Incomprehensible’ that we could lose Caribana

Dear Editor:

I want to congratulate you for taking the time to write about CARIBANA. I will try my best to be short but there is much to be said.

There are several factors that contributed to the demise of the CAG (the Caribana Arts Group, formerly the CCC – Caribbean Cultural Committee), some self inflicted and most by propaganda.

Remember, this organization was established by people who were volunteers and (did) not necessarily have the business acumen that is required. As it grew, due to no finances, they (board members) started to finance it themselves, by mortgaging their homes etc.

But the Festival became too big to be handled by just volunteers; it needed professional “business” persons to stage it.

There is a document established in 2003 which speaks directly to what has occurred – (with regard to) the structure of the FMC. A City Councillor was given a copy of this document and it is exactly what the FMC is doing. So it is not to say that the CAG is completely “brainless” as it is sometimes purported to be. The difference is that the CAG is a community organization, and must report to its membership. A decision taken in a Boardroom by 11 members must be debated and voted upon. Certainly you might find dissenters with 11 persons. The sad part is some dissenters often times call their friends, family, government officials and stakeholders, and convey what transpired in the Boardroom – who said what. This brings animosity between people in the community.

In fairness, there were some issues that were unfavourable to Board members, but they were very few and far between, and they were dealt with accordingly, as it happens in any business, government or organization.

Further, the CAG must (according to its constitution) report its business to its membership, which could be anywhere from 40 to 400. The membership also includes our community press, which reports details of a meeting often times in a very sensational manner. (Nothing personal). So over time the public has built up hate and disgust for the organization as people who know nothing, who are thieves and are in this organization for what they could get etc; …….far from the truth, I say.

In contrast, the FMC is a one man show. A decision is made, it is not questioned by anyone, but executed. Who gets paid and how much is not up for discussion or for public consumption.

Where are sponsorship dollars, who and how much? Not for the public consumption. Conflict of interest issues, not reported. Mas and Steel Bands not permitted to go down the Parade route the first two years the FMC ran the Parade – not a word in the community press or the mainstream press….why?

The first two to three years the FMC amassed the largest deficit ever experienced – not a single report in the media.

The attacks – based mostly on rumours – on the CAG on a continuous basis by both community and mainstream media began to influence the public that the CAG has no integrity and therefore they saw it to be a nuisance, a bunch of thieves, know nothings and just in it for what they can get….the public, the community lost confidence in the organization.

Therefore, when the City used their high handed approach to take away the Festival and appointed their token “community people”, the community did not feel compelled to stand with the organization. Though very sad, it is understood.

The FMC, as far as I am concerned, is a private enterprise. That said, where is the outcry from the media – talk radio and all – about its fiscal responsibility?

Is it because the City is running it now?

Do we need to know where the net profit (if any) is going?

Is anything being done with net gains for the community?

I understand that the Chairperson of the CAG was told by the “Shadow CEO” of the FMC (at the recent Caribana) he must stand and wait outside the VIP tent until his tickets arrived; that she would NOT give him an armband to enter the VIP tent. The guy stood in the hot sun for approximately 30-40 minutes. When many started asking why he was standing outside, the CEO went over to him and asked him to enter the Tent. It is understood that he did not want to enter, but the CEO started saying how it is looking so bad as he is standing there. In other words had people not started asking why he was standing there he could in all probability still be there.

A constant refusal to even recognize the CAG and it’s officials at any event is a real slap in the face.

It should also be known that the FMC had a verbal agreement with the CAG to run the Festival for one year while the CAG gets its house in order. At the end of one year nothing happened and it was felt that they had the word of the Chairperson of the FMC and it continued. The CAG went out to support the FMC by permitting them the use of its Trademark and also its letters patent to ensure the FMC received its grants from the government, all this because they were supposedly working together, but the FMC was just playing games with the CAG – just tugging them along to give the FMC sufficient time to get hold of what they wanted all along – the Festival.

The CAG has to take a lot of responsibility for what has happened over the years; the stakeholders are responsible; the funders are responsible for not providing the funding “on time” that enraged the bandleaders and caused a lot of angst in the organization.

But we must all remember that this organization was built on the backs of tens of millions of hours of labour of love by volunteers who felt and still feel this is part of our heritage, our culture, one that gives us great joy and pride that we came from the Caribbean and gave to Canada its largest Festival in North America, the largest economic engine for this city, province and country.


We must have the stakeholders and the CAG come to the table, form an alliance and keep the CAG’s feet to the fire always. We MUST NOT allow this situation to continue…I urge you all to become involved in this endeavour to regain our legacy that must live on forever through our children and grandchildren.

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