Jamaican ex-soldiers group urged to ‘up the ante’

By RON FANFAIR

Investing in young people through bursaries as a preferred source of philanthropy is an excellent way of providing positive life experiences and an alternative to criminal behaviour, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Inspector Rohan Thompson said at the 18th annual banquet of the Jamaica Ex-Soldiers Association (Canada) last Saturday night.

The highest-ranking Black OPP officer, Jamaican-born Thompson recognized the ex-soldiers for awarding two bursaries. He however asked them to consider “upping the ante” by offering more academic awards.

“You are already taking some preventative steps with your bursary program,” he said in his keynote address. “We know that education and better opportunities are very strong protective factors against youth crimes. I applaud your efforts and urge you to strengthen this program.”

In addition to giving bursaries, Thompson encouraged the organization to implement a mentoring program that would pair ex-soldiers with young people. This initiative could provide leadership opportunities for youth and also educate them about careers in law enforcement.

“Throwing money at reactive measures will not solve our crime problem,” he said. “This is a bit like parking the ambulance at the bottom of a cliff. We will forever be picking up the bodies that fall over the edge. Throwing money at prevention alone will not solve the problem either. This is more like putting up a fence at the top of a cliff. But in addition to putting up the fence, we also need to look at the environment and see if we can keep people away from the cliff in the first place. We must embrace both prevention and reaction in order to effectively address youth criminal behaviour.”

This year’s bursary recipients were George Brown Dental Technology student Natasha Allen and 18-year-old Kadyan Winkley, who is enrolled in Ryerson University’s Criminal Justice program.

A graduate of R.H. King Academy, Allen volunteers at Dr. Roz’s Healing Place which provides a safe refuge for abused women with children.

Winkley, the recipient of an Alliance of Jamaican Alumni Associations scholarship last July, graduated from C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute which received national media attention three years ago following the Jordan Manners fatal shooting and subsequent allegations of sexual abuse.

“I am here tonight to tell you that C.W. Jefferys is a great institution,” said Winkley, who was a friend of Manners who was shot dead in the school in May 2007. “It’s an amazing school and the teachers are great. It gave me a good education and provided me with the foundation to pursue a law career.”

The Canadian-based Jamaican ex-soldiers organization, which supports the Curphey Retirement Home for retired soldiers in Jamaica, was the first organization comprising former soldiers to be established outside the Caribbean country. Associations have since been set up in New York and Florida and plans are underway to start an organization in England.

In her message, Jamaica’s High Commissioner Sheila Sealy-Monteith congratulated the organization on its achievements over the last 18 years.

“Yours is a mission that is very important to those who offered themselves in service in Jamaica and in defense of our country as military personnel,” she said. “Your work and your worth and that of your colleagues who currently serve have been acknowledged by the government and people of Jamaica. That you continue to support each other even after you have left that noble profession and in addition reach out to provide assistance in the community is worthy of recognition.”

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