Acknowledging that his government cannot meet all the needs and demands of its citizens, Antigua & Barbuda Prime Minister, Dr. W. Baldwin Spencer, is requesting assistance from nationals in Canada and the rest of the Diaspora.
“It requires us working in partnership with our many citizens living abroad,” said Dr. Spencer in his keynote address at the Antigua & Barbuda Association of Toronto (ABAT) celebration last Saturday night to mark the twin-island nation’s 31st independence anniversary. “This will certainly help us serve our nation and make it more productive.”
Spencer thanked the ABAT for contributing financial resources to maintain Clearview Psychiatric Hospital and the Fiennes Institute for the Aged, in addition to other local associations for donations they have made to sustain the St. John’s Medical Centre, the public library and secondary schools.
“Your contributions will go a long way in helping these institutions to provide better services,” Spencer told the donors. “As Antiguans and Barbudans living in Canada, you are making your contributions in a meaningful way to our overall growth and development. I therefore want to encourage you to continue your efforts in this regard.”
Spencer, who attended a flag raising ceremony earlier in the day, thanked nationals for their achievements in Canada.
“Many of you have made your country proud by working hard, respecting the laws and regulations of the country you now call home, having the right attitude to life in difficult and challenging times and allowing your faith in a higher power to guide you,” he said. “I am indeed proud of all of you for the successes you have attained and the contributions you have made to Canadian society, bearing in mind that your success here is also manifested by the support you provide to family and friends in Antigua and Barbuda.”
Spencer singled out York University lecturer, Dr. Carl James, for special praise. The professor in the university’s Faculty of Education and Director of the York Centre for Education and Community will be inducted into the Royal Society of Canada Fellows on Saturday for outstanding scholarly achievements.
“Now, that is no mean feat,” said Spencer, who was conferred with an honorary doctorate by St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia in December, 2009. “As a son of the soil of Antigua and Barbuda, we are all proud of your achievements.”
Spencer extended an invitation to James to share his talent, skills and knowledge with Antiguans & Barbudans back home.
On his first visit to Toronto in seven years, Spencer recognized the work of former Canadian Mounties who assisted with the reformation of the Royal Antigua Police Force a few years ago.
Gary Nelson was sacked as commissioner after six months and deputy commissioner, Thomas Bennett, who was elevated to commissioner, left after his two-year contract expired in August, 2010. Deputy Commissioner, Michael O’Neil, and assistant commissioner, Ronald Scott, quit after just five months. Neal Parker spent three and a half years as deputy commissioner in charge of operations, while assistant commissioner, Jacques Ouellette, headed the criminal investigations division before returning home last year.
“They were successful in helping to transform our law enforcement institution into a more modern and effective force,” said Spencer. “There is still work to be done in that area, but the Canadians did make a significant contribution. I want to say a special thank you to those officers who came and worked hard with our members.”
Antigua & Barbuda achieved independence on November 1, 1981.
Spencer said the celebration of independence is a time to reflect on the past and assess how far the country has travelled as a nation.
“It’s also a time to work together as a family to move our nation forward,” he said. “To become a more productive nation requires us to develop a greater sense of patriotism and national pride. As patriots, we must find ways of making the words of our national anthem come alive among us in the way we live and relate it to our country.”
He promised that Antigua & Barbuda will survive the global economic challenges and enjoy strong and sustainable growth in the near future.
Spencer said the tourism sector is gradually rebounding and the V.C. Bird International Airport upgrade will deliver jobs.
The ABAT presented scholarships to Ache Knight and Shona Skerrett. Knight was unable to attend the event. Skerrett graduated from Richview Collegiate Institute and is pursuing French and Communications studies at York University. Travis Thomas, a 16-year-old attending Mayfield Secondary School and a member of Pan Fantasy Steel Orchestra, won the President’s Cup, awarded to a high school student who demonstrates leadership and is community-oriented.
Fridtjof King, who owns Patches Welding, and former ABAT youth coordinator, Claude Olugbala, were presented with the Joe Reid and Novelle Richards Memorial awards, respectively.
Reid was an ABAT vice-president and community activist, while Richards was the first president of Antigua & Barbuda’s senate, his country’s first trade commissioner in Canada and the composer of the lyrics for Antigua & Barbuda’s national anthem. He died in Antigua in 1986 while serving as deputy governor-general.
The celebration was attended by Member of Parliament, Jim Karygiannis, provincial minister, Margarett Best, and Scarborough-Rouge River Member of Provincial Parliament, Bas Balkissoon.
BY RON FANFAIR