A chance for FMC and CAG to work together

By ARNOLD A. AUGUSTE, Publisher/Editor

During our conversation when Councillor Joe Mihevc called me about four years ago to inform me of his decision to pull the funding from the Caribbean Cultural Committee (CCC), the owners and, at the time, organizers of Caribana, one of the things he said to me was that I should read a column in the Caribbean Camera by Colin Rickards to see how badly things had deteriorated. (As if I didn’t already know.)

I found that quite astounding. I don’t believe that Mihevc saw the irony in a White Canadian man telling me that I should read a column written by a White Englishman on a Caribbean event developed and nurtured for, up to that time, 39 years through the sweat and financial support of Caribbean people so I could understand the reason for his decision.

He was not being disrespectful or condescending. He was just trying to explain his decision. But, his inability to appreciate the significance of what he was saying is another reason why these folks shouldn’t be making crucial decisions for Caribana.

I recalled this exchange between Mihevc and myself when I read another column by Rickards in last week’s Camera in which he tried to defend/support/rationalize the takeover by the City of Toronto and the Festival Management Committee (FMC) of this important Caribbean community treasure. And it reminded me again that these people really shouldn’t be depended on or expected to do right by us.

His defense, for example, of the refusal of ‘the bank’ to disclose how much money they are giving to Caribana is also confusing. He says that the bank does not make public monies it gives to other events such as BuskerFest, Nuit Blanche or other festivals it sponsors. And that is supposed to make right its refusal to disclose its funding to Caribana?

If the bank was giving the kind of money to Caribana which it should have, there is no reason for it to keep the amount confidential. Which might be further confirmation that the money they gave to the festival was just the small change that fell out of their back pocket. And as for BuskerFest and the others, that is comparing apples to oranges. They in no way come close to making the kind of contribution to the economy and providing the kind of in-your-face publicity the bank receives from Caribana.

Then Rickards has the audacity to suggest that the bank came in as a saviour for Caribana. Are you &%#$&% kidding? A saviour to a festival that injects more than $400 million into our economy each year and is deliberately starved of funds by the three levels of government and the private sector which make all of that money each year?

Let Mihevc tell the hotel and restaurant associations that he is refusing to provide any kind of funding to Caribana (the FMC or the CAG) and see if they don’t call for his head.

Rickards also tries to defend the FMC’s refusal to disclose its affairs to the community saying/writing that, while the CCC/CAG was a membership organization that had to report to its membership, the FMC does not have a membership and so is under no such obligation (to report to the community) and that it is only expected to report to its funders, namely the federal, provincial and city governments, its board of directors and its sponsors. By the way, who are its board of directors and how were they elected/appointed/chosen? Or is that also a secret?

Doesn’t Rickards see the unfairness in all of this? Does he not care that many people in our community took out mortgages on their homes to help this festival survive for the first 39 years of its existence, not for profit, but for the love of their culture? Does any of this not resonate with him?

They are the real saviours of Caribana and now they are completely shut out.

I have no qualms with Joe Halstead. In fact, I have a lot of respect for the man. But, Halstead was chosen to assist in the restructuring of the festival, not to take it over or away from the community.

A few years ago, the then board of the CCC had requested a meeting with then mayor, Mel Lastman, and I was asked by members of the board to accompany them. When, instead of Lastman, Halstead turned up for the meeting, the board members were upset. They felt it was a sign of disrespect on the part of Lastman for the CCC and, by extension, the community.

I had to reason with them and point out that they were better off with Halstead conducting the meeting since he would be better able than Lastman to appreciate the CCC’s position and that he then could present the board’s concerns in a way that would make sense to the mayor. After all, he had worked for Lastman for many years, first in the City of North York and then in Toronto when Lastman became the mayor of the new amalgamated City of Toronto. They took my advice and the meeting went ahead.

So, yes, I was confident that Halstead would make a huge difference if called upon and if he accepted the job to help out (which he did). However, now it is time for the FMC to let this thing go back to its owners. There is no reason to hold on to it.

By the way, Rickards quoted Halstead, who has just retired from the FMC’s board, to the effect that he was not “walking away from Caribana and not looking back.

“Caribana is part of my culture. I’ll be around to jump up and wine.”

Could anybody who knows Joe Halstead imagine him jumping up and wining down Lakeshore Boulevard on Caribana Saturday? I will pay good money to see that.

With Halstead leaving, the new chair/CEO has a chance to help make things right. She could start by having a conversation with the CAG on how they can work together and to come up with a way to make their operation more transparent to the community and to begin establishing the groundwork to repair this injustice.


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