Who thief Caribana? People want to know!

By ARNOLD A. AUGUSTE, Publisher/Editor

Who thief Caribana?

That is what a lot of people want to know, at least many of the people I have been speaking with over the past few weeks.

So, did someone steal Caribana? These folks seem to think so. And many are pointing a finger squarely at City of Toronto councillor Joe Mihevc, the City’s Caribana liaison, for at least facilitating the removal of Caribana from community hands.

They say that the City intervened to help the Caribbean Cultural Committee (CCC), which founded and ran the festival for 39 years prior to the City’s intervention, to get its act together and they are bewildered that after four years and a restructuring of the CCC – including a new constitution and a name change to the Caribana Arts Group (CAG) – Caribana is still being run by the Festival Management Committee (FMC) which Mihevc set up.

Some believe that there was no intention either by Mihevc or the FMC ‘directors’ to return the festival. Others go further. There is talk floating around that a corporation has been established with three investors who now own Caribana.

All of this might just be speculation. We don’t know and the folks who know – or should know -such as Mihevc and outgoing FMC chair, Joe Halstead, aren’t talking.

As a matter of fact, we understand that the FMC people don’t feel they have any obligation to speak to the community since they are not a membership organization.

The CCC (and now, the CAG) has a membership made up of Caribana-minded people from the community. Actually, anyone with an interest in the festival could join for a small annual membership fee.

That has both been a strength and a weakness. At times things got very heated as members with different visions for the festival (or their own agendas) struggled for control which caused divisions, even at the board level. (I don’t mind saying, it did get really nasty at times.)

But, that is democracy. I am told the restructuring that has taken place will put an end to this behaviour.

But, back to the FMC. What exactly is its continuing role in Caribana? Is it the expectation of those involved with it that they will continue to run the festival indefinitely? And, who are they reporting to if not to the community?

Is it true that a private corporation has taken over ownership of Caribana? Is that who the FMC is reporting to?

And, what of the CAG who owns the trademark to the name, Caribana? We know the bank has included its name but the word, Caribana, is owned by the CAG.

In the early days of the FMC, an attempt was made to change the name of the festival to Toronto Carnival or something like that but it didn’t fly. Even the sponsors balked because they wanted to be identified with Caribana so the CCC was approached and promises made or so I have been told.

Now, the folks at the CAG say that they were misled and that they want their festival back.

Are they ready to take it back, though? Have they changed enough? Can we take them at their word that they have really turned the corner on a less than stellar past?

And, if so, is the City ready to work with them again? Without government funding it is doubtful they will be able to run the festival.

Speaking of funding, this year the various levels of government cut their funding to Caribana. That was very confusing. Why would the funding be cut when the festival is so beneficial to our economy. Last year, according to an Ipsos Reid poll, Caribana injected in excess of $400 million into the economy.

Could it be that the festival has really gone private and that is the reason the three levels of government are reducing their funding? Could there be more and deeper cuts in store and, if so, what really is the festival’s future?

If there are indeed new owners, do they have the resources and sponsors to cover the costs of running the festival, not just the current costs but the additional costs that will accrue when all the participants will now have to be paid since they are working for a private corporation and no longer for the community?

If somebody really thief Caribana it could turn out to be one hell of a burden for them. They better give it back!

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