By RON FANFAIR
Toronto police officers who fail to seize the chance to work at a Caribana parade are missing an opportunity of a lifetime, says Chief Bill Blair.
He should know, he has worked many of the parades, including 18 consecutive ones.
“I have always made a point of making sure that I worked on that weekend because I wanted to be at the festival,” Blair said at the annual Toronto Police Service (TPS) Caribana kick-off last week. “I would always remind my colleagues that they are missing one of the best days in the summer.
“It’s an honour to work at that event because it’s a great opportunity for us to connect with all of the wonderful people of this city that will come out for this grand celebration.”
The TPS has fielded a float in the parade for the past 18 years. The theme of this year’s float is “Diversity, Feel the Vibe.”
“We are proud of that tradition and we are proud of our participation,” said Blair. “We do that with the support of our board which has always provided us with a little bit of funding so that we could put that float on the road and be part of a celebration that is the very best of what makes this city great.
“We are celebrating our cultures and we are celebrating how we can come together and celebrate the great contributions that the Black community has made to this city.”
TPS board chair Alok Mukherjee said the police have been honoured to be part of Caribana for almost two decades, adding that the festival celebrates the vibrancy, richness and colour of the kaleidoscope culture that characterizes the city and Canada.
“The powerful spirit of this festival can be felt throughout the city in all of our neighbourhoods,” he said. “Caribana is an opportunity to celebrate our partnership with Toronto’s dynamic Black community.
“Toronto is rightly recognized as one of the most diverse cities in the world. Our diversity enriches and energizes us and we are truly strengthened by our diversity. But diversity is also a challenge in that it challenges us to be inclusive in our thinking and actions and it places an onus on public institutions such as the police to ensure that every member of our community is treated fairly, responsibly and equitably.
“It also requires us to do all we can so that our organization at all levels is a mirror of our society.”
Barbados-born Deputy Chief Keith Forde helped Blair and Mukherjee cut the ribbon to launch the float that will include student participants in this summer’s Youth in Policing initiative.