Over the years, Barbados and other Caribbean islands have endured the loss of their highly skilled and educated labour to Canada and other developed nations in what is commonly known as the “brain drain”.
In an attempt to reverse the trend and capitalize on brain power, the Bajans have established a framework that seeks to attract the skills and expertise of their nationals overseas to enhance the country’s socio-economic development.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart recently enticed Rhodes Scholar Marston Gibson to return home to accept the post of Chief Justice. The 57-year-old former president of the Council of Barbados Organizations in New York, who emigrated to the United States in 1987, was sworn in last month.
“It’s my view that Barbados has to be redefined,” Stuart said in his keynote address at the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Canada chapter’s annual fundraising dinner last Saturday night in Scarborough. “When we think of Barbados, we should think not only of those people on the island, but also of our nationals in the Diaspora, and it’s our subtle conviction that they should now be fully integrated into what it is we are attempting to do in our country.
“That means we are now elevating the concept of remittances beyond money to social remittances. We no longer want only what you have earned, but also what you have learned here in Canada and other parts of the world, and in looking at filling posts back home and the planning of the development of Barbados. We are looking beyond our population to draw on those nationals who live overseas. It’s that thinking that led us in our search for a new Chief Justice and there is more of that to come. Therefore, I want you to stay tuned to this station because we are going to be drawing on the talent and the know-how of people in Canada as well.”
This was Stuart’s first visit to Canada. He was sworn in as Barbados’ seventh Prime Minister a year ago following the death of David Thompson.
The University of the West Indies Law graduate, who is also Minister of Civil Service, National Security and Urban Development, acknowledged the special relationship Canada and Barbados have enjoyed over the years, dating back to 1884 when the influential Barbados Agricultural Society attempted to have the country enter a political association with the Canadian Confederation.
Late Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker often vacationed in Barbados and the close friendship between Pierre Trudeau, who died 11 years ago, and Barbados’ first Prime Minister, Errol Barrow – they were classmates at the London School of Economics – led to Canadian financing for the Grantley Adams International Airport.
“This gives you some sense of how, for many years, Barbados has felt about Canada and Canadians,” Stuart said. “There is an old, revered and hallowed relationship between the two countries.”
The DLP Canada chapter was established five years ago. Thompson attended the first three fundraisers but missed last year’s event because of illness. Health Minister Donville Inniss delivered the feature address instead.
The event honours the memory of Barrow who co-founded the DLP, trained with the Royal Air Force in the Maritimes and was conferred with an honorary doctorate of Civil Law by McGill University in 1966, the same year he led his country to independence and became his country’s first prime minister. He died in 1987 at age 67.
“It’s appropriate that the life and times of Errol Barrow is memorialized because of the massive, substantial and wide contributions which he made not only to the public life of Barbados but, of course, to the development of the Caribbean,” said Stuart who was born exactly four years before the party was established on April 27, 1955.
“After the collapse of the West Indies Federation in 1962, it was Barrow who convened a meeting in Barbados with the late (Guyanese president) Forbes Burnham that led to the establishment of the Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA). Not content with the limitations imposed by a free trade area, he was again instrumental in the formation of the Caribbean Community & Common Market (CARICOM) in 1973. Barrow made a mighty contribution to regional politics. He was a strong voice at international fora for poor countries of the world and he espoused progressive causes on behalf of the poor and the vulnerable.”
Among the guests at the sold-out gala were retired jurist Sir Frederick Smith, a DLP co-founder and the party’s first chairman, Zanana Akande, the first Black woman to serve as a cabinet minister in Canada and the first Black woman elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, and Keith Forde, Canada’s first Black Deputy Chief of Police, who retired from the Toronto Police Service last year.
DLP Canada chapter secretary Marsene Maloney and volunteer Larks Millar were presented with the President’s and Recognition Awards respectively.
Reynold Austin presides over the board of directors which includes Franklin Greaves (treasurer), Glyn Bancroft, Heather Barker-Roberts, Charles Gittens, Margaret Haynes, Ovid Herbert, Merton Knight, Joan Rowe, Michael Stanford, Keith Trotman and Alex Waithe.