In the last 15 months, the number of Black deputy police chiefs in Canada has expanded from one to three and the Ontario Court of Justice last October welcomed the 29th Black judge to the bench since the late Maurice Charles broke the colour barrier in 1969.
Mark Saunders and Andre Crawford of Toronto and York Police Services respectively and Justice Donald McLeod were celebrated last Sunday at the 14th annual Boonoonoonos brunch to mark the Jamaican Canadian Association’s (JCA) Black History Month kick-off.
Saunders made the leap to deputy from acting superintendent and unit commander at 12 Division while Crawford, who migrated from Jamaica in 1972, spent six years in the banking industry before switching to law enforcement.
A legal adviser to the Jamaica 50 celebration committee, McLeod has a keen interest in community and social justice issues.
“As we celebrate this month, it’s important that we highlight those in the community who are succeeding professionally by their hard work and dedication,” said JCA president Audrey Campbell. “They are fantastic role models for our young people to look up to.”
The JCA also honoured Justice of the Peace Sam Billich, former Toronto Star reporter Philip Mascoll and volunteer Lloyd Seivwright who were all recognized by the Jamaican government with national awards last year.
Billich, a Canadian Forces reservist who migrated to Canada in 1961, was the recipient of the Badge of Honour for Meritorious Service while Mascoll and Seivwright received the Order of Distinction in the rank of Officer, the country’s sixth highest national honour.
“While it’s noteworthy to succeed professionally, we also need to issue a reminder that you need to give back,” Campbell said. “As a result of their passion and commitment to community service, they have positively impacted the lives of Jamaicans in that country and here in Canada.
“We are extremely grateful for the examples they have set for our community.”
Billich, who served in Northern Ireland, Germany and England, sponsored Jamaican military officers enrolled in the Canadian Forces College and played a lead role in the Jamaica Military Band’s visit to Canada two years ago.
A former president of the Jamaica Diaspora Canada Foundation, Mascoll is an active member of the People’s National Party, the Black Action Defence Committee and Jamaica College Old Boys Association of Canada.
Seivwright, who was employed as an assistant distiller at Innswood Estate in Jamaica before coming to Canada in 1969, has raised thousands of dollars for scholarships – the majority awarded to third-year University of the West Indies medical students – through the Independent United Order of Solomon Pride of Toronto #12 Lodge that he founded in 1978.
The Lodge has also distributed over $500,000 worth of medical supplies and wheelchairs across Canada and the rest of the world and organized an annual children’s Christmas party over the past 33 years.
In addition to honouring the six individuals, the JCA paid tribute to former South African president Nelson Mandela who died last December.
“He was the embodiment of grace, humility, strength and forgiveness,” said Campbell who presented a signed book of condolences to South African consul Reginold Ncamane.
Ncamane reminded the audience, which included Jamaica’s consul general George Ramocan, Member of Parliament Judy Sgro, Senator Don Meredith and new 31 Division unit commander Superintendent Tony Riviere, that Mandela dedicated his life to the South African people’s struggle for equality and democracy.
“And for this, let us not forget what Mandela stood for,” Ncamane said. “He stood for forgiveness, reconciliation, unity, equality, non-discrimination, non-segregation, non-sexism, freedom, justice and Ubuntu. These are the values enshrined in the constitution of South Africa and the values that bind us as South Africans.
“These are the values that humanity should live and strive for as it is in the human nature to love, forgive and treat others fairly. It’s therefore incumbent upon us to ensure that we protect and practice these values, that we pass them on to our children and to future generations because that is the only way we can ensure the legacy of Mandela will live on.”