LaBarge lauds impact of Caribbean nationals

By RON FANFAIR

Nationals and others with roots in the Caribbean have helped to make York Region the pride of Canada and this country the envy of the world, says the municipality’s outgoing police chief, Armand LaBarge.

LaBarge announced last month that he’s retiring from the organization when his contract expires on December 12, 2010.

“People of Caribbean heritage have made a significant contribution to our proud profession and as I look around this room tonight, they have also made a significant contribution to countless other professions as well,” LaBarge said at the 18th annual Association of Black Law Enforcers (ABLE) scholarship awards ball last Saturday night in Vaughan. “There are three billion people in this world and what never ceases to amaze me is the major contributions that 2.4 million Jamaicans, 1.5 million Trinidadians & Tobagonians and many more from other parts of the Caribbean combined have made to this world and this country.

There were great men like Sir Alexander Bustamante and Norman Manley who dared to challenge the institutions of colonialism and in so doing changed the course of human history by giving social and political freedom to millions of people.

“Can you ever begin to imagine for a moment what this world would be like without Dr. Avis Glaze, Dr. Jean Augustine, Dr. Herbert Carnegie, Lincoln Alexander, Margarett Best, Mary Anne Chambers or Justice Michael Tulloch? Can you imagine what this world would be like without the works of Austin Clarke and Nobel Prize winners Derek Walcott and V.S. Naipaul and a world without the music of Bob Marley, Billy Ocean, Grace Jones and Biggie Smalls and Busta Rhymes (their parents are Jamaican born)? Or the wit and wisdom of the late Miss Lou? It would be a world without a soul.

“And, can you imagine what this world would be without compassionate men like Father Richard Ho-Lung and Dr. Mansfield Edwards or without athletes like Brian Lara, Donovan Bailey, Asafa Powell, Merlene Ottey and the fastest man on earth, the great Usain Bolt?

And what would the world of law enforcement be like without courageous pioneers like Keith Forde, Karl Davis, Jay Hope, Norma McCulloch, Tony Brown and without new leaders like Peter Sloly, Robertson Rouse, Dave Mitchell, Roy Smiley and Chris Bullen just to name a few?

“The sons and daughters of the Caribbean have done a lot for this country and this world and I am confident that the grandsons and grand-daughters of the Caribbean that are being honoured this evening with scholarships will do their part to make the world a safer, a fair and a more caring and inclusive place in which to live.”

Ontario deputy minister Jay Hope, Mimico Correctional Centre superintendent David Mitchell, York Regional Police inspector Chris Bullen, retired Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer Lynell Nolan, who is the director of Safety and Security at Ross University School of Veterinary Science in St. Kitts, Tony Weekes, who is a probation officer with the anti-guns and gangs unit, D.J. Marks, who works with a law enforcement supply company in western Canada and retired Toronto Police Service officer Doreen Guy, who now lives in Grenada, founded the ABLE in 1992 at a meeting at L’Amoreaux Community Centre in Scarborough.

LaBarge said the founding members have distinguished themselves by making things happen and by breathing new life into law enforcement through scholarships and mentoring programs.

“The strength of character shown by the founding members was greatly needed to break down the many barriers to policing that had been built up over time,” he said. “That strength of character was needed to confront issues and stereotypes within our profession that few had the courage to confront.”

A longtime supporter of the organization, LaBarge promised that he would continue to embrace the ABLE when he steps down as Chief.

“I am retiring from active policing, but not from a lot of the work that I have been doing in the community,” he told Share. “I am just going to find another way to give back. Policing has been good for me and my wife (she’s a Detective Sergeant with York Regional Police) and I have made many friends in the community.”

This year’s scholarship winners were Chelsi Bonair, Brian Daley, Rashelle Joseph, Lageishon Mohanadas, Kenisha Neil and Akwasi Owusu-Bempah.

Bonair, who aspires to be a media lawyer, will enter the University of Ottawa in the fall to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Communication while Daley – a Grade 12 student at St. Elizabeth Catholic High School in Vaughan — plans to become a York Region police officer and Joseph, who enjoys modeling, dancing and working with young people, intends to become a family lawyer.

A Vancouver 2010 Olympics torchbearer, Mohanadas is a Grade 12 student at Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute who aspires to join a Canadian police service.

Neil, who attends Monsignor John Pereyma Secondary School in Oshawa, also intends to be a police officer and Owusu-Bempah is pursuing his doctorate at the University of Toronto’s Centre of Criminology.

The ABLE has awarded 94 scholarships worth nearly $124,000 since the program was launched 16 years ago. The scholarships are presented in the names of Rose Fortune and Peter Butler III, Canada’s first Black law enforcement officers. Fortune was a self-appointed policewoman in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia in the late 1700s while Butler served for 23 years with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) before retiring in 1936.

In the keynote address, York Regional Police chaplain and Ontario Conference of Seventh-day Adventists president Dr. Mansfield Edwards paid tribute to mothers on the eve of Mother’s Day and spoke about three fundamental principles – take time to reflect, never lose focus and challenge yourself to take your experience to another level – which he said he learned from his mom.

The ABLE was founded to, among other things, encourage racial harmony and cultural pride in the law enforcement community and the wider society, promote and protect the interests of Blacks and other racial minorities in the profession and work closely with law enforcement agencies to stimulate and facilitate employment equity programs.

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