Has the Caribbean community lost Caribana?

By ARNOLD A. AUGUSTE, Publisher

There is no denying that the folks who were in charge of the former Caribbean Cultural Committee (CCC), especially in the later years, made a giant mess of things.

We say the former CCC because we have been reminded that the old CCC, for all intents and purposes, no longer exists; that it has been replaced by the Caribana Arts Group (CAG).

New name, same folks, some will say. Well, not exactly. From what we have been made to understand, the old constitution has been changed and some members – as we understand it, the ones who caused most of the problems – have been expelled for life from the organization.

Why is all this important?

Let’s back up a bit.

Three years or so ago, the City of Toronto, which had funded the CCC to the tune of almost a half-million dollars each year (which was matched by the province) decided it would withdraw its funding. The city’s liaison to the CCC, Councillor Joe Mihevc, had enough of the bickering, in-fighting and lack of accountability especially where government funds were concerned.

Mihevc announced that the city was no longer going to fund the CCC and he set up a committee, the Festival Management Committee (FMC), to run Caribana. He felt the festival was too important to the city to cancel it but also felt it was impossible to work with the CCC.

From what we now understand, some of the CCC members, those who worked to change the constitution, to remove the troublesome members and to rename the organization, agreed with the move by the city because they felt it was necessary. They also felt it would have given them a chance to clean up their act and to regain the trust of the community.

They say they believed – or were led to believe – that they would continue to have a say in how the festival was run under the management of the FMC.

As a result, they allowed the new committee to use their trademarked name, Caribana.

They are now wondering if that was the right thing to do. They say they feel they are being squeezed out of the festival.

We didn’t know they were still involved as much as they now say they were. They explain that was deliberate. They say they wanted to work quietly and professionally to do what was necessary, a significant departure from how the old CCC operated.

When we began to question the ownership of Caribana or the bank’s involvement, it was purely on our observations. Something just didn’t smell right.  

Now, people are calling to say that we seem to have hit the nail on the head and that there is something very fishy going on.

So, what’s going on?

Did Mihevc agree that the CAG would continue to have a say in the running of the festival seeing that it was theirs to start with? Did he adopt the CAG’s idea of an arm’s length management committee to run the festival as the CAG is now claiming?

 (One of our earlier questions was: To whom is the FMC responsible? We got the sense – as, we believe, most people have – that they are responsible only to Mihevc and, by extension, the city.)

The CAG owns the trademark to the Caribana name. Is the city or the FMC paying them a royalty for its use? Is the bank? But, more importantly, is there any plan by Mihevc, the FMC, Mayor David Miller, City Council or anybody else, to return ownership of this festival to the people who founded it and gave so much for so long of their time, energy and, yes, personal funds, to build it into the extravaganza it is today?

There’s no doubt that the some $300 million the festival brings in to the city each year has something to do with this apparent takeover of the festival. The city could have, as was their right, just pulled the funding and let Caribana die if the CCC couldn’t find replacement funding. But, because of the financial bonanza this festival is to everyone (except our community) that was never going to happen.

We need to know what is going to happen with this festival. Has the community lost it?

Maybe there are some good lawyers out there who may be able to help us find some answers.

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