Kevin Baynes refers to his mom as “The Energizer Bunny” for good reason.
“She’s always on the go,” says the only child.
Gemma Raeburn-Baynes is an active member and avid fundraiser in Quebec’s Black community. She helped start Montreal’s Caribbean Carnival and founded the Play Mas Cultural Association that raise funds for sickle cell, the defunct Miss Black Quebec pageant and Montreal Ebony Models, the city’s first Black modeling agency that generated nearly $1.5 million in a 27-year span through fashion shows.
The Bank of Montreal Financial Group’s senior auditor and McGill University graduate initiated the Trans Canadian Possibilities Internship Scholarship for visible minority and aboriginal youths and young people with disabilities. She also created The Taste of the Caribbean festival 12 years ago that showcases the Caribbean’s rich culture, craft and tasty culinary delights, and sits on several boards.
Raeburn-Baynes was recognized last Saturday night for her extensive community work with a Grenada Consul General award at the Grenada Association of Toronto’s (GAT) annual awards dinner to celebrate the island’s 37th independence anniversary.
Grenada secured its independence on February 7, 1974.
“This is such an honour and something very special,” said Raeburn-Baynes who migrated to Montreal in 1964 at age 13. “I enjoy working in the community and it’s amazing to be honoured by the folks in Toronto when most of my work has been done in my Quebec hometown.”
In July 2008, the Human Rights Commission ordered the Montreal Police to pay the Dollard-des-Ormeaux resident, who suffers from congestive heart failure, $20,000 for racial discrimination.
The commission ruled that police officers made racist remarks in a 2004 incident in which they drew guns on Raeburn-Baynes and two Grenadian-born friends helping to clear out her garage. A neighbour called 911 after spotting the trio, believing a robbery was in progress. Police arrived with guns drawn and when Raeburn-Baynes protested, an officer replied that “bullets don’t see colour.” Another officer told one of the men that if he didn’t like it here, he should go back to his own country.
The city settled with the plaintiffs.
Consul General awards were also presented to Whitby’s Donald Wilson High School graduate Rashad LaTouche, who is a second-year kinesiology student and football running back at Wilfrid Laurier University, and family physician Dr. Terence Rose who has been practicing in Toronto for nearly 40 years.
“I was flabbergasted when I learned I would be the recipient of this prestigious award,” said Rose, a University of the West Indies graduate who has been in Canada since 1966. “I don’t know what I have done to deserve this, but I have always tried to do my best in any endeavour I have confronted.”
Grenada’s Minister of Youth & Sport Patrick Simmons and Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) High Commissioner Brendon Browne attended the event in Don Mills.
“Almost four decades of nationhood is certainly a milestone,” said Vincentian-born Browne. “Over that period, Grenada’s path has not been smooth. To be sure, there were moments when peace seemed elusive but, alas, reason was the winner. Through hard work and resilience, Grenada maintained steady growth and impacted positively on the world stage.”
The GAT presented scholarships to Janelle Gravesande, Nigel Holgate, Cheyenne John, Angel Wiafe and Anita McFarlane.
Gravesande, who came to Canada just two years ago, completed her high school education at Cardinal Leger Secondary School in Brampton obtaining 10 Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) subjects at Grenada’s St. Joseph’s Convent. She’s pursuing an undergraduate degree in science at McMaster University.
John, who aspires to be a teacher, is a second-year English & Canadian Studies student at York University, Holgate is a first-year environmental science student at the University of Guelph and Wiafe is enrolled in Humber College’s three-year advanced accounting diploma program.
McFarlane, 19, is registered in McMaster University’s honours linguistic cognitive science program. She intends to become a speech pathologist.
“This scholarship represents opportunity,” said McFarlane who is the editor of her university’s monthly newsletter, the anthology coordinator and the cancer society vice-president. “Last year, I did two jobs while attending school and my grades suffered.”