By RON FANFAIR
Little did the Canadian government know that when they extended scholarships to two Jamaican students over four decades ago, they were planting the seed for a long-lasting relationship.
The academic awards entitled the students – George Ramocan and Lola Burrell – to attend Expo ’67 in Montreal and Fergus High School. They consolidated their friendship on their return home later that summer and were married five years later.
Ramocan was recently appointed Jamaica’s new Consul General in Toronto and his wife, who is an educator, joins him here in the first week of January. The couple, who has four children, celebrates their 37th wedding anniversary on December 27.
“We met for the first time at the Ministry of Education for a briefing prior to Canada,” recalled Ramocan. “When we got here, we stayed with different families and when we got back to Jamaica, we kept in touch and corresponded by letter. That developed into a warm friendship and then marriage. I must say thanks to the Canadian government for causing me to meet my wife. Had it not being for that gesture, it’s highly unlikely that we would have met.
“We have been back here on separate occasions, but my new job will afford us the opportunity to be together back in Canada for the first time in nearly 42 years.”
Ramocan attended Trench Town Comprehensive High School and West Indies College (now Northern Caribbean University) while his wife was enrolled at Frankfield Comprehensive High School before attending Shortwood Teachers’ College.
Religious values are paramount to the couple. Ramocan has followed in the footsteps of his father who was an Assemblies of God pastor and his mother who was a Baptist minister by becoming a minister of religion while his wife is a member of the United Church in Jamaica and Cayman Islands.
Less than a month after taking up his diplomatic assignment in Toronto, the former Manchester Parish councilor joined the Church of God International – he has been a member since 1997 – congregation in downtown Toronto and met with Jamaican-born religious leaders in the Greater Toronto Area to ascertain how they can work together to help young people in some of Jamaica’s inner cities.
“I think there is a lot we can achieve together because the church has a peculiar advantage in working for the betterment of groups in need,” he said. “One of the things that I found out and I liked is that the church leaders here are willing to give back in any way they can to the country of their birth.”
A member of the Jamaican Senate from 1983 to 1989, Ramocan said he was surprised when offered the invitation to serve his country abroad. This is his first diplomatic posting.
“I was shocked, but after considering the task and what it involved, I saw this as a great opportunity,” said Ramocan, once a spokesman for former Jamaican Prime Minister Edward Seaga. “In the short time I have been here, I have put together an advisory board that will focus on culture, trade and investment. I feel the areas of trade and investment have not been fully exploited despite the opportunities that exist. My goal is to increase Jamaican exports to Canada.”
Ramocan’s ties to partisan politics ended 16 years ago when he failed to win the West Rural St. Andrew seat.