By RON FANFAIR
A network of Caribbean organizations in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) has emerged with bold and ambitious plans to develop programs for young people and seniors, collaborate with local organizations to put together a disaster preparedness plan for the Caribbean and explore the possibility of establishing a community centre.
The Council of Caribbean Associations -Canada (CCAC), comprising 13 associations, was officially launched last Sunday in Toronto.
“Give us your support and we will deliver,” promised the organization’s president, Frances Delsol. “For too long, our contribution to Ontario and Canada has gone unnoticed or just plain overlooked. We have contributed on a very large scale to the social, economic and political landscape of this country and it is time we stand and say we matter.
“No longer must we underestimate the impact we have made and continue to make. Economically speaking, there are over one million persons of Caribbean descent in this country and the powers that be would want us to spend our dollars at the neighbourhood dollar store and deplete our economic capacity. But we learned in the Caribbean that a fool and his money are soon parted, so we are wiser.”
In addition to pledging to collaborate with the Caribbean Consular Corps, Emergency Management Ontario and other related agencies to develop a structured disaster preparedness strategy, the CCAC says it will make major investments that will benefit young people and seniors.
“We will invest in education and partner with decision makers so that our children are no longer disposable and we will invest in our senior citizens because a large portion of our community is retired and will soon require a senior community living atmosphere that shares their values and allows them to feel as if they belong,” said Delsol.
“We will invest in our own real estate because we have become hostages to property owners when we require rental facilities. Not only are some of the costs prohibitive, but some won’t even give us an opportunity to use their facilities. Many have asked why don’t we own our very own cultural community centre that allows us to meet and commune and bask in pride like so many other immigrant groups who came before us have been able to do.
“It is time we understand that forming this Caribbean unit can no longer be taken for granted. We need your help if we are to break down barriers and untie the chains that bind us…As Caribbean nationals and responsible citizens, we owe it to ourselves always to be an informed community, ready and willing to work together for our common good. Canada will take us seriously when we take ourselves more seriously. The road to equality as a minority group in Canada becomes a lot easier to travel if we work together.”
In his keynote address, Regional Senior Justice Gregory Regis lauded the CCAC founders for their vision in forming the organization.
“Your mandate is excellent because it attempts to address urgent needs in our community which are youths and seniors,” he said. “We need to become more engaged in Canadian society. Too many of us are operating on the fringes.”
Regis also reminded the CCAC that they have a responsibility to play a meaningful role in the development of the Caribbean.
“It does not matter how long we have lived here or how successful or entrenched we are in Canada, we never lose the love for and desire to help make our homeland a better place,” he added. “By virtue of attending school, working and living in the developed world, we can bring new and different dimensions to any discussion about the Caribbean. It’s our job to get people to understand that. The reality is we have good ideas which can help make our homeland a better place. We should not allow anyone to bully us into staying quiet.”
Kittitian Al Lewis conceived the idea for the CCAC’s formation three years ago when he summoned a meeting that included four Organization of Eastern Caribbean States associations in the GTA.
The 13 organizations that comprise the CCAC are the Antigua & Barbuda Association of Toronto, the Associations of Bahamians in Canada, Barbados Overseas Community (Canada) Inc., the Commonwealth of Dominica Ontario Association, the Grenada Association of Toronto, the Haiti Association of Toronto, the Trinidad & Tobago Associations of Ontario, St. Vincent & the Grenadines Association of Toronto, the St. Lucia Toronto Association, the St. Kitts Canada Association (Toronto), NevCan Cultural Association, the Montserrat Association of Toronto and the Jamaica Diaspora Canada Foundation.
Jamaica’s Consul General in Toronto, Anne-Marie Bonner, described last Sunday’s launch as “a momentous occasion and a signal of positive action”.
“It is, however, important that the focus and the purpose of the council are kept on track,” she said. “This requires sound, strategic leadership that is abundant in our community. The principles of understanding, harmony and cooperation can promote the unity which is in need in today’s modern world. If all Caribbean people can pull together, the Council of Caribbean Associations in Canada will be a successful force in this province.”
Besides Delsol, the other CCAC executive members are Laura Henry (secretary) and Gideon Exeter (treasurer).
Delsol said she did not receive feedback from Guyana which was invited to be part of the group. She also said invitations will be sent out to Suriname and Belize to join once contacts are identified.