Friday, 27 December 2019

Some 2020 Events, Books and Other Significant Things to Check Out

Listings updated on January 30, 2020.

Top: A flyer for the 'Mandela: Struggle for Freedom' and at the bottom is the cover of Zalika Reid-Benta's book 'Frying Plantain' which centres the Eglinton Avenue West and Oakwood Avenue area, commonly known as "Little Jamaica" in the storytelling.


-       Mandela: Struggle for Freedom, an exhibition presented by TO Live at the Meridan Arts Centre (formerly Toronto Centre for the Arts), 5040 Yonge St., Toronto, will end on Sunday, January 5.

-       “Knew Me: 10 Men. 10 Stories” – a book launch event on Saturday, January 11, 6:00-9:00 p.m. at Daniels Spectrum Event Space, 585 Dundas St. E., Toronto. Co-authors: Dr. Joseph Acquave, Randell Adjei, Nicholas Barham, Jamal Campbell, Jelani Daniel, Chris Duff, Keith Hill Jr., Jeff A.D. Martin, Jermaine Spence and Danny Stone. A free event. Visit

-       “Everyday Ubuntu: Living Better Together, The African Way” by author Mungi Ngomane, granddaughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, will be launched on Monday, January 20 at A Different Booklist Cultural Centre, 777 Bathurst St., Toronto. Tickets: $40 (A copy of the book included.)

-       Sex Now Online 2019 Survey. Community-Based Research Centre (CBRC) is a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to using community participatory research to develop knowledge about gay men’s health and to develop interventions addressing health and social issues. Its Sex Now Online Survey team is urging Black, Caribbean and African Two-Spirit, Gay, Bisexual and Queer Trans and Cis (2GBQT) men to complete the survey which seeks to address their unique healthcare-related needs and experiences. Visit  The deadline is Monday, January 20.

-       Ontario Black History Society’s Black History Month Kick-Off Brunch on January 26, 11:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. at the Beanfield Centre, Exhibition Place, 105 Prince’s Blvd., Toronto. Keynote speaker: Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director & Co-Head, Toronto International Film Festival. Tickets: 135, Early Bird: $125, Students: $95

-       [Worth reading -- Metcalf Foundation report “The Working Poor in Toronto Region: A closer look at the increasing numbers” released in November 2019. An examination of the chapter pertaining to the Black community and poverty increasing in second- and third- generation Black Canadians. Dr. Carl James and Dr. Kofi Hope, two well-known Black Canadian scholars, did the analysis.]

Some new books worth reading in 2020:

"The Skin We're In: A Year Of Black Resistance and Power" by activist and journalist Desmond Cole. Published by Doubleday Canada. January 28, 2020.

"Until We Are Free: Reflections on Black Lives Matter in Canada" edited by Rodney Diverlus, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto; Sandy Hudson, founder of the Black Lives Matter movement presence in Canada; and Syrus Marcus Ware, a core team member of Black Lives Matter Toronto. Published by University of Regina Press. February 1, 2020.

"My Mother's Daughter: An Immigrant Family's Journey of Struggle, Grit and Triumph" by Perdita Felicien. Published by Doubleday Canada. April 14, 2020.



-       Boonooonoonos Brunch at the Jamaican Canadian Association on Sunday, February 9, honouring Jamaica’s first national hero, Marcus Garvey; 1:00-5:00 p.m. at the JCA Centre, 995 Arrow Rd., Toronto. Tickets: $55. Call 416-746-5772 ext. 249.

-       Kuumba, Harbourfront Centre marks its 25th anniversary with a month of programming curated by Ashley McKenzie-Barnes.
“Representative of a jubilee, silver itself is a radiant, mirroring element that forces us to look into our own reflection and resurface a very deep wisdom that can bring forth an understanding of our ancestry and history. The use of silver is traditional in its meaning but also modern, resistant and vibrant in its form. The same composition is emulated throughout Kuumba25, as we examine the past through cultural expression, ritual and memorabilia, while re-envisioning our identities through art, culture and education.”


-       International Women’s Day (Sunday, March 8)


Dr. Gervan Fearon is the recipient of the Vice Chancellor Award which will be presented at the 11th annual UWI Toronto Benefit Gala on April 4 at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Toronto

-       11th annual UWI Toronto Benefit Gala on April 4 at The Ritz Carlton Hotel, Toronto.  The press release is below.

Prestigious University of the West Indies enters new decade of fundraising in Canada
Toronto’s yearly benefit gala instrumental to educational empowerment of island nations 

TORONTO, November 27, 2019 – The University of the West Indies (UWI), ranked in the top four per cent of the world’s best universities, is entering its second decade of giving with the annual UWI Toronto Benefit Gala on April 4, 2020. As the University’s largest fundraising event in Canada, the gala helps provide critical scholarships to empower students with education that shapes future generations of the island nations. 

Through its commitment over the past ten years, the Gala has awarded 550 scholarships and raised more than $2 million – figures it hopes to surpass over the next decade. 

“Students in the Caribbean depend on the support and generosity of Canada’s business and academic communities, including its Caribbean diaspora,” said Donette Chin-Loy Chang, Toronto UWI Benefit Gala co-patron. “As we enter our 11th year of fundraising, we look forward to continuing our efforts in providing access to quality education that graduates leaders who make impactful contributions on a global scale,” she added. 

Caribbean countries live in a constant state of vulnerability - economically, environmentally, and socially. Increasing intellectual capital through higher education of the region’s population is the most effective way to find innovative solutions that impact the society’s health and wellbeing.

The benefits of education reach far and wide; many UWI graduates have gone on to make their mark worldwide – including Canada – in all areas of life, from education and business to research and medicine. 

The 2020 Gala awards ceremony boasts an impressive list of honourees: Dr. David Suzuki (Luminary Award); The Honourable Margaret McCain (G. Raymond Chang Award); Sagicor Financial Corporation Limited (Chancellor Award); Mr. Harold Braithwaite, Dr. Gervan Fearon, and Ms. Shastri Ramnath (Vice Chancellor Award). These women and men continue to inspire us and give light to aspiring students globally. In addition, a highlight of the evening will be the introduction of an inspiring student whose remarkable story of survival gives us all hope for a better future. 

Other Co-Patrons of the UWI Toronto Benefit Gala are Andrew Chang, and Brigette Chang Addorisio, with Wesley J. Hall, as Honorary Patron. The Event is once again proudly supported by Scotiabank for the 11th year, and will be held at the Toronto Ritz Carlton. For more information please visit 


The crowdfunding campaign to raise $30,000 to stage the spring production continues for Scott Joplin's TREEMONISHA, one of the world's first Black operas being produced by Volcano Theatre. Sharing a press release about a launch that was held in Toronto on November 21, 2019.

Saturday, 21 December 2019

Politician Says Activism Can Happen at the Legislature and on the Streets

By Neil Armstrong

Photo contributed    Laura Mae Lindo, MPP for Kitchener Centre and Chair of the Ontario New Democrats Black Caucus at the inaugural Toronto Black Policy Conference

The Chair of the Ontario New Democratic Party (NDP) Black Caucus and Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) for Kitchener Centre says political activism by Black Ontarians can take place on the streets and in the Ontario Legislature.

However, Laura Mae Lindo, the official opposition party’s critic for anti-racism, notes that there are real barriers facing African Canadians.

She notes that it is important for her that when she is sitting at Queen’s Park, the Ontario legislature, she knows that there are people that look like her that are outside of the building resisting.

Lindo, who is the niece of former veteran Liberal MPP, Alvin Curling, says sometimes people assume that because she is now a politician she is not Black anymore.

“ But I’m very Black at Queen’s Park,” says the former director of diversity and equity at Wilfrid Laurier University, noting that Queen’s Park is “not Black” and if a protest happens outside the legislature the security guards sometimes forget that she is an MPP although she is the only politician with dreads.

Lindo and Marcell Wilson, co-executive director of One By One Movement, were the closing keynote speakers discussing “ Political Activism: At the Table or On the Streets?” at the inaugural Toronto Black Policy Conference held at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto in November.

Lindo said Black Ontarians need to create spaces for themselves to be able to unpack what it feels like to experience microaggression or racism at work.

“Sometimes the system says it’s a microaggression but it’s racism and because it’s racism it’s weightier and so we need some spaces to have some real talk, some real talk about what’s happening and then that can fuel the movement to make those changes.”

She noted that this is, “400 years of a whole system seeing us as not worthy, not valuable, not loved.”

Lindo said she recently attended a Black Caribbean conference in the Waterloo Region which had 100 Black youth from across the region. The theme was “Being Unapologetically Black” and she was invited to bring greetings as a Black MPP in the region.

She referenced a report written by Dr. Carl James for the Peel District School Board which included the words of young Black students in high schools and elementary schools.  One child said he was called the N-word everyday at school.

Lindo wanted to know if that was the case in the Waterloo Region so she asked the students how many of them had heard the N-word at school.

She said every single child raised their hand and even though she knew that was going to happen tears came to her eyes.

The politician said there are some real issues happening “in all of the systems that are around us and those are things that we don’t necessarily spend the time to talk about and how are we going to build policy if we don’t talk about this.”

Wilson believes that both places for political activism are important -- in policymaking and on the ground.

“I think without the community involvement, the community say, the community voice, there is no activism. It’s really just people out there making noise,” he said.

He noted that there are different struggles for the Black community in Regent Park than in Rexdale and also underscored the different cultural issues of Jamaicans and Somalis in the city.

The One By One Movement's primary goal is to operate as a think tank is to decrease extreme acts of violence across the globe beginning with Toronto, Canada.

Photo contributed   Left to right: Eunice Kays, Sharnelle Morgan and Anna-Kay Russell, founders of the Toronto Black Policy Conference held at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy held at the University of Toronto on November 30.

Founded and spearheaded by  Anna-Kay Russell, Sharnelle Morgan and Eunice Kays – three Master of Public Policy graduates from the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto – the Toronto Black Policy conference is a policy-driven forum which seeks to provide unique opportunities to collaborate, innovate and find sustainable solutions for policy issues affecting Toronto’s Black communities.

It was inspired by Harvard Kennedy School’s annual Black Policy Conference and lists among its goals, creating a safe space for Black community members and allies to explore policy issues affecting Toronto’s Black communities, and to encourage Black community engagement within the policy process both in a leadership and adequately-consulted capacity.

Recent Change Made by Immigration Department Welcomed

By Neil Armstrong

Photo contributed      Danae Peart welcomes the recent change made by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) making it easier for foreign nationals to apply for temporary and permanent resident status within Canada

The move by the federal government to make it easier for foreign nationals, including Caribbean immigrants, to apply for temporary and permanent resident status within Canada has been welcomed by some Jamaicans in Ontario but they identified related issues that need to be addressed.

On December 3, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said foreign nationals applying from within Canada for temporary or permanent residence or to extend or renew their visitor visa or work or study permit, will need to have their fingerprints and photo taken and can do so at any of the 58 designated Service Canada locations across the country. 
“This means individuals will now save time and money by being able to give their biometrics within Canada,” it said in a statement. 
Danae Peart, who came to Canada as an international student from Jamaica and then became a permanent resident and citizen, says this decision comes twenty years after her immigration journey.

“I welcome the decision and I’m hoping that multiple individuals after me will be able to experience that ease,” says Peart.

She remembers a couple years when she could not go home to Jamaica to visit.

“The word was if the original visa had expired you would not have a document to re-enter Canada even though you were on a study permit and a work permit. They were permits allowing you to stay in the country, not allowing you a travel document.”

She noted that if an individual is able to get their travel document while here because of the access to biometrics that is a major help.

 “I literally for two years did not move, did not travel, because I was waiting to again go through another process and change status and get documentation that allowed me to travel.”

She said unfortunately over the years it has been very tiresome to get the biometrics from Jamaica.

When Peart applied for residency, she had to apply to the head office in Jamaica for her fingerprint to be verified so she appreciates the value in cutting out the wait time.

“While you’re going through the immigration process you’re going against deadlines – sometimes 60 days, sometimes 90 days.”

Meanwhile, Ancillia*, who also came as an international student, to pursue studies at a college in Ontario, says there are challenges related to some of these permits and the process.

She said an advisor made it seem that once she was finished her studies and got her post-grad work permit it would be an automatic path to getting her permanent resident status when she applied.

This, however, was not the case as she was sitting in the permanent residence pool for two years and nothing happened.

Her undergraduate and graduate degrees were assessed by an agency, WES, and they were equivalent to Canadian standard.

Although she did a post-graduate diploma here she still had to pay to do an English test “to show that I can speak and write English fluently.”

Expiry of this English certificate can result in a person being bumped from the pool of people waiting for permanent residency and this is what happened to her.

When Ancillia enquired about having the certificate renewed she was told that she would have to redo the test.

She said tuition fees for international students double or triple those for permanent residents and citizens and after investing so much money there are “all of these different hurdles.”

Ancillia also notes that post-grad work permits are not renewable and as a result she could not continue in a job she held. 

She thinks international study is a moneymaking venture for everyone involved – governments, colleges and all the institutions that offer English test accreditation.

She has to keep paying to extend her temporary status and she cannot secure a job because she does not have a work permit.

Ancillia said Canada is encouraging people to come here and study but it does not work for everyone, especially those not in their 20s and early 30s. 

 “It’s just a very frustrating process and it really needs to be reassessed, especially this stupid English thing. How does that make sense and you’re coming from an English-speaking Commonwealth country.”

She says people are not being enlightened about the underlying difficulties that they can face when they take that route.

Peart thinks the requirement of the English proficiency test is an opportunity for advocacy from the Jamaican government.

Photo contributed     Adaoma Patterson, president of the Jamaican Canadian Association

In the aftermath of the recent federal election, Adaoma Patterson, president of the Jamaican Canadian Association, said the organization was interested in all federal political parties providing greater supports for international students.

“Recent reports and our consultations identify the struggle many international students are facing and the difficulty in gaining permanent residency once they complete their studies. Funding specific services that address mental health, settlement and integration while removing onerous rules for temporary and permanent residence are important investments,” she said.

Ancillia* is an alias

[This story has been published in the North American Weekly Gleaner, December 19-January 1, 2020.]

Christmas Day Treat Planned for Residents Displaced by Fire, Seniors and Single-Parent Families

By Neil Armstrong

Photo contributed       Samantha Beech who has been displaced by the November 15 fire at 235 Gosford Blvd., Toronto

It has been over a month since a fire ripped through several floors of a 15-storey apartment building in Toronto displacing 700 residents, including Jamaican Samantha Beech.

The fire, which broke out in an apartment on the eighth floor of 235 Gosford Boulevard in North York on November 15, claimed the life of an occupant of the apartment and injured six others, damaging apartments on several levels above.

Beech’s apartment, 908, was directly above the one in which the fire started and she is bewildered.

“It’s not easy, it is not easy at all, like everything is just rushed. There is no comfort zone, nothing like that. It’s a very inconvenient life that me and my family are going through because we have no other choice right now,” says Beech, who is from May Pen, Clarendon and the mother of a 19-month old baby girl and 18-year-old son. 

She is grateful that friends paid for her to stay at the nearby Four Points hotel and to her relatives outside of Canada for their help.

A cousin who lives in the United States saw her WhatsApp post about the fire, which was also seen by that cousin’s sister in Antigua. That sister’s spouse was here in Canada and rented an Airbnb for Beech and her family.

“Thank God, God bless them. I didn’t know the guy or anything,” says Beech who has lived at 235 Gosford Blvd. since December 2016.

She has maintained her contact with the Red Cross which she says has played a big role in her life.

“That’s where I go and eat and stuff,” she said, noting that her baby was very sick during this time and the Red Cross sent her to the Staybridge Suites Toronto hotel where many of the displaced residents are staying.  

Beech said there is a lack of communication from the management of the building and many residents share the same view.

She said the property manager of 235 Gosford and the superintendent came to the hotel and handed out flyers informing them of the apartments that were going to be cleaned but hers was not one of them.

Beech was able to enter her home recently but her clothes reeked of smoke and everything in it is damaged.

Ronkay Management Inc., the property management company, said everyone who requested housing has been provided with temporary accommodation and those who chose to find their own housing solution have received a transition payment equal to their December rent.

On a Facebook page set to provide updates it said many residents have asked what will happen in January.

“We are hoping to have many residents back into their suites sometime in the new year. We will continue to update everyone, to the best of our abilities, on timelines and scheduling. Those staying in accommodations provided by Ronkay Management will continue to be lodged at Staybridge, but will be required to pay rent including parking (the same as they paid in their apartment).

It said residents that found their own accommodations will not be required to pay rent to Ronkay Management Inc.”

“I’m badly impacted, it’s really traumatizing for me especially in this holiday season. I was looking forward to the Christmas and now this happened,” said Beech, noting as she spoke to the Gleaner while shopping that she was inside the Dollar Store and “just looking at the decoration and tears are running from my eyes because I know I don’t have a place to say it’s my home.”

She said there is nothing for her to create a Christmas tree for her baby and her son is taking the loss of their home very hard.

“It’s really tough, it’s tough; I can’t explain what my heart is going through,” says Beech whose mother lives in the UK and father in Winnipeg but she has no relatives in Toronto. 

Beech will be among several residents attending the Christmas dinner and treat at the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA) on December 25 for single parent families, seniors and displaced residents of the 235 Gosford.

Photo contributed    Elaine Thompson, left, and Danae Peart, organizers of the Christmas Day Dinner and Treat at the Jamaican Canadian Association in Toronto

“I got to thinking about Christmas and how some people really don’t have a cheerful Christmas either because of lack of financial means or not having a family,” says Elaine Thompson, one of the organizers, who got the Black Business and Professional Association and JCA onboard.
She thought about the difficulty that some single mothers might experience to provide a toy or Christmas meal for their children at this time of the year.

In a conversation with her friend, Danae Peart, she chose an event on Christmas Day because everything tends to happen before that day. 

While they were planning, the fire happened at 235 Gosford Blvd. and so they decided to include the displaced residents in the holiday event.

Peart says people have been donating cash or kind but they also want to have toys for the kids.

“It’s going to be a three-course, sit-down dinner,” she said, noting that Chef Dwight Boswell, owner of Chalice Catering, Toronto and an executive chef, wants people to experience the food.
 They hope to have municipal representatives, politicians and celebrities “present to serve from behind the food stations as just a give back.”

Peart said they were strategic in the time that they chose, 1:00-4:00 p.m., “allowing people to still come by, give their service and also still go home and catch their family dinner.”
Thompson and Peart are promising music, food and gift-giving “and, hopefully, if for one day out of the year they can forget their troubles and forget their loneliness.”

[This story was published in the Christmas Feature in the North American Weekly Gleaner, December 19-January 1, 2019.]

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Online Survey Targets the Sexual Health of Black Gay Men in Ontario

By Neil Armstrong

Sex Now Online survey wants to hear from Black Two-Spirit, Gay, Bisexual, Queer Transgender and Cisgender (2SGBQT) men

 The Community-Based Research Centre (CBRC) and its Sex Now Survey team are working with the Gay Men’s Sexual Health Alliance (GMSH) and other organizations in Ontario to reach Black Two-Spirit, Gay, Bisexual, Queer, Transgender and Cisgender (2SGBQT) men regarding barriers affecting their sexual health.

It notes that their healthcare-related needs and experiences are unique and that 2SGBQT men are disproportionately impacted by discrimination and violence, migration, and HIV.

“We use substances differently, experience more mental health issues, and have unique social, sexual and community connections. And these issues look different depending on other aspects of the identities we hold – including racial, gender and Indigenous identities to name but a few,” says the GBRC and its collaborators in a press release.

“Despite our unique needs and interests, health and community services do not always address these well due to a range of barriers. These barriers are challenging, complex, and often interrelated issues that require responses driven by people within our own communities to ensure we are addressing our health needs appropriately.”

They note that research has an impact on the health and wellbeing of 2SGBQT men by illuminating the challenges and strengths within these communities and proposing possible solutions.

“And research findings can be a power tool for advocacy for our health needs and education.”

In the report of the African, Caribbean, Black (ACB) Same Gender Loving (SGL) Men’s Dialogue held on March 21 and 22 in Toronto this year, participants identified data gaps related to Black gay men’s sexual health needs and issues.

They are also calling for a robust collection of information to fill those gaps for which this survey provides the opportunity.   

The CBRC aims to address these needs through grassroots, community-led research initiatives.

Since 2002, “Sex Now” has provided a critical source of data “on the health of our communities, first in BC, then expanding nationally in 2010 across Canada in order to inform innovative responses to our health needs. Our approach to this work is simple: nothing about us, without us.”

“Our communities tell us what their priorities are, ensure we’re asking the right questions to the right people, and utilize their networks to get the word out and help expand the reach and diversity of our participants.”

The CBRC is working with activists and community groups across the country -- nearly 100 of them -- to reach folks across diverse communities in its “Sex Now Online 2019.”

“We need your help. By responding to this survey, and sharing it within your networks, you can help provide crucial information on the health and wellness of our communities today,” says the research centre.

It said this evidence will be used by CBRC and its community partners across the country to improve and advocate for the health of these communities.

“In Ontario, the GMSH will work with the Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN) and other organizations to ensure we can get the findings out to the community and benefit from Sex Now data as we advocate for our needs and plan programs and services. Your contributions through Sex Now will inform new, creative, and community-informed strategies to make health services and interventions more effective and accessible.”

You can add your voice here and share this link to help include as many voices as possible in Sex Now 2019.

The organizers are urging respondents to complete the survey by January 20, 2020.

Bills Introduced to Have Caribbean Heritage Month Declared in Ontario

By Neil Armstrong

Photo contributed     Michael Coteau, MPP for Don Valley East, with a flyer for Caribbean Heritage Month

Ontario could declare October as Caribbean Heritage Month if the Progressive Conservative-led government endorses a private member’s bill introduced by Michael Coteau, Liberal MPP for Don Valley East, on October 28.

A similar bill, tabled by New Democrats MPP for Brampton Centre and deputy leader, Sara Singh, on November 6 is calling for the month of August to have that designation.

“Canada is home to a large and vibrant Caribbean-Canadian community of 800,000, with more than half of us residing in Ontario,” said Coteau, whose father immigrated to Canada from Grenada.

“I am proud of our community’s incredible vibrancy and the important contributions we make to Canadian society. By proclaiming October as Caribbean Heritage Month, we will celebrate the unique and beautiful Caribbean culture.”

Coteau was approached by the Caribbean Women’s Society earlier in the year to support its initiative to have the month recognized as such by the legislature.

He said the group had received funding from Citizenship and Immigration to do the consultation with community groups and got 600 signatures on a petition, Singh’s support for the bill.

“October is a significant month for the Caribbean-Canadian community. Improvements to the Immigration Act (Canada) in October 1967 and the introduction of the Multiculturalism Policy in October 1971 opened new doors, allowing Caribbean people to see Canada as a place to establish roots, raise their children and become a part of Canada’s mosaic,” notes the preamble of the Act to proclaim the month of October, Caribbean Heritage Month introduced by Coteau.
It further notes that, “Caribbean-Canadians continue to make important contributions to Ontario’s social, economic, political and cultural fabric. Caribbean-Canadians have helped build Ontario into the multicultural success story that it is and have helped to build this province into the best place to live, work and raise families. They continue to help foster growth, prosperity and innovation throughout Ontario.”
It says the Caribbean is a region and a culture made up of 42 distinct nations. “In spite of their brutal history of colonialism, slavery and indentured servitude, today’s Caribbean peoples manifest a beautiful and complex mosaic of ancestries, including Amerindian, African, Asian, South American and European, and a multitude of languages including the six official languages: English, French, Dutch, Spanish, Creole and Papiamento. This remarkably unique region is proudly represented in the newly designed Caribbean Heritage Month symbol and flag.”
The bill notes that despite their rich diversity, Caribbean peoples hold, in common, a long-standing connection to Canada.
“Since the first Caribbeans arrived in Canada in the late 1700s, Caribbean-Canadians from across Ontario have made significant contributions across all fields and industries, including science, education, information technology, medicine, health and wellness, trades, agriculture, food, academia, broadcasting, law, politics, business, sports, philanthropy and arts and culture.”
Coteau said he told the Caribbean Women’s Society that “if they want to get this passed it’s really up to Doug Ford and that they have to go meet Conservative members.”
Providing an update on Bill 139, An Act to Proclaim August as Caribbean Heritage Month, Singh said that since August her office has connected with approximately 45 different organizations across the province and got important feedback.
“Based on those focus groups, on November 6, I tabled Bill 139, An Act to proclaim August as Caribbean Heritage Month,” she said.

Singh noted that in the consultations and online survey the majority of respondents indicated that the month should celebrate the history, accomplishments and contributions of Caribbean Canadians to Ontario and Canada.
They also said a summer month, predominantly, the month of August resonated
most and noted that Emancipation Day, harvest season, and existing festivals in
Ontario with Caribbean roots were all causes for celebration.
She thanked the Caribbean Women's Society and its subsidiary organizations for their input on the month of October.
The group and its members indicated the month of October was significant due to the points system incorporated into the Immigration Regulations in October 1967.
“Yet through the consultation process, it became clear that many felt the policies in the Immigration Act, should not be the basis for a bill celebrating Caribbean history and culture in Ontario. Many highlight that the points system continues to have detrimental impacts to those immigrating to Canada – the continued lack of foreign credentials recognition of new immigrants was one example,” she said.
Singh noted that in the midst of her ongoing consultation process, Coteau tabled Bill 134, An Act to proclaim October as Caribbean Heritage Month.
“Since the bills are inherently different, we will continue
to work with the community on developing Bill 139 to proclaim August as Caribbean Heritage Month before we move to second reading,” she said.
The process towards getting the bill to royal assent requires the government to call it to second reading in the legislature for it to go to debate.
Coteau says the Caribbean Women’s Society chose October as well because “they want to bring some sunshine into a cold part of the year and look for ways to really bring some Caribbean warmth to the country.”
A grassroots, membership-based, volunteer-run nonprofit built on diversity, inclusion and innovation, the group aims to improve the quality of life for the Caribbean-Canadian community.
[An edited version of this story was published in the North American Weekly Gleaner, December 5-11, 2019.]

Black Member of Parliament Underscores the Power of Community Building

By Neil Armstrong

Photo credit: Eddie Grant       Matthew Green, Member of Parliament for Hamilton Centre and Yolanda McClean, President of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), Canada Chapter

Matthew Green, the newly sworn-in Member of Parliament for Hamilton Centre in Ontario, says the substantive issues of the Black community continue to be unaddressed despite this being year five of the International Decade for People of African Descent, 2015-2024.

He said the question that he has been asked since he left Hamilton City Council as a councillor and was elected an MP is how would he stay grounded.

Green noted that the job is good in Ottawa and affords all types of benefits and perks and that he could see how people when they go there get lost in “the job of parliament and they forget about the work.”

“So they ask me how are you going to stay grounded and I tell them it’s easy for me to stay grounded because I have deep roots,” says Green who was speaking at the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), Canada Chapter awards dinner at the Sheraton Centre in Toronto on November 23.

He noted that from time to time politicians “will bring us into their corridors of power and put us up at the front for photos and make us feel real good in proximity to power but unless we’re in our communities building power none of that matters.”

Green said people have told him that he is a rookie and asked him what he would be doing in the position. He replied that he is going to do the same thing he was doing at city hall when he was a rookie – “speak truth to power because there is too much at stake right now.”

Hamilton’s first black councillor said the CBTU is important because it represents the largest collective and comprehensive interest of the Black community in Canada.

Green said he is a political observer and he believes that if someone were to disaggregate the exit polls “we would find out the Black community insulated this Liberal government from having real challenges in ridings across the GTA, including places like Brampton and Mississauga and other places.”

He asked why this was done and pointed to the new appointments to the Cabinet announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau which he said “still kept our people out.”

“Politics, like life, is all about moments and I can tell you this with a certainty I am not here alone. Every step along the way I had folks from our community who put on for me from day one.”

Green said the Black community is under attack by the provincial government and when they talk about gun violence they are not talking about programs of the Zero Gun Violence Movement that focus on preventative measures. Instead, they are focused on “increased policing and increased incarceration of our children.”

“We know they spend $80 million a year in Jane and Finch policing our communities and yet refuse to keep our afterschool programs, lunch programs and morning programs open,” he said.

Meanwhile, Yolanda McClean, president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), Canada Chapter says governments continue to pay lip service to anti-black racism and the provincial government has meted out austerity measures since it came into power.

She said there were many racist messages from right wing folks during the recent federal election and commended NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh for doing a great job in spite of them.

McClean said over the past year the CBTU has worked in partnership with several community organizations and environment campaigns.

The CBTU president said the chapter has been doing well over the past 22 years and this was the reason the theme for their annual awards dinner was “rooted in unity.”

She noted that the CBTU has accomplished a lot but still has a long way to go and will do whatever it takes that is necessary to make it happen.

Six scholarships were presented to young women who are pursuing post-secondary studies. The Young Women’s Post Secondary Scholarship was presented to: Arfi Hagi Yusuf of the University of Windsor, Chante Mundle of Humber College, Chantea Scott of the University of Waterloo, Reneesha McCormack-Pendley of Humber College, and Samantha Spence of Sheridan College. Amen Okungbowa received the Ann Newman Scholarship.

[This story was published in the North American Weekly Gleaner, December 5-11, 2019.]