By RON FANFAIR
He was unlike some Caribbean leaders who have had little or no contact with nationals in the Greater Toronto Area.
Just six months after becoming Barbados’ sixth Prime Minister in January 2008, David Thompson made his first official visit here and was the keynote speaker at the annual Barbados Charity Ball at the Metro Convention Centre.
He came back a few months later and also last year for the launch of the Canadian chapter of the Democratic Labour Party’s annual fundraising gala – which he helped launch in 2007.
Thompson, who missed last month’s event because of illness, succumbed to pancreatic cancer last Saturday. He would have turned 49 on Christmas Day.
“This is a very sad time for all of us,” said DLP Canada founding president, Reynold Austin. “He encouraged us to form the group and he was our biggest supporter…I will remember him as a strong leader and someone who was very disciplined and passionate.”
Austin will represent the organization at the state funeral next Wednesday (November 3) at Kensington Oval. Thompson will be laid to rest at St. John Parish church graveyard.
Jessica Carrington, the Barbados Overseas Community Canada president, described Thompson as caring, considerate and people-oriented while National Council of Barbados Associations in Canada president Malcolm Flatts said the deceased PM was bright and articulate.
“I think he would have moved Barbados in the right direction,” added Flatts, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer, who returned to Toronto from Barbados about six hours before Thompson died.
Former Barbados Consul General Kay McConney said Thompson was a courageous man and leader.
“He was never afraid to take on challenges in the name of country,” she added.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was among world leaders offering condolences to Thompson’s wife, Marie-Josephine Mara and their three daughters.
“Prime Minister Thompson was deeply committed to implementing social programs for families, children and youth, both in his country and beyond,” said Harper whose last meeting with Thompson was in November 2009 at the Commonwealth leaders summit in Trinidad & Tobago. “This was evident in his interventions in the Commonwealth and in the Caribbean community.”
Thompson is the third Barbadian PM to die in office in the last 25 years – Tom Adams in 1985 and Errol Barrow in 1987 predeceased him – and the seventh Caribbean head of state since Jamaica’s Donald Sangster succumbed to brain haemorrhage at the Montreal Neurological Institute & Hospital in 1967.