Thursday, 19 September 2019

Canadian Government Throws Support Behind an Institute for Black Canadians

By Neil Armstrong

Photo credit: Kathy Grant Legacy Voices   Floydeen Charles-Fridal, executive director of the Caribbean African Canadian Social Services (CAFCAN)

The federal government supports the creation of a national institute for Black Canadians, an idea proposed by a pan-Canadian group of Black organizations.

In its presentation of the 2019 budget in March, the government noted that in recognition of the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent it would provide $25 million over five years starting in 2019-20, for projects and capital assistance to celebrate, share knowledge and build capacity in Canada’s vibrant Black Canadian communities. 

On August 27, Adam Vaughan, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Jean-Yves Duclos, announced the government’s support would help stakeholders to create the first national institute for Black Canadians. 

The Canadian Institute for Persons of African Descent (CIPAD) will work to advance initiatives that impact Black Canadians at a systemic level.

Speaking at A Different Booklist Cultural Centre in Toronto, Vaughan said the government is committed to fostering and promoting a Canada where every person is able to fully and equally participate in our country’s economic, cultural, social and political life.

Floydeen Charles-Fridal, executive director of the Caribbean African Canadian Social Services (CAFCAN) in Toronto, collaborated with the Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute in Halifax, Nova Scotia and others to submit a proposal for CIPAD.

“We are excited about the meaning of this announcement to present and future generations of African-Canadians as it amplifies and honours our legacy, perspective and contributions towards building and strengthening this nation. The Canadian Institute for People of African Descent and the intermediary model will enable capacity building in Black communities and further underscores the value of applying a Black lens in addressing the long-term systemic issues that we have faced in this country for generations,” says Charles-Fridal.

On July 23 of this year, an engagement session was held with almost 40 stakeholder organizations representing a diverse range of Black communities and interests from across Canada. Participants signaled support for the creation of a national institute dedicated to looking at issues that affect Black communities.

Coming out of Meeting of the Minds (MOM) that Charles-Fridal has been spearheading over the last couple of years, a number of Black organizations got together under a spinoff group called the UN Decade for People of African Descent Push Coalition to apply pressure to the federal government to make sure that monies that were earmarked for Black Canadians did not get lost in elections and new governments, if that does happen.

“We ended up working with the department who heard our calls for action, worked with some of us, including MOM, and a series of meetings with Black community organizations. They met with four or five organizations directly and the department to make sure that our voices were not lost when it came to what to do with those budget monies,” says Richard Sharpe, a member of the coalition who lives in Ottawa.

Photo credit: Kathy Grant Legacy Voices   Adam Vaughan, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development

Their recommendations gained a nod from the policymakers in various departments – finance, Prime Minister’s Office, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and others – resulting in the budget announcement.

Sharpe says the $25 million will help support Black organizations “do what they do best in terms of serving Black communities across the country.”

Any initiative that could be considered supporting of the Black community could qualify for this funding. The intermediary model will have Black organizations with the capacity to do so serving as a go-between the federal government and Black entities that are applying for funding.

They would vet, review and provide the funding follow-up, in terms of accountability, to those that would like to submit under the program.

Sharpe says there are more than 1000 Black organizations across Canada so they had a cross section from across the country at the meetings – from British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia and Quebec

The organizations that they targeted were mostly those that service Black communities across the country and had a proven track record in doing some work over the last couple of years supportive of the UN Decade for People of African Descent.

“We wanted to get people together that wanted to get things done. It is a rare thing in our Black community to get together from across the country as diverse as we are and come to consensus on almost anything,” says Sharpe who thinks it is quite a success that they were able to accomplish what they did at the July meeting.

Sharpe says the ESDC has never focused on Black Canadians before so he and others who know the system could say, “well, you have the focus on Blacks here so this is how you can implement it, this is how you can roll these monies out and we can help you bring the organizations together to support that through MOM and through our other contacts.”

The $25 million is earmarked for Black communities, regardless of who comes into power after the October 21 general election. 

Photo contributed      Adam Vaughan and some of the people who attended the announcement at A Different Booklist Cultural Centre: The People's Residence in Toronto, Canada

Sharpe says $25 million over 5 years for the Black community per capacity is nothing for a country as big as Canada with 1.2 or 1.3 million Blacks “but what this opportunity affords us, in terms of looking forward, is that we’ve established relationships with this department and all of these organizations through MOM.”

The UN Push Coalition is temporary and exists to drive this until the end of a year. Thereafter, organizations that are more established, like MOM, Michaelle Jean Foundation and others, will carry the torch forward, he said.

This is kind of a best practice. This is not something that as a community we’ve been successful at in terms of mobilizing people from across the country,” says Charles-Fridal.

She says Meeting of the Minds is like a think tank and tries to engage people who are not spending a lot of time camping out in the strategic conversations that can lead to actions that can influence policy and developing policy frameworks and research “and really bearing witness to our experience. So it’s about for us, by us, about us.”

[This story has been published in the North American Weekly Gleaner, Sept. 19, 2019.]

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Jamaican Appointed New Chief of Police in Ottawa

By Neil Armstrong

Photo contributed             Peter Sloly, Chief of Police, Ottawa Police Service

Jamaican Canadian, Peter Sloly, is the new Chief of Police for the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) in Canada’s capital city. He will assume his role in October.

On August 26, the Ottawa Police Services Board announced that it has selected Sloly as the Chief – the first Black person appointed to the position. Ottawa City Hall was packed, with many standing as there was an influx of Black people, many of whom were Jamaicans.
“Our Board began this recruitment for a new Chief by listening. We wanted to make sure the community saw their feedback reflected in the decision we made,” said Board Chair Diane Deans.
She said the Board was impressed with the candidates that came forward but unfortunately there could only be one Chief.
“I am confident we have selected the right leader for the Ottawa Police Service; someone that the public and members of the OPS can get behind.”
Sloly, who was a deputy chief of the Toronto Police Service, said he was honoured to have been selected by the Board.  
“I am excited to get to know and work with the members of the OPS at all ranks and in all roles, who have demonstrated such inspiring courage, innovation and compassion.  I am equally excited to meet and get to know the members of Ottawa's communities who have stepped up bravely to help build a safer and more inclusive city.  Finally, my family and I are looking forward to moving to the nation's capital and immersing ourselves in Ottawa's amazing history, culture and diversity," said Sloly. 
The Board extended its sincere thanks to outgoing interim Chief Steve Bell for his leadership during the recruitment process. He will remain in that position until Sloly assumes his role.
Sloly is currently a partner at Deloitte where he is the national “security & justice” leader.  He is a trusted and respected strategic advisor to private and public sector executives helping them to increase organizational efficiency as well as to improve public safety, service, trust and value. 
Prior to joining Deloitte, Sloly was a 27-year veteran member of the Toronto Police Service who attained the rank of Deputy Chief of Police and resigned from the service in 2016. 
He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and served two tours of duty in the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Kosovo. 
The former Toronto police officer has received many awards including: Officer of the Order of Merit “Police Forces” medal, the United Nations Peacekeeping medal, the Canadian Peacekeeping medal, the Police Exemplary Service medal and the Queen’s Jubilee medal. 
He has a Masters of Business Administration and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology.  In the 1980s, Sloly played professional soccer and was a member of the Canadian Men's National Soccer Team.  He is married with two children.
Sloly resigned from the Toronto Police Service after he was overlooked for the top position of Chief. Former Toronto Police Board Chair Alok Mukherjee notes in his book, ‘Excessive Force: Toronto’s Fight to Reform City Policing,’ that the “fix was in” to groom an alternative to Sloly becoming chief. Mark Saunders, also of Jamaican heritage, was appointed Chief of Police.

Former publisher, author and journalist, Ewart Walters, who lives in Ottawa says Sloly’s appointment is good and to those who are asking if it is a Black appointment he notes, “We have lots of colours and people here, the fact that he’s Black, that’s not the qualifying thing. He is qualified by many other things, not just Black.”

He says ever since the police shooting of Vincent Gardner in 1992 as he sat quietly on a couch, police chiefs in Ottawa have been trying to come to grips with the tension between their officers and the Black community.

He said Sloly will be working in a police service that has six Black inspectors -- that did not exist two years ago -- and has a visible minority deputy chief. There are no visible minority or Black superintendent yet but that will happen in the near future, says Walters.

He noted that the January 2018 declaration by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that Canada had signed on to the UN Decade for People of African Descent and other events have brought the Black community together.

Advocacy groups, Black Agenda Noir (BAN), 613-819 Hub and others have emerged since then, and since then Ottawa has seen several firsts: Black justice of the peace, Black director of education, Black councillor, and first visible minority deputy police chief.

Meanwhile, Adaoma Patterson, president of the Jamaican Canadian Association, is pleased that Sloly has been appointed the top cop in Ottawa.

“Peter has been a friend of the Jamaican Canadian Association, championing police reform and issues such as carding which is disproportionately affecting the Black community. On behalf of the Board of Directors and members of the JCA, I congratulate Peter. We look forward to Peter tackling some of the challenges currently facing Ottawa,” she said.

This story has been published in the North American Weekly Gleaner, Sept. 5-11, 2019.

Jamaicans in Toronto Get Set to Celebrate Miss Lou's 100th Birthday

By Neil Armstrong
Photo credit: Carl Henry     Louise Bennett-Coverley "Miss Lou"

Jamaicans in Toronto will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birthday of cultural icon Louise Bennett-Coverley, affectionately known as Miss Lou, in several ways including a book launch, panel discussion, a cultural celebration on Toronto’s waterfront, and a trip to Jamaica for the opening of a public square in her honour.

Bennett-Coverley was born on Sunday, September 7, 1919 in Kingston and died in Toronto, Canada on July 26, 2006. She was buried on August 9, 2006 in the National Heroes Park in Kingston.

From September 5-12, over 50 Jamaican-Canadians will fly to the island to attend the renaming of “Gordon Town Square” to “Miss Lou Square” on September 8, part of the nation’s 100 days of celebrating Miss Lou events.

" The Jamaican Canadian Association's pilgrimage to Jamaica to attend the opening of the Miss Lou Square is truly a historic occasion for our members. As the trip coordinators, Michelle Mckenzie-Dolly, JCA director-at-large, and I have seen first hand the joy and excitement as we draw closer to our departure date of September 5. In JCA's 57-year history, this is the first time that we have undertaken a trip of this magnitude,” says Audrey Campbell, past president of the Jamaican Canadian Association.

They will arrive in Montego Bay in unison decked out in their red t-shirts with the slogan, "Miss Lou 100th...JCA... We Deh Yah!”

 While there, they will visit Gordon House as well as the Marcus Garvey Museum
at Liberty Hall on September 10. 

“Miss Lou spent her final days in Canada and performed in the halls of JCA on numerous occasions. Jamaicans in Canada, similarly to those at home and in the rest of the diaspora, continue to honour and cherish Miss Lou, the 'Mother of Jamaican Culture.' This is a fitting way for the JCA members to honour her memory," says Campbell.

Photo contributed     Group of Jamaican Canadian Association members going to Jamaica for the renaming of Gordon Town Square to 'Miss Lou Square.' The renaming ceremony takes place on September 8 in Gordon Town, St. Andrew

Angella Bennett, regional director of the Jamaica Tourist Board, provided the travellers with some swag and luggage tags for their trip.

Meanwhile, teacher and author Nadia Hohn, who is of Jamaican heritage, will launch her picture book, “A Likkle Miss Lou: How Jamaican Poet Louise Bennett Coverley Found Her Voice,” on September 14 at A Different Booklist Cultural Centre in Toronto.

The book, which took Hohn over seven years to write, tells the story of Miss Lou’s early years, “when she was a young girl who loved poetry but felt caught between writing “lines of words like tight cornrows” or words that beat “in time with her heart.” Despite criticism from one teacher, Louise finds a way to weave the influence of the music, voices, and rhythms of her surroundings into her poems.”

Illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes, it is a vibrant, colorful, and immersive look at “an important figure in Jamaica’s cultural history, and also a universal story of a child finding and trusting her own voice.”

Hohn pulls from her research of Miss Lou and the milieu of her childhood to include poems a young Louise wrote and folksongs she would have heard around her. She includes a glossary of Jamaican patois terms, a note about the author’s “own voice” perspective, and a brief biography of Miss Lou and her connection to Canada, where she spent 20 years of her life.

“Before she became a Jamaican icon, Miss Lou was a girl who just wanted to be heard in the language she loved,” reads the blurb on the back cover of the book.

In 1998, Miss Lou received an honorary degree from York University and to celebrate her life and legacy the university will hold a film screening and panel discussion on September 17.

Organized by the Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community and Diaspora, the event will be held at Founders College where the film “Miss Lou at Bathurst Heights Secondary School” capturing her visit to the school in 1984 will be shown.

There will also be a panel discussion with authors, academics and cultural advocates including Honor Ford-Smith, Olive Senior, Clive Forrester, Lillian Allen, and Pamela Appelt.

At the Harbourfront Centre where “Miss Lou’s Room” is located there will be a celebration of her life on September 19.

“Miss Lou’s Room” is a multi-purposed space which is home to an exhibit honouring Miss Lou and her achievements. The space features photographs and recordings of her storytelling and many performances, and is heavily used for children's programs.

Miss Lou's Room at the Harboufront Centre

Miss Lou's Room at the Harboufront Centre

Hosted by McMaster University Library in partnership with Harbourfront Centre and the Jamaican Canadian Association, the evening of remarks and entertainment will examine her legacy and centenary. 

McMaster University Library houses the Miss Lou Archive, which contains correspondence, published and printed materials, personal and professional documents, awards, photographs, and more from Miss Lou’s life in Canada. 

The archive is used regularly by scholars from around the world. A selection of materials from the archive will be on display at the event.

This story has been published in the North American Weekly Gleaner, September 5-11, 2019.

Nadia Hohn's book launch at A Different Booklist Cultural Centre, 777-779 Bathurst Street will be on Saturday, Sept. 14, 3:00-5:00 p.m.
"Celebrating Miss Lou: The Life and Legacy of Louise Bennett-Coverley" will be held on  Tuesday, Sept. 17, 6:00-9:00 p.m. at Founders College, Senior Common Room, (305 Founders College) and will feature the screening of the film, "Miss Lou at Bathurst Heights Secondary School" at 6:00-7:00 p.m. and the panel discussion/Q&A from 7:00-8:30 p.m.
Please RSVP by Friday, September 13th at

McMaster University Library in partnership with Harbourfront Centre and the Jamaican Canadian Association presents "Celebrating Miss Lou" on Thursday, September 19, 7:00-9:00 p.m. at Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay West, Toronto.

In Jamaica, Miss Lou's centenary celebration "Miss Lou 100!" takes place from September 1 to December 10, 2019 including "Miss Lou's Labrish" at the UWI Undercroft on Sept. 6; a gathering at Patriot's Corner, National Heroes Park on Sept. 7; Miss Lou 100th Birthday cake cutting at Gordon Town Community Centre; Auntie Roachy Festival & Ring Concert at Emancipation Park; and the renaming of "Gordon Town Square" to "Miss Lou Square" on Sept. 8. There will be exhibitions, public consultations on language rights in Jamaica, a poetry clash, island-wide flash mobs, 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, the publication of the 100 years, 100 voices anthology, among other events.

Monday, 2 September 2019

100 Black Youth to Attend Largest Black Tech Conference in Toronto

By Neil Armstrong

Aina-Nia Ayo'dele Grant speaking at the Emancipation Month Sankofa Ceremony at City Hall on August 29, 2019

The City of Toronto’s Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit will be sponsoring 100 Black youth to attend the BFUTR Tech Summit, the largest ever gathering of Black tech professionals in Canada.

Aina-Nia Ayo’dele Grant, manager of the CABR Unit, made the announcement at the Emancipation Month Sankofa Ceremony held at City Hall on August 29.

Mayor John Tory said he recently had a roundtable specifically provided for the Anti-Black Racism Plan on black businesses to explore “what is it that is holding people back, what can we do to provide that little support and lift to make sure those entrepreneurs can be successful in the city.”

The next roundtable will take place at the tech conference later this year and will focus on black professionals in the tech sector.

“There is absolutely no reason why we can’t see leadership there, success there, startups there, investments taking place there that are from and of the Black community in the tech sector which is booming so much in our city right now. It’s a matter of will, it’s a matter of recognizing the people that exist and allowing them to achieve their full potential,” he said.

Mayor John Tory speaking at the Emancipation Month Sankofa Ceremony

Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson speaking at the Emancipation Month Sankofa Ceremony

Also speaking at the ceremony was Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson who is also the Chair of the Economic and Development Committee of the City of Toronto. He said the BFUTR Tech Summit will be held on October 25.

“This conference will be the largest gathering of Black tech professionals in Canada. It will present a dynamic networking opportunity, innovation, innovative ideas and career development sessions led by industry experts. I encourage all of you who have an interest in tech, and even if you don’t, because tech is here and innovation is here , I think you may as well experience the opportunity,” said Thompson about the summit which will be held at the Westin Harbour Castle hotel.

Tory said Emancipation Day is about “recognizing the incredible journey, the often tragic journey but the journey with so many twists and turns that has led us to the place where we are still speaking about equality and justice, and it is a journey that is ongoing, it’s far from reached.”

Thompson said that as the only member of council that is Black there isn’t a day that his shoulder isn’t “weighted down with some degree of issues related to the community, specifically amongst all the other things I have to do.”

 “We need more of us on council,” he said.

The deputy mayor commended the team of CABR Unit on the work that is has been doing describing it as “truly excellent work to bring about change.”

“We have to be the change that we need, we have to bring those who are interested in making change with us because when you involve us we make this place a better place. Without involving us it’s not a better place.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Wesley Crichlow of the Partnership and Accountability Circle (PAC) said through direct and ongoing engagement with the CABR Unit, PAC provides advice to the City of Toronto.

It does so by providing guidance and advice to the CABR Unit staff in planning, implementation and evaluation with regard to the Toronto Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black Racism.

Dr. Crichlow said it is fitting that the CABR Unit can be embracing August as Emancipation Month in the spirit of the International Decade for People of African Descent proclaimed by the UN General Assembly which began in 2015 and will be observed until 2024. The theme for the Decade is “Recognition. Justice. Development.”

“But Emancipation Month is not freedom. Emancipation Day celebrations remain an ongoing and profound critique of the state and we cannot have emancipation without reparation. African Americans upon their freedom were promised 40 acres and a mule. When Black Loyalists arrived in Nova Scotia they were promised 10 acres, a cow and two sheep. Although Canada and the US belonged to Indigenous People these lands were still promised to folks.”

He noted that in what is being represented a major victory in the fight to make Europe pay reparation for the brutal Transatlantic Slave Trade, “the umbrella University of the West informs us that the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom has agreed to begin making reparations in the value of Sterling $200 million for its part in the English slave trade to the Caribbean.”

Crichlow said Emancipation Month should be a reminder of the unfinished business of the Canadian apology for slavery, property ownership and reparation. Emancipation Month should be seen as the linchpin for the furthering of that conversation.

Also participating in the ceremony were Surranna Sandy, a member of PAC; and
Mohamed Shuriye and Anthony Morgan of the CABR Unit who presented on the first year of the Unit’s work and Emancipation Month.

 Ginelle Skerritt and sipho kwaku conducted the opening ritual and the closing procession “Journeying Together Towards Emancipation” to the Diversity Garden behind City Hall.

Quammie Rudi Williams and company shared a musical presentation and Sonia Godding-Togobo presented a premiere of her short film about the CABR Unit entitled “A Long Time Coming.”

Dr. Wesley Chrichlow speaking at the Emancipation Day Sankofa Ceremony

Elders Ginelle Skerritt and sipho kwaku performing the opening ritual

Musical presentation by Quammie Rudi Williams & Company