Saturday, 24 November 2018

Students Urged to Have a Purpose and a Drive

By Neil Armstrong

Photo credit: Natural Images  Leadership by Design (LBD) cohort 2018 students who were inducted into the signature program of the Lifelong Leadership Institute (LLI) on Nov. 3 at OISE, University of Toronto

Forty-four Grade 10 high school students have been inducted into the Leadership by Design (LBD) program, a signature leadership-development initiative of the Lifelong Leadership Institute in Toronto.

The students who entered Grade 10 in September are the newest cohorts of the program. The others are the cohort 2017 (Grade 11) and cohort 2016 (Grade 12) students who are graduating from high school next June.

 The LBD program aims to provide an array of opportunities for the personal,
social and career development of Black youth.

The students will remain enrolled in the program throughout their Grades 10, 11 and 12 years, and throughout their years of post-secondary studies.

Speaking at the induction ceremony on November 3 at OISE, University of Toronto, Cornell Wright, a corporate lawyer who is the co-head of mergers and acquisitions at Torys LLP, told them that public schools are one of the most important institutions in society because every student has the same opportunity.

Using his life as an example, the recipient of the Black Business and Professional Association's (BBPA) first Harry Jerome Award for leadership said he learnt about leadership from he was 13 or 14 and had a summer job stuffing envelopes in the office of his uncle, Trevor Massey, who was the registrar at Centennial College.

He said he was inspired from seeing a black person in charge in an office. Massey, now retired, is the chair of the Lifelong Leadership Institute.

 “What is it that you want to become? What is it that you want to do that is going to make the world a better place?”

Photo credit: Natural Images     Cornell Wright, a corporate lawyer and co-head of mergers and acquisitions at Torys LLP, was the keynote speaker

Wright encouraged the students to have a purpose, a vision and a sense of what they want to accomplish.

He implored them to have a drive, noting that there are people who wait for things to happen to them and others who aim to make things happen.

Currently, the chair of the board of directors of the National Ballet of Canada, Wright urged them to have confidence.

People can sometimes doubt themselves too much and I think that you have to actually reverse that. You have to ask yourself not how can I do something but why shouldn’t I do something. Reverse the onus,” he said, noting that confidence is the number one thing that most people lack.

The lawyer told the students that their biggest mentors were the people in the auditorium – their parents – and advised them to open their mind and look for mentors, some of whom will not necessarily look like them.

Wright said the single greatest thing he had in his career were two parents who gave him the confidence to believe in himself and drove him to the many activities that he wanted to be involved in.

“You have to open your mind and look for mentors, people who will help build you up, help support you and help push you to the next destination.”

He told them that they need to have concern, compassion and a sense of community as they not only have an opportunity but a responsibility to actually help others and to engage in the community.

 “It’s not about succeeding by oneself for oneself. It’s about what you can do to help others, to engage others, to lift up the broader community.”

Citing statistics about the first-year students at law school at the University of Toronto, whom he recently addressed, Wright said 59% of them have parents who were born outside of Canada.

One quarter of the students were born outside of Canada, 53% of them are women, one-third of the class is a visible minority or a person of colour, and 84% were the first in their family to attend law school.

“That’s incredible diversity so none of you should think that somehow this is out of reach, that this is not for you; you belong, and all of this is available to you.”

Wright told them that Canada is an incredibly diverse country but institutions haven’t evolved in perfect step with the diversification of the population.

“You’ve got a perfect opportunity to be at the forefront and you’ve got to prepare to be at the forefront to be moving things ahead, to be pushing boundaries.

He said sometimes people ask themselves when is the right time to begin thinking about leadership -- he thinks the time is now.

On the issue of barriers, Wright said he had never felt that being a black person affected his opportunities.

“The world of Toronto today is very different than the world of Toronto when my parents came to Canada from Jamaica in the 1960s so all of you should not be thinking about those things as barriers. The barriers are lack of confidence, lack of conviction, lack of purpose, lack of drive,” he said.

He told them that the Black community needs more of them as business people, as people with capital and controlling capital who “can sponsor incredible initiatives like this.”

“We need more of you in government where key decisions are being made, but this will only happen if each of you here today makes a decision to be part of it, to be at the table, to stand up and be counted as a citizen and as leader.”

He told them to aim to be leaders not just in the Black community but in the broader community. 

[This story has been published in the North American Weekly Gleaner, Nov. 21-28, 2018.]

On Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, RBC and Leadership by Design (LBD) will collaborate on a free workshop on digital coding -- "Hacker Hipster or Hustler? Discover Your Tech Identity" -- for the students of the LLI's signature program. This will be held at RBC Waterpark Place Auditorium, 88 Queens Quay West in Toronto from 9:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.

New Executive Director of Alzheimer Society Wants to Give Back to Community

By Neil Armstrong

Photo contributed    Camille Isaacs-Morell, executive director of the Alzheimer Society of Montreal

Camille Isaacs-Morell, the newly appointed executive director of the Alzheimer Society of Montreal, is currently looking at alternative ways of raising funds for the organization.

As a not-for-profit organization, the Society is entirely funded by subventions and funds raised.

She says the corporate sector is highly solicited right now and it’s very difficult “to raise funds the way we’ve traditionally done in the past through big events and golf tournaments and galas.”

“We have to raise money from the community -- these are small donors and people with small businesses -- and we welcome all of that but we do need large sums of money,” says Isaacs-Morell who migrated to Montreal from Kingston, Jamaica in 1993.

She will guide the organization to meet the demand for services that will grow commensurately with the projected increase in diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease and related diseases.

The graduate of Immaculate Conception High School and holder of a BA in Language and Linguistics from the University of the West Indies says there is going to be a 66% increase in the number of persons diagnosed with Alzheimer, that’s nearly 900 to a million people across Canada having some form of dementia in less than 15 years.

“It’s really going to be a big crisis for our health system here in Canada, so that’s one thing. It’s not getting better and it’s not going away. We still haven’t found a cure and until we find a cure we have to provide services for the people with Alzheimer, as well as their caregivers, and support the health professionals in the work that they do.”

Isaacs-Morell was born and raised in Kingston, and after her postsecondary studies she worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade for eight years.

She then did an MBA in International Business and Marketing at the University of Miami at a time when she realized that international relations were going to be more driven by the private sector than by government.

Isaacs-Morell went back to Jamaica for a year and then migrated to Montreal.

After working for 20 years in the field of marketing, she felt that she had topped out in her career and wanted to do something different thus accepting the appointment as assistant executive director of the Alzheimer Society of Montreal last year

Isaacs-Morell was the director of corporate branding at Standard Life Company for its Canadian operations, this was before they sold out and left. She ran marketing campaigns and increased sales and brand awareness.

She did some freelance consulting for a while in between jobs because her position was cut at Standard Life. She was also senior advisor, corporate and content marketing at McKesson Canada.

The marketing expert found that she had a lot to give and also that “as a senior career professional approaching middle age people are not as willing to hire very experienced persons and pay them that salary.”

Her involvement in the not-for-profit sector allowed her to do some short mandates for the Salvation Army and other organizations.

 When the opening came up at the Alzheimer Society, she thought it was a good opportunity for her to use her business and marketing skills there and also to continue to give back to the society.

“I was raised by parents who made me realize that I was fortunate. I was very much aware that there were other people, other children who were not as fortunate as I was.”

She said her parents were very openhanded; her father was a teacher and then became a lecturer at CAST (now the University of Technology) and her mother was a civil servant.

“My parents were very clear with my sister and me that we were fortunate and we followed their example by always being encouraged to serve in some way.”

At Immaculate, she was also encouraged to give to the society and to use her talents in that way.

“Personally, I’m always curious to see what better looks like so that’s what motivates me,” she says.

In a notice of her appointment, Robert Beaudoin, chairman of the board of directors, cites Isaacs-Morell’s involvement in non-profit organizations such as the Anglican Foundation, YWCA Montreal, West Island Palliative Care Residence, Anglican Diocese of Montreal, Black Academic Scholarship Fund, Salvation Army, and Fondation des Arches du Quebec.

“She is an exceptional woman, but also a talented artist who expresses her creativity and values through her painting. There is little doubt, then, that art will be front and centre at the Society with Camille at the helm,” he said.

It was while going through a difficult time when she came to Canada 25 years that she started painting.

Between jobs she was walking down a street and saw that art courses were being offered somewhere. She immediately signed up and the rest is history, she says.

“It just comes naturally and a lot of my paintings that I do I sell a few but I do donate a lot to charities and to other worthy causes.”

Fluent in English, French and Spanish, she often communicated in the latter language when she worked at the foreign affairs and foreign trade ministry.

When former prime minister, P.J. Patterson went to Argentina and Chile she accompanied him on that trip.

[This story was first published in the North American Weekly Gleaner, Nov. 15-21, 2018.]

Sunday, 11 November 2018

When Brothers Speak Celebrates 20 Years

Media Release

Photo credit: Lawrence Kerr   Dwayne Morgan, 2012 Canadian National Team Poetry Slam Champion and 2013 Scarborough Walk of Fame inductee, is the founder of When Brothers Speak.

North America’s largest and longest running showcase of Black male Spoken Word artists celebrates its 20thanniversary on December 8, at Toronto’s St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts. 
The brainchild of Toronto Spoken Word pioneer, Dwayne Morgan, When Brothers Speak annually features poets at the top of their game, amplifying the lived experiences of Black men in a way that hits home with no apologies. 
“It’s hard to believe that it’s been twenty years since I crammed people into the Comfort Zone to introduce people to this idea,” says Morgan. “At the time, I didn’t think it was going to be an annual thing. I just wanted to bring Black men together from both sides of the border to share our experiences.”
For the last fifteen years, the show has been produced at Toronto’s St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, a calculated move by Morgan.  “I remember sitting in that theatre watching a dance performance, and thought that my art form needed to be on that kind of stage as well. In that moment, I decided to elevate the show to a concert, and make it a date of note on the social calendar.”
The 2018 edition of the show will feature performances from Luke Reece, 2017 Canadian National Team Poetry Slam Champion, Eddie Lartley, Canadian National Team Poetry Slam finalist from Hamilton, Joel Francois (New York), German-born, American-raised, Andrew Tyree, the 2010 Individual World Poetry Slam Champion, San Diego’s Rudy Francisco, and is curated by 2012 Canadian National Team Poetry Slam Champion, and 2013 Scarborough Walk of Fame inductee, Dwayne Morgan. 
When Brothers Speak is a raw and uncensored roller coaster ride along the Black experience. With race, continuing to be the backdrop of much social discourse, When Brothers Speak remains a timely and necessary vehicle to address the realities of Black people in North America, especially those who feel pushed to the margins. 
Tickets for the 20thanniversary showcase run between $45 and $55 on Ticketmaster.

Obaaberima Returns to Buddies in Bad Times Theatre

By Neil Armstrong 

Photo credit: Jeremy Mimnagh   Tawiah Ben M'Carthy, writer and performer of the award-winning production, Obaaberima.

Obaaberima, an award-winning play which had its successful premiere in 2012, is returning to Buddies in Bard Times Theatre from November 27 to December 9.

The coming-of-age tale by Tawiah Ben M’Carthy won three Dora Awards for outstanding production, outstanding sound design/composition, and outstanding lighting design.

As Buddies continues its 2018-2019 season, it brings back the first show to have been developed through the Buddies residency program, which has gone on to produce eight mainstage shows including The Gay Heritage Project, Black Boys, and the upcoming Shove it Down My Throat.

Since its debut six years ago, the production has played on stages across the country, garnering rave reviews from coast to coast.

Imprisoned in Canada for committing a violent crime, a young man from Ghana tells his cellmates a story on the eve of his release. While there is risk in sharing his tale, he must tell it to be truly free. Through storytelling, dance, and live music, Obaaberima chronicles a young African-Canadian’s journey across continents, genders, races and sexualities.

“As a performance it’s a tour de force and more than earned M’Carthy the raucous ovation it received. As a play it’s persuasive and touching,” said the Toronto Star in a review.

The play is written and performed by Ghanian-born M’Carthy who earlier this year starred in the remount of Black Boys, another Buddies in Bad Times Theatre production.

Created by Saga Collectif, that 2016 production was nominated for a Dora Mavor Moore Award for outstanding performance – ensemble. 

After embarking on a nation-wide tour to theatres in Vancouver (The Cultch, with Zee Zee Theatre), Calgary (High Performance Rodeo), and Montreal (Espace Libre, with Black Theatre Workshop), Black Boys came back to Buddies for a limited two-week run from February 28-March 11. 

A raw, intimate, and timely exploration of queer male Blackness, Black Boys was created from the lives of three people (Stephen Jackman-Torkoff , Thomas Olajide and M’Carthy) seeking a deeper understanding of themselves, of each other, and of how they encounter the world. 

As they explore their unique identities on stage, they subvert the ways in which gender, sexuality, and race are performed. Theatrical and intimate, the artistic creation wove together the ensemble’s own personal stories in search of an integrated self and a radical imagination.

In Obaaberima, M’Carthy’s performance is directed by artistic director, Evalyn Parry, and accompanied by the live music of award-winning multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer, Kobena Aquaa-Harrison.

The other creative team members are set and costume designer, Camellia Koo; lighting designer, Michelle Ramsay; and stage management by Laura Baxter.

M’Carthy was introduced to theatre in Ghana and trained as an actor at York University. 

As an artist, he uses both African and Western theatre traditions, often combining movement, music, storytelling, poetic text, together with theatrical structure, characterization and design. 

His creator, writer and performer credits include ​The Ken​te Cloth and MaaNomaa, My Brother.

M’Carthy has also worked with companies such as The National Arts Centre of Canada, TheCultch Vancouver, Urban Ink Production, The Globe, Regina, Obsidian Theatre, Tarragon Theatre, MTSpace Theatre and InterArts Matrix as an actor, playwright, director and/or workshop facilitator. 

He is a co-founder of Saga Collectif and is the co-founder/associate artistic director of Blue Bird Theatre Collective.

Buddies in Bad Times will have accessible performances of Obaaberima on the first weekend of December.

A deaf-interpreted performance in ASL will be held on Saturday, December 1 at 8:00 p.m. d/Deaf and hard-of-hearing patrons can access $10 tickets in advance using the code “ASL 10” at checkout. Pay-what-you-can tickets will also be available at the door.

A relaxed performance will be held on Sunday, December 2 at 2:30 p.m. Patrons can book $10 tickets in advance using the code “RP10.”

The previews will be held November 27 and 28, the opening night on November 29 and the closing performance on December 9.

Obaaberima runs Tuesday to Saturday, 8:00 p.m. and on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets are PWYC (pay-what-you-can)-$40. Box Office: 416-975-8555 or

Buddies in Bad Times is at 12 Alexander Street in Toronto.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Toronto Police Service Collaborates with Community Groups in its Recruitment Drive

November 9, 2018
Toronto Police Service to Host Recruitment Information Session
at Jamaican Canadian Centre

Toronto, ON - The Toronto Police Service (TPS), in partnership with the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA) and Caribbean African Canadian Social Services (CAFCAN), will host an information session on TPS employment opportunities at the Jamaican Canadian Centre, 995 Arrow Road on Wednesday, November 14 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

TPS recruiters will provide members of the Black community with information on the organization's hiring process for uniform and civilian jobs.

“This outreach by TPS to the Black community is significant, both in terms of raising awareness about employment opportunities and supporting positive police-community relations. The JCA is pleased to partner with the TPS and CAFCAN to meet both of these objectives,”  says Adaoma Patterson, JCA President.

The TPS is actively recruiting following the lifting of a hiring freeze.

Floydeen Charles-Fridal, Executive Director of CAFCAN, notes, “Policing Toronto's diverse communities means having a diverse and representative force. This information session is an important step towards ensuring that members of the Black community interested in a career with TPS have access to the resources they need to seek employment and be represented in the hiring process.”

Interested community members can RSVP at and can learn more about current employment opportunities at

The TPS is Canada's largest municipal police service, employing over 5,000 uniformed officers and more than 2,000 civilian staff. Established in 1962, the JCA delivers programs and services, provides a physical hub, and advocates to improve the wellbeing of Jamaican, Caribbean and AfricanCanadian communities in the Greater Toronto Area. CAFCAN was founded in 2014 to provide social services to Toronto's Caribbean-and-African Canadian communities.

For comment, contact Sergeant Chris Gordon, TPS Recruiting Section, at 416-808-5646.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

AIDS Prevention Agency Buoyed By its Growth

By Neil Armstrong
Shannon Thomas Ryan, Executive Director of the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention (Black CAP), left, and Andrew B. Campbell, Chair of the Board of Directors
The Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention (Black CAP) says 2018 will be the single biggest year of growth in its history.
In his annual report at the agency’s annual general meeting on September 27, Shannon Thomas Ryan, executive director said since its 2017 AGM, Black CAP has secured more than $395,000 in new funding from the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care, United Way Greater Toronto, the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, the Toronto Urban Health Fund and others to implement new programs and services.
This has resulted in a significant reduction in its accumulated deficit and a reduction of its $80, 000 liability to approximately $30,000.
“We hope to eliminate this liability by the end of the 2018/19 fiscal year and then begin to accumulate a much needed reserve that will allow us to accumulate funds for unplanned expenses and other programming,” says Ryan in the 2017/2018 annual report.
He said this year has also set the foundation for reflection and long-term planning for the agency.
“The dynamic nature of our sector requires that Black CAP constantly reflect on its services as we consider the realities of U=U [Undetectable=Untransmittable], emerging prevention technologies, access to HIV testing and the persistent opioid crisis. We will work to support ongoing dialogue about these issues in the lives of the community members that we work with.”
The Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention has worked for 29 years to curb the HIV epidemic in Toronto’s African, Caribbean and Black (ACB) communities.
Ryan noted that last year the agency made significant gains such as United Way Greater Toronto funding a new program for ACB PHAs [People living with HIV/AIDS] who are experiencing mental health and substance use issues.
The Ministry of Children and Youth Services is now funding a new clinical youth outreach worker position through the Ontario Black Youth Action Plan. The program will support HIV positive and LGBTQ youth in need of clinical counseling supports.
There is also new funding from the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care’s Harm Reduction Fund that will allow the agency to double its harm reduction programming, expanding its harm reduction outreach services beyond the downtown core into the northwest and southeast of the city.
Black CAP also has new programming to increase access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a mental health intervention for men who have sex with men (MSM), and a new intervention for youth called ‘Healthy Love’ also received new investments.
Earlier this year, the agency secured additional funding to divide its program director position into two new positions: director of support services and director of health promotion.
Ryan said these positions will help the agency to better manage its growing 
staff, strengthen programming, better coordinate services and manage staff members.
Staff training in areas such as conflict resolution and mental health continued to be a focus over the year.
“Earlier this year we also negotiated a new benefits plan for our staff, providing
100% drug coverage. This was an especially important change for our HIV positive staff,” he said.
Black CAP has also been engaged in research such as the MSAFIRI study which explores the context of ACB people who acquired HIV following their migration to Canada.
Ryan said this will help “us better understand the context 
of risk for heterosexual men and women, MSM and injection drug using communities.”
“We also continued our participation in pilot studies delivered by other agencies. This included partnering with Women’s Health in Women’s Hands on the ACB Women Know Your Status HIV Prevention Project where HIV testing was conducted in community settings. Our participation included the training of a Black CAP staff to conduct HIV testing.”
The agency published an article, “TRANScending Love Arts-Based Workshop to Address Self-Acceptance and Internalized Stigma among Transgender Women of Color in Toronto, Canada: Findings from a Qualitative Implementation Science Study,” in the journal ‘AIDS and Behaviour,’ in collaboration with Dr. Carmen Logie.
Ryan said in the year ahead, they hope to strengthen how Black CAP engages PHAs in the day-to-day work of the agency by creating new spaces and programming that is PHA-led.
Andrew B. Campbell, board chair, said last year the agency hosted another successful “Joyful Giving” event under the leadership of the fund development committee raising a total of $11, 086 towards its emergency financial assistance.
He said like any group the agency also has a few challenges that it must continue to find creative ways to convert into accomplishments.
Campbell said Black CAP will continue to seek ideas and avenues to raise additional funds for its Emergency Financial Assistance (EFA) program.
The annual fundraiser “Joyful Giving” will be held on November 16 at the United Steelworkers Hall in Toronto.

[This story was published in the North American Weekly Gleaner, Oct. 18-24, 2018 issue.]

Septuagenarian Graduate has Plans to Learn More

By Neil Armstrong

Photo credit: York University    Osra Lindo graduated with her BA in Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies from York University

Osra Lindo is overjoyed that she has completed her first undergraduate degree and intends to move on next to learning to play the piano and to speak Japanese and French.

At 79, she graduated from York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies with a bachelor of arts in gender, sexuality and women’s studies on October 11.

“It was lovely, and the standing ovation, and people did not stop clapping. And I think they saw their grandmother in me because really, at this age, you could be just sitting down and relaxing and your brain turning to mush. So it was lovely for the young people to sort of appreciate you,” says Lindo about her convocation.

Pursuing higher education is a family trait as her sister, Hortense Anglin, 81, is also at the same university pursuing studies in religion.

Lindo, who was born in Savanna-la-mar, Westmoreland has been living in Canada for 52 years.

Her four children are highly educated; her first, Gerald, is an engineer who graduated from the University of Toronto and is now pursuing a masters as well as working there; and second, Lisa, graduated from University of Toronto in vocal performance, sang opera and had a jazz trio. She now works in accounting at Nova Scotia Community College.

Her third, Gregory, has a passion for music; and youngest, Laura Mae Lindo, has a MA and PhD from York University, and served as director of equity and diversity at Wilfrid Laurier University before being elected in June as the Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) for Kitchener Centre.

The septuagenarian worked at Barclays Bank DCO in Jamaica and since moving to Canada has worked with the Royal Bank, TD Bank, and after doing a course at the Toronto District School Board taught English as a Second Language.

An avid volunteer at the zoo for more 20 years, Lindo said her experience of teaching prompted her to pursue tertiary education.

“Once you get into the classroom it grows on you. So then I saw this ad for a bridging course if you wanted, as a mature student, to get into York and I did it. That’s four years ago and I guess the rest is history.”

Lindo said the Mature Students’ Association “is up and running and lovely.”

“They take good care of you. Anything that you need they have it there; they provide,” she says noting that a mature student can study and exercise as well on the campus, and “you never feel bereft.”

She says the professors were wonderful and alluded to the course, ‘Japanese Culture and Anime,’ in which the professor would doff his hat whenever he saw her.

“They really treat you regally and the young kids with that energy. Once you get over the f-word you can manage.”

Lindo says the university looks forward to helping a person who is a mature student.

“That’s an accomplishment for them too to have old people whose brain sort of turning to mush and they deliver it back to normal.”

She lists her “most wonderful professors” as Nadia Habib with whom she did most of her gender and women studies; Brenda Blondeau, with the bridging course; and her advisor, Celeta Irvin.

“As a mature student you have to have a goal, you should but then you really don’t know. You can be studying millions of things and it doesn’t come to one actual degree so then you have an advisor.”

Irvin told her the core subjects and she chose the course ‘Jamaican Creole’ with Clive Forrester as an elective.

“You never feel bereft because you have, it’s like a foundation that they are there for you. And if you need help they have tutors who would help you. You can go into the Mature Students’ Association and say what problem, what challenge you having so it’s lovely; it was a wonderful experience.”

Lindo is encouraging any mature person who is out there thinking about what to do next to call the university and speak to someone at the Mature Students’ Association.

She says her daughter-in-law and her grandsons are Japanese and her son speaks Japanese so she wants to be able to let her grandkids know that she loves them.

“When they come here I don’t want to say Sayōnara. They’re going to say grandma doesn’t love me, she only says goodbye,” says Lindo laughing.

She did a couple courses in French but would like to be bilingual like Laura Mae who went to French immersion schools.

“I have been trying to play that piano for a long time. After the kids grow up and everything then it was my time but I tell you it doesn’t love me. That piano does not love me. I feel that every time I go there middle c moves and I don’t know how it could move because there is no space. Now I’m looking for it and I cannot find it,” she says, determined to not give up.

Lisa flew in from Halifax for the convocation and Lindo made some rum punch because she knew that they were going to have a celebration.

They had it with pizza and watched the sitcom “As Time Goes By.”

[This story was published in the North American Weekly Gleaner, Oct. 25-Oct. 31, 2018 issue.]

Black Canadian Candidates Win in Ontario's Municipal Elections

By Neil Armstrong

Photo contributed  Michael Thompson, Councillor, Ward 21, Scarborough Centre

Several Jamaican, Caribbean and African Canadian candidates were winners in Ontario’s October 22 municipal elections.

In Toronto, Michael Thompson, councillor representing Ward 21 Scarborough Centre, won his fifth term in office with 69.1 per cent of the vote.

With the Ontario government’s cut of the size of the Toronto City Council to 25 councillors, the boundary of his ward has expanded and its population increased from 65,000 to 112,000.

Thompson said the victory means that he will have an opportunity to work for the residents of Scarborough Centre, in particular, and City of Toronto, in general.

“It means that I will fight for them to advance their transit needs. It means that I will fight for them to advance a number of issues that they outlined to me that was important to them for this term of council. Housing is part of it, jobs are an ongoing part, investment in the community and so on, safer roads, the amount of time it takes people to travel the city and so on.”

The veteran councillor said he is humbled by the win and that when he started [in 2003] he did not think that he would be around this long.

“I’m very happy that people have the confidence that I’m able to represent them so that I can articulate their concerns.”

Given the expanded size of the ward, Thompson says he will have to be more strategic to manage the affairs of the constituents and he will adopt some of the additional ways he used during his campaign to reach people.

Photo credit:   Kathy McDonald, Peel District School Board trustee, Wards 3&4, Brampton

Kathy McDonald, Peel District School Board trustee for Wards 3&4 since 2014, said because the margin that she won by was so large in this election – over 50 per cent -- it reaffirmed to her that the public appreciates the work that she has been doing.

“I really try to make sure that I’m executing my duties as a trustee to the best of my ability. I felt very encouraged and empowered by this.”

Photo contributed   David Green, Peel District School Board trustee, Wards 1&5, Brampton

David Green, school trustee for Wards 1&5, serving in that capacity for nine years describes his re-election as a “sweet victory” for the community.

“There was some injustice that happened over the last four years and I would be the one that speak out and stand up – they used to call me the big mouth – stand up for my community and for the children that the injustice happen to.”

He said the teacher federations accused him of not being teacher friendly and endorsed a candidate to run against him.

“This win is very clear that my community speaks volumes and the community that I represent they trust me and they have confidence in me and the work that I’ve done over the last fifteen years.”

Photo contributed    Charmaine Williams, Councillor, Wards 7&8, Brampton - the first Black woman elected to the Brampton City Council

Also, in Brampton, Charmaine Williams, born in England of Jamaican parents, was elected city councillor for Wards 7&8 becoming the first black woman elected to the city council.

During her campaign, Williams outlined her community safety plan which includes “a plan to get 500 guns off the streets of Brampton through an annual gun amnesty and gun buyback program. Brampton will offer $100 to people for each unwanted firearm turned in to the Peel Police Service.”

She also plans to promote “traffic calming policies that reduce the number of speeding cars.” She created the “Please Slow Down” campaign and will promote safety near schools.

“I have a plan to protect our young people, if marijuana sales are allowed in Brampton. My by-law will prevent marijuana from being sold within 500 metres of any school,” says Williams on her campaign flyer.

Granville Anderson, a former school trustee and member of provincial parliament, was elected regional councillor for Wards 3&4 in Clarington and Patrice Barnes was re-elected trustee in North Ajax for the Durham District School Board.

Photo contributed   Patrice Barnes, Durham District School Board trustee, North Ajax

“It was a fantastic journey. I am grateful and humbled by the overwhelming support of the voters of Ajax, Wards 1&2, in re-electing me to serve as an advocate for their children and public education,” says Barnes.

Elizabeth Sinclair, who was born in St. Kitts, is the trustee for Wards 3&4 in York Region District School Board.

Bernadette Clement, a longtime city councillor, is the new mayor of Cornwall and the first woman to be elected to that office. “She is the first Black female to be mayor of a municipality in Ontario,” notes Operation Black Vote Canada on its Twitter page.

Clement, who was born in Montreal and has a Trinidadian father and French Canadian mother, says she is proud to be the Francophone Black mayor of Cornwall and she hopes it will inspire children in the city.

Mohamed Salih, born in Sudan, was re-elected as councillor, Ward 3 in the City of London with a landslide 73 per cent of the vote. Arielle Kayabaga, born in Burundi, is the new city councillor for Ward 13 in London City Council – the first black woman elected to the council.

Kemi Akapo, originally from Nigeria, was elected city councillor for Town Ward and Stephen Wright, who grew up in Calgary and is of Jamaican heritage, is the new councillor-elect for New Northcrest Ward – both in Peterborough.

Chris Moise, who is from Dominica, was re-elected trustee for the Toronto District School Board for Ward 10, Toronto Centre and University-Rosedale. David Smith was re-elected trustee for Ward 17, Scarborough Centre.

[This story was published in the North American Weekly Gleaner, Nov. 1-7, 2018 issue.]