, Bromley Armstrong with then secretary-treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress, Yussuff Hassan, recipient of the Bromley Armstrong award.  

Photo contributed
Bromley Armstrong and Ruth Lor in Dresden, Ontario at Uncle Tom's Cabin Heritage Site. They are with Steven Cook of the Heritage  Trust there.

Photo credit: Francine Buchner
Paul Barnett, entrepreneur and Bromley Armstrong, human rights activist at the launch of the Jamaica 50th Anniversary coffee table book  “Jamaicans in Canada - When Ackee Meets Codfish” on April 12, 2012 at Toronto's Harbourfront Centre.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said the efforts of Armstrong, Lor Malloy, Hugh Burnett and the Joint Labour Committee on Human Rights resulted in the passing of the Fair Accommodations Practices Act. The law was actually passed earlier in 1954 but had never been tested. They tested it and won in the courts.

[A special feature on Bromley Armstrong has been published in the North American Weekly Gleaner, Aug. 30-Sept. 5, 2018.]

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Mixed Reaction to Ontario Government Plan to Cut Size of Toronto City Council

By Neil Armstrong

Photo contributed     Michael Thompson, Toronto city councillor, Ward 37 - Scarborough Centre

The move by the Ontario government to reduce the size of Toronto City Council by almost half and to cancel elections for regional chairs in Peel, York, Niagara and Muskoka is being met with mixed reactions from many Jamaican and Black community leaders.

Jamaica-born Michael Thompson, councillor for Ward 37 Scarborough Centre since 2003, -- the only black city councillor -- welcomes the plan.

Just hours before the nomination deadline on July 27 for the October 22 municipal elections, Premier Doug Ford announced the Better Local Government Act that, if passed, will “align the City of Toronto's municipal wards and the number of councillors with the number and configuration of the current 25 provincial and federal electoral districts.”

He said reducing the size of the city council is estimated to save Toronto taxpayers more than $25.5 million over four years. 

This means cutting the number of councillors from 47 to 25, almost half the size.

“I think it’s a good move. It’s a move that, if done properly, could do the very things which we want to do which is to ensure that an efficient decision-making, which is council, could reduce some of the delays and the backlog and time that it takes us to do things,” says Thompson.

He says as long as it is supported with the appropriate staff to help councillors to service a larger area, he thinks that it should be fine.

Thompson thinks that there are some governance issues that should also be addressed going forward.

He said he expected the move but it was just a question of when; he thought maybe it would be done in 2022.

The councillor has maintained a long friendship with Ford who called him the night before the announcement to discuss the issue.

“He has been very consistent with respect to this desire for reducing the size of council. So now that he is in a position where legislation allows him to do that he is obviously using the tools that he has available at his disposal to address what he fundamentally believes should be changes to a council, in terms of its size.”

Thompson says Los Angeles has about four million people and has fifteen councillors. 

He thinks the concern that some Torontonians have is about ensuring that people get the level of service, which can happen, with respect to ensuring there is the appropriate staff component.
He says he has four staff members to help him do some of the work that he has to do in terms of reaching out to the community but he is also very hands-on as well.

“I think it can work and I think if we can deliver service in the most efficient way, reducing the cost, reducing the time that it takes the big issues and so on – invariably you will because of the sheer size of council – and I think we can reach consensus in a much efficient, faster, smoother way. Because oftentimes people are compelled to talk for the sake of talking because people judge your participation based on ‘he’s not saying anything that means he or she is ineffective.’ That’s not the case, but that’s generally what happens, so people are always willing to speak on issues just so they can say that they spoke. That takes an inordinate amount of time.”

Photo contributed Beverley 'Bev' Salmon, former Toronto city councillor

Beverley “Bev” Salmon, Toronto's first black female municipal councillor, says she is very dismayed.

She was on metro council and said even with the existence of local councillors their workload was huge.

Salmon was elected to North York City Council in 1985 and continued as a Metro Toronto councillor until her retirement in 1997.

“At one point I was on over twenty committees and worked evenings, weekends, reading long in the night,” she says noting that she can’t understand Ford’s move.

Salmon said unless the government plans to upload the welfare and social services back to the province then she could see that councillors could perhaps have a lighter workload.

The province had downloaded a lot of services to the municipal level and that really made a very heavy workload, she said.

Photo contributed    Kamala-Jean Gopie, community advocate and philanthropist

Kamala-Jean Gopie, one of the first immigrant minority women to run for public office in Ontario, says while Ford was critical of the consultation by the former Liberal government regarding the sex education curriculum, he has not consulted anyone on this plan. 

“And you’re coming to change how the city runs and you don’t even give people a heads-up. There’s no consultation. Where is ‘for the people’?”

Gopie, who ran in provincial politics in 1981 and 1984, said the issue for her is the process by which Ford reached his decision.

“We live in a democracy. We live in the largest city in Canada, the fourth largest in North America, and we’re bigger than four provinces – Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and I think Saskatchewan. We have more population than those provinces. And now we can’t govern?”

She said the reality is that over ten years, Premier Mike Harris did amalgamation “against our will and said it was going to bring savings and all kinds of things and it did quite the contrary.”

Photo contributed   Rob Davis, former Toronto city councillor

“I think it’s an opportunity to break up the cartel of elected officials and allow people from other communities a chance in representing their community,” says Rob Davis, the first black councillor of amalgamated Toronto.

He served as York city councillor from 1991-1997 and was a member of Toronto city council from 1997 to 2000.

 “There are people who have been there for five, six terms, but it tells you that they have an undue advantage in the process and it’s incumbent on people like the premier of the province to maybe disrupt that.”

Davis said it is something that Ford had always advocated for and he thinks the unfortunate thing is the timing.

“Making the change in the middle of the campaign is not the ideal circumstance. What I would hope will be included in the legislation and we will know soon, when it comes out, is that he will include term lines.” 

Davis said this might be the first step in getting more people of colour elected to public office – that’s his hope.

Photo contributed    Garnett Manning, former Brampton city councillor

Former Brampton city councillor, Garnett Manning, says he has mixed feelings towards the plan.

He said in the 2000 election Brampton had 17 councillors and that number was reduced to 10 by 2003 through a process.

“It’s nothing new to reduce council. There’s always a time when you have to make some adjustment and reconstruct your council depending on the growth you feel is feasible for good representation.”

However, Manning said as much as it is the right of a premier to make changes, he still believes that it is “undemocratic, rude and disrespectful to the people of Toronto” the way Ford did it.

He said in Peel Region they worked hard to make the regional chair position an elected office.

The former councillor said to go through the democratic process and have that individual elected was always the desire. 

“Eventually it was done, and for him [Ford] to reverse it is really taking us back.”

Operation Black Vote Canada (OBVC) says a change like this is unprecedented, especially midstream during a campaign and three months prior to Election Day. “People were not prepared for this.”

“We really don't know how it will affect our candidates. Candidates have made their decisions to run based on having 47 Wards. We will have to wait and see what the real effects are to our candidates and communities. 

“What we do know is that there are 22 less opportunities to represent people across the city. Those living in marginalized communities will be negatively affected due to less representation and attention to their voices and issues.”

 The organization said there are also 22 less opportunities for “people in our community to put their names forward and run.”

“Those who were already registered will now have to run against 2 or 3 incumbents with name recognition and as we know it is harder to unseat one incumbent, never mind 2 or 3. The 3 new Wards were an opportunity to run with no incumbents and a better chance of winning.

“ We believed that we need more diverse voices at the municipal level that represent the breadth of this great city and this may not be the case as a result of this decision,” said Velma Morgan, chair of OBVC.

The organization held its municipal elections boot camp on August 11 in Toronto for those in the Black community who are running as candidates. 

Meanwhile, the Jamaican Canadian Association says it is “deeply concerned about these undemocratic actions, the lack of consultation with Toronto residents, lack of planning and transparency and involvement in local government. 

“Ward 7 Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti has publicly expressed support for these changes without thought to the impact this will have on residents in his ward. JCA encourages you to speak out about these changes. Contact Premier Ford, your MPP and city councillor.”

 Better Local Government Act

The series of local government reforms proposed by Ford and Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, would allow for the redistribution of Toronto-area school board trustees to align with the proposed new ward boundaries, while maintaining the existing number of trustees.

The Act would extend the nomination deadline for some council candidates and school board trustees from July 27 to September 14, 2018, with additional regulations to help previously nominated candidates transition to the new riding ward boundaries.

The Municipal Act and the Municipal Elections Act would be amended to reverse changes, introduced in 2016, that mandate the election of new regional chairs in York, Peel, Niagara and Muskoka Regions and return the system that was in place prior to 2016. Other regional chair elections will remain unchanged.

These changes would be in effect for the upcoming October 22, 2018 municipal elections and the election date would remain unchanged. 

The government said changes to Toronto's municipal election timelines would only apply to city council and school board trustee elections and would only apply for the current election cycle. 

[This story was written before the Government of Ontario passed the Better Local Government Act on August 14, 2018. It has been published in the Aug. 16-22 issue of the North American Weekly Gleaner.]

Friday, 10 August 2018

Torontonians Welcome Emancipation Day with a Train Ride

By Neil Armstrong

Rita Cox, veteran librarian, historian and community leader was the conductor of the Emancipation Day Underground Freedom Train Ride in Toronto.

Hundreds of people gathered in Toronto’s busiest transportation hub minutes before midnight to celebrate and usher in August 1 – Emancipation Day.

For the sixth year in a row, the Emancipation Day Underground Freedom Train Ride was held on July 31, starting at Union Station with drumming, songs, performances and speeches and traveling onboard a Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) train to Sheppard West Station where all those in attendance gathered and sang the Black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

Following in the tradition of Harriet Tubman, the renowned conductor of the Underground Railroad, Rita Cox, veteran librarian, historian and community leader, was the conductor of the train ride.

“Let’s all be drums. Let us praise, honour, thank and celebrate our ancestors and all those freedom fighters who have gone before and those among us who have and are still beating the drum for both freedom and justice,” said Cox, noting that, “We have come a long way as a people.”

She said there is still so such to do like fighting racism, injustice, inequality and encouraged everyone to invoke the “power of those ancient rhythms within us to come together to celebrate and build community, to heal, to really communicate with each other.”

“To renew faith in ourselves, to dispel negativity among us, to unify and encourage solidarity. Let that rhythm of the drum within us create a cohesive community cause that’s the only way we can fight,” said Cox speaking on the theme, “To Be A Drum.”

Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard of Nova Scotia said there was not a day that goes by that she does not “bear the weight of the responsibility of speaking, thinking, feeling, remembering the realities of African people in this country.”

She encouraged the participants to turn their energy for celebrating Emancipation Day into fighting anti-black racism which happens in Canada every day.

Thomas Bernard said she has introduced systemic anti-black racism in the senate to bring national awareness in this Decade of People of African Descent to the everyday reality of black people here.

“Yes, we have freedom but do we really have freedom? And really, until all of us are free, none of us are free.”

She also said Rosemary Sadlier, former president of the Ontario Black History Society, had passed the torch to her to push the federal government to proclaim August 1 as a national day to remember emancipation.

Councillor Josh Colle, chair of the TTC, said speaking at the celebration would probably be one of his last acts in public service. He will not seek re-election in the upcoming municipal election but leave politics to return to the private sector.

He said seven years ago Itah Sadu of A Different Booklist and Louis March of the Zero Gun Violence Movement came to him with the idea of the freedom train ride.

He wondered if anyone would attend but acknowledged that over the years the number of participants has grown exponentially.

Colle said he has moved a motion at city council to recognize and celebrate the contribution of Dudley Laws in the city of Toronto.

“That motion passed unanimously last week and all I can say it is long overdue,” he said noting of the fearlessness of the late Jamaica-born community leader.

He said while it may be his last freedom train as a public official it will not be his last such ride.

“In keeping with this year’s theme “To Be A Drum,” we thought it fitting to celebrate master drummers, Muhtadi Thomas and Quammie Williams. These drum majors for justice have uplifted our community and inspired generations,” said Itah Sadu.

She said over the last six years the event’s success has been enriched by the drummers, dancers and poets.

[This story has been published in the North American Weekly Gleaner, Aug. 9-15, 2018.]

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Caribana References in Some Books in Toronto

By Neil Armstrong

Photo credit: Anthony Berot      Grand Parade, Peeks Toronto Caribbean Carnival

What books would you recommend reading that mention CARIBANA in Toronto…apart from Cecil Foster’s “Caribana, the Greatest Celebration”?

Since this will be the weekend of the grand parade of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival or what many still call Caribana and the many parties featuring soca, calypso and reggae artists in the city, I’m thinking about books that I’ve read which mention CARIBANA.

I recently read G. Barton-Sinkia’s debut novel, “By the Next Pause,” which has a vivid depiction of Caribana. As a result of that, I pulled a few books from my library that showcase some aspects of the festival.

“A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging” by Dionne Brand

“How to describe this mix of utter, hopeless pain and elation leaning against this door? Caribana, on Lakeshore Boulevard in the city of Toronto. There are  some one million people there, some are costumed, all are in the throes of the most unfettered pleasure: dancing, singing, joking, eating. This is the major Black festival in Canada, Caribbean in origin, Black now in enactment.”

Brand goes on to describe the shout outs: “Every once in a while a band leader or DJ comes along and calls out these origins: “Anybody from…?” placing a country or territory after the preposition, to which there are screamed acknowledgements from sections of the crowd.” – (page 41)

“A Place Called Heaven: The Meaning of Being Black in Canada” by Cecil Foster

“I remember my first year in Canada, how four months after arriving in a new country and feeling homesick, I went to the Caribana festival in downtown Toronto and instantly felt at home. There, I found the music, the faces, the people, the accents, the food and the excitement of the Caribbean. Over the years, we would joke that Caribana is the best spiritual tonic for the social and political alienation so many of us feel in Canada, including so many of us born and raised in this country.” – (page 248, Chapter 10 ‘Caribana Dreams’)

“In the Black: My Life” by B. Denham Jolly

“The first Caribana was the largest-drawing centennial event held in Toronto that year, and its success persuaded the Governor General of Jamaica, Sir Clifford Campbell, to cancel his trip home from Montreal’s Expo 67 so he could swing by Toronto to attend the Sunday event.

“Caribana has gone on to become North America’s biggest street festival and biggest Caribbean festival. It’s final parade attracts a million attendees, and the overall festival attendance is typically around two million.” – (page 143)

Jolly also mentions that he attended most of the early festivals and for many years hosted an after-party at his house. He shares the reason he stopped hosting the parties.

“Emancipation Day: Celebrating Freedom in Canada” by Natasha L. Henry

“Early Emancipation Day celebrations in the British Caribbean began to take place as part of Carnival and integrated numerous elements of other African-influenced cultural rituals such as jonkunnu in Jamaica and canboulay in Trinidad. These festivities involved the playing of musical instruments, singing and dancing, parading, theatrical acts/shows, and feasts. Over a century later, Caribana, a carnival festival in Toronto, would originate from these roots.”

These are just four of the many books here in Toronto about CARIBANA. Which books would you add to a reading list about the festival?


Photo credit: Anthony Berot      Joella Crichton (Face of the Festival) has won the "Queen of the Bands" nine times consecutively.

Joella Crichton (Face of the Festival) has nine consecutive wins as “Queen of the Bands.” She is aiming to walk again with that title for the tenth time tonight.
Aug. 2, 7pm-11:55pm – King & Queen Showcase, Peeks Toronto Caribbean Carnival, Allan Lamport Stadium, Toronto 

Aug. 3, 7pm-midnight - Pan Alive, Allan Lamport Stadium, Toronto

Aug. 3, 12:00pm – Flag Raising to mark Jamaica’s 56th anniversary of Independence, Brampton City Hall

Aug. 4, 8:30am-8:30pm – Grand Parade, Peeks Toronto Caribbean Carnival, Exhibition Place (CNE), Toronto

Aug. 3-6 - Island Soul, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto

Aug. 5, 12pm-11pm – Blockobana, Park, Regent Park, Toronto

Aug. 5 & 6 – JAMBANA One World Festival, Rose Theatre and CAA Centre, Brampton

Aug. 5, 1pm – Flag Raising to mark Jamaica’s 56th anniversary of Independence, Toronto City Hall, Podium Roof

Aug. 5, 3pm - Jamaica Independence Church Service; (after City Hall flag raising); Faith Sanctuary Pentecostal Church, 1901 Jane St., Toronto. Call 416-746-5772, Ext. 249


Jamaican Canadian Association’s 56th annual Independence Gala; 7:00pm; Jamaican Canadian Centre, 995 Arrow Rd., Toronto. Keynote speaker: Olivia Grange, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Jamaica. Call 416-746-5772/vicepresident@jcaontario.org
Cost: $80

Book Launch: ‘The African-Jamaican Aesthetic: Cultural Retention and Transformation Across Borders’ by Dr. Lisa Tomlinson; 6:30pm; A Different Booklist Cultural Centre, 777-779 Bathurst St., Toronto.

Chronixx and Zinc Fence Redemption performs at the 12th annual Manifesto Festival of Community and Culture; Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto. mnfsto.com

Rastafest Health & Wellness Community Fair; 12:00-6:00 p.m; Yorkgate Mall, 1 Yorkgate Blvd., Toronto.