In 1967, Charles Roach was at the forefront of a group of Caribbean nationals in the Diaspora that started the West Indian-flavoured carnival celebrations that has evolved into North America’s largest street festival.
At last Saturday’s 45th parade, Roach was again at the head of the parade, this time as a special guest.
Though battling a malignant brain tumour, Roach was in bright spirits on a warm and sunny day when thousands of colourfully clad revellers in glitzy costumes paraded down Lake Shore Blvd.
“This is one of the liveliest cultural experiences in Toronto,” said federal Minister of Natural Resources, Joel Oliver, who helped cut the ribbon to start the parade. “The colours, the songs, the sights and the aromas of the delicious foods make this a fantastic celebration of Caribbean culture.
“Canadians of Caribbean descent have long enriched this country with their skills, knowledge and talent and they continue to be one of the most vibrant elements of the social and cultural life of Toronto.”
The Member of Parliament for Eglinton-Lawrence, Oliver read messages from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Citizenship, Immigration and Multicultural Minister Jason Kenney.
“The events enjoying success is a testament to the indelible mark the Caribbean community has made on our country’s diverse cultural landscape,” the message from Harper read.
Outfitted in a costume as a member of the Hope for Tomorrow Band, Trinity-Spadina MP Olivia Chow said the cultural celebration represents freedom and hope.
Among the revellers in this year’s parade was Trinidad & Tobago Association of Ontario secretary, Jean Turner-Williams, who has been playing mas’ in the city for close to three decades with the Arnold Hughes & Associates band which has morphed into Renaissance Mas productions which is led by Hughes’ daughter Kathleen and Nataki Christmas.
“I was into dance with Beryl McBurnie’s Little Carib Theatre in Trinidad before I came here in 1971,” said Turner-Williams. “My parents did not allow me to play mas’ back home, but it’s something that I enjoy because it’s part of our culture.”
Carnival Nationz retained the Band of the Year title, winning its fifth crown in the last eight years. Led by Marcus Eustace, the band finished ahead of Louis Saldenah’s Mas K-Club and Jamaal Magloire’s Toronto Revellers.
In addition, Carnival Nationz won the King and Queen of the Band awards while Fantazia International – led by Nevisian-born Will Morton – swept the Male and Female Individual awards.
Renaissance Mas Productions captured the Ontario Science Centre Innovative Costume award and Pan Fantasy was crowned the Ontario Steelpan Association’s Pan Alive champions.
By RON FANFAIR