Jamaica’s Opposition leader Portia Simpson-Miller has challenged nationals in Canada to invest in the land of their birth.
In making the call for them to be owners rather than shareholders, the former prime minister said they owe it to the ancestors, themselves and future generations to contribute to the country’s development and be counted among the nation’s builders.
Nearly 400,000 Jamaican nationals live in Canada, the majority – about 250,000 – in the Greater Toronto Area.
“Ensure that you have a financial stake in the place where you took your first drink of water and where your navel string is buried,” she said in her keynote address at the Jamaican Canadian Association’s (JCA) 48th anniversary event and Jamaica’s independence gala last Saturday night. “This little piece of rock called Jamaica is ours and unless we own it and control the purse strings, we cannot control its destiny.”
The JCA was founded a month after Jamaica achieved independence on August 6, 1962.
Simpson-Miller, who in 2006 became the country’s seventh prime minister and the first female to hold the office, said Jamaicans must be unequivocal in their resolve for peace, justice, equity and integrity and they must stand up and speak out for transparency and accountability.
“It will take the best of who we are and our determination as a proud and principled people, but we will win,” she said. “It will take all of what Jamaica is to win, but as a country and as a people, we will win. This is the basis of my continued belief in Jamaica.”
Simpson-Miller said the gala’s theme, “I Believe in Jamaica”, resonated with her.
“I believe in Jamaica when I see our sportsmen and women so frequently outperform the best in the developed countries of the world,” said the former Minister of Sport. “I believe in Jamaica when I hear of the many Jamaicans overseas who have transcended the challenges of great socio-economic circumstances and have not only pursued their dreams but have become trailblazers. I believe in Jamaica when I think of the courage, determination and sacrifices of the Fathers of the Nation that still inspire us today.
“The name Jamaica evokes pride because we are a people of achievement. We are number one. Let us remember the late Arthur Wint and Herb McKenley who blazed the trail in international track and field and left clear footprints for Merlene Ottey, Donald Quarrie and now Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Shelly Fraser and many others and others to come. Let us honour the late Bob Marley and the great Jimmy Cliff who set the tone for excellence in music that could transcend racial and social barriers.”
Former JCA president Herman Stewart made a special presentation to Simpson-Miller on behalf of the Jamaican community in Canada.
“When we honoured Donovan Bailey here in 1996 after he won the gold medal in Atlanta, she acceded to our request to come to Toronto and join us in the celebrations,” said Stewart. “And when we were experiencing some tough times trying to acquire our building, she was the only Jamaican politician that came to Toronto to give us support. We will never ever forget that.”
The JCA made several presentations, including a 40-year pin to longtime member Neville Walters who was unable to attend the event because of illness, special recognition awards to photographer Eddie Grant and CHRY Radio, the President’s award to Dwight Gordon and the Outstanding Volunteer honour to Sheila Raymond.
Lifetime Achievement awards were bestowed on Madge Cameron, Alton Telfer and Erma Collins who has been with the organization for the past 40 years.
“I have enjoyed every minute that I have been a volunteer,” said the 76-year-old retired George Brown College lecturer who has served in every board position except the presidency. “I came to Toronto in 1965 and when my marriage failed four years later, I started to look for an organization that I could work with. That’s how I ran into the JCA.”
The youngest of four sisters, Collins came to Canada in 1960 to attend the University of Manitoba where she received her English degree in 1963. She immigrated permanently two years later and earned a Masters degree from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.
Collins actively promoted the Saturday Morning Tutoring program for students that needed extra help and the purchase of the JCA Centre, and she spearheaded the creation of the organization’s annual fundraising golf tournament. In addition, she awards scholarships annually to students pursuing post-secondary education.
Outgoing York Regional Police Chief Armand LaBarge was the recipient of the Community Service award. He chairs the Adopt-A-Mission Jamaica Committee and has traveled to Jamaica with some of his officers on several occasions to do volunteer work in inner city communities. He also supports the JCA fund-raising events and awards scholarships to students of Jamaican heritage.
JCA president Audrey Campbell congratulated the award winners and recognized two of the organization’s founding members – retired health care worker Amy Nelson and the first president Roy Williams – who attended the gala.