Friday, 6 November 2020

The Kardinal makes it Offishall. Caribbean Contemporary Art Show is DOPE!

New ground breaking Caribbean Contemporary art show is blessed by the Kardinal:  by Stephen Weir

Canadian mega rapper, record producer, DJ, and record executive Kardinal Offishall doesn’t consider himself an authority on fine art. But he knows what he likes, and loves the paintings and photographs he just saw at the PAMA public gallery in downtown Brampton. 

“I am not a regular connoisseur of fine visual arts-but these works were my cup of tea and spoke to me on an artistic, social and cultural level,” said Offishall after touring the brand new exhibit when night stirred at sea: Contemporary Caribbean Art. “I felt right at home and understood and had a connection to every single piece.”

Late last week PAMA – the Peel Archives, Museum and Art Gallery – opened an exhibition what could well be a first in Ontario.  Their new show is the first exhibition featuring contemporary Caribbean art to hang in a major public gallery. 

“when night stirred at sea: Contemporary Caribbean Art” is a show comprised of works by ten English Caribbean artists working in Jamaica, Trinidad, Canada, America and England. These are artists who are creating cutting edge creative works that are, in the words of Offishall, “super dope”!

 “I felt right at home and understood and had a connection to every single piece,” posted Offishall on his popular Facebook page.


Toronto based Karen Carter and Greg Manuel curated the exhibition.  Never seen in Canada before, the show actually has its roots in the inaugural CArt (Caribbean Art) Fair that was organized and curated by Ms. Carter earlier this year in Mandeville, Jamaica. 

“To be able to bring some of the artists together for a second time and to a broader international audience at PAMA is wonderful and in keeping with the mandate of CArt to connect Caribbean artists to the broader art world,” said Ms. Carter. “To be able to do so at this particular moment in history adds yet another significant layer to our belief of the important role artists play in our understanding of the human condition.” 

The paintings, fabric art and photographs hanging in the gallery are as contemporary as the headlines in our newspaper. Virus isolation. Community policing.  Powerful portraits of Caribbean men and women. This is something that will strongly resonate with a Caribbean Canadian audience.


The artists featured in this show are all connected to the English Caribbean islands. Their works explore themes of identity, community, colonization, globalization, social justice, activism and climate change. The exhibition provides a small window into the complex beauty and inherent tensions of Caribbean cultural identity that connect this region and the larger Caribbean diaspora to the world.

The show officially opened on Friday and will run well into the New Year.  Because of the corona virus it is currently a virtual exhibition. when night stirred at sea: Contemporary Caribbean Art will be open to the walk-in visitors, probably on a timed basis once PAMA re-opens to the public.  

Kardinal Offishall was one of a special few invited influencers and journalists who donned masks and previewed the art show in ones and twos over three-days.  One Caribbean Television, the Toronto Star, the Brampton Guardian, and many other outlets have covered this first exhibition of Contemporary Caribbean art.

Art lovers who are planning to see this exhibition (once restrictions are relaxed) will have no trouble finding PAMA – just look for the shirtless man standing under a white shroud. Four 10 metre tall banners have been made from the works of Janice Reid (Jamaican/Canadian, Brampton-based) and hang-outside the gallery at the corner of Main and Wellington Street East.

There is no cost to see the exhibition on-line. Access the show art: 


 https://peelregion.ca/pama/caribbean-art/?fbclid=IwAR3TgE0awHGYVAikp80-N-T5mUd79bvsgbN1wmaFeZkawtltCCP8siVSjs4













Featured Artists:

* Krystal Ball (Jamaican/Canadian, Toronto-based)

* Vanley Burke (Jamaican/British, London-based)

* Katrina Coombs (Jamaican)

* Owen V. Gordon (Jamaican/Canadian, Toronto-based)

* Ila Lovelace-Kuhnert (Trinidadian)

* Christina Leslie (Canadian, Toronto-based)

* Miles Regis (Trinidadian/American, Los Angeles-based)

* Janice Reid (Jamaican/Canadian, Brampton-based)

* Storm Saulter (Jamaican)

Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Innocence Canada Urges Review of Deeply Flawed Christine Jessop Murder Investigation

Press Release distributed by Stephen Weir & Associates on behalf of Innocence Canada



For Immediate Release 

October 26, 2020 


TORONTO:  The answer to the question of who killed Christine Jessop is now known, leaving one thing missing in this 36-year-old tale of deceit, folly and botched opportunities - official accountability.

Innocence Canada (IC) is therefore calling for an independent review into how both the Durham Regional Police and Toronto Police Service (TPS) failed to long ago detect and investigate the killer, Calvin Hooper, as a viable suspect.

From 1985 to 1995, the case resided with the Durham force. Upon Guy Paul Morin being exonerated and acquitted of the killing in 1995, Toronto Police took over and assigned nine officers to the Christine Jessop Task Force in order to investigate the case with fresh eyes. Having failed in this mission, the task force was disbanded in 1998.

The case was finally solved ten days ago, when TPS cold case investigators, acting on information from forensic DNA testing by US crime labs, identified the killer as Calvin Hoover, a Jessop family friend at the time of the sex-slaying.

As the country's leading advocate for the wrongly convicted, Innocence Canada believes that invaluable lessons can and must be extracted from this 36-year debacle to provide guidance to future investigations and to forever underline the importance of rigorously adhering to elementary, methodical investigative steps.

As a person within the Jessop family's social circle, Calvin Hoover ought to have identified early on as someone else deserving of close police scrutiny. The failure to home in on him and closely examine his alibi for the day of Christine's abduction, October 3, 1884, has led to decades of indescribable agony for Mr. Morin and his family, and for the Jessop family.

These failures also provided a sadistic pedophile with the freedom to commit other crimes and, ultimately, to take his own life in 2015 without ever having been brought to justice. It remains unknown what other crimes he may have committed between 1984 and 2015.

"Tens of millions of dollars were sunk into two murder trials and appeals, and the year-long Kaufman public inquiry into the Morin wrongful conviction," said IC co-president Kirk Makin. "To now stint on a carefully targeted review of police failures would be a mockery of all this expense and the human misery caused by this awful case."

Such a review would in no way duplicate the 1996 Kaufman public inquiry, Makin said. It need not involve public hearings, nor would it examine a host of other events and mistakes that have been painstakingly cataloged by Justice Kaufman.

"We are dependent on the press and political leaders to apply pressure to authorities who would much prefer to sweep their mistakes under the rug," Makin said. "That simply cannot be allowed to happen."

As was the case with the Kaufman inquiry, funding and structure would be the responsibility of the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney-General. 

Several models can be envisioned that would result in a relatively speedy, cost-efficient review. These include the appointment of a key figure who already has a firm grasp on the case - such as inquiry commissioner Fred Kaufman or Kaufman commission counsel Mark Sandler. Alternatively, the province could select a retired judge or senior police figure from an outside force. 

An example of the kind of targeted review IC envisions was launched recently in the Nova Scotia wrongful conviction case of Glen Assoun. The Independent Investigations Office of BC has agreed to investigate how evidence collected by RCMP investigator Dave Moore was later destroyed by a joint RCMP-Halifax police unit.

"It was stunning to learn, 36 years after Christine Jessop was murdered, and 25 years after Guy Paul Morin's exoneration based on DNA testing, that multiple police investigators on multiple police forces failed to follow up on Jessop family friend whose existence was known to investigators," said IC board member and defense counsel Joanne McLean, who has represented Mr.  Morin through most of his legal ordeal. 

"The Jessop and Morin families deserved better," she said. "They and the public need explanations."

Innocence Canada provides police training in how to avoid wrongful convictions. Ms. McLean said the sort of error that may turn up in a review includes police tunnel vision; failures of supervision; poor document review and record keeping; failure to follow basic police investigative techniques; and pre-existing investigative biases that skew the integrity of an investigation.

"We cannot know which of these and other mistakes were made until an independent observer conducts interviews and examines written and computerized records and reports," Ms. McLean said. 

It has become clear in recent days that authorities are anxious to avoid being called to account for their failings. 

In an article in the Oct. 24 2020 Toronto Star, Durham Police spokesman Dave Selby is quoted as saying that no review of investigative failures in relation to Calvin Hoover mistakes is being contemplated: "I'm not aware of any such plans, because the people who were involved with the original investigation are either deceased or retired," Selby said.

Toronto Police spokesperson Meaghan Gray, asked to shed light on why Calvin Hoover was not a suspect, told the Star: "To comment on why would be purely speculative."

These ostrich-like postures are the very antithesis of accountability. The primary point of a review is to learn systemic lessons that can be learned and taught to future police trainees to avoid miscarriages of justice where possible and to swiftly remedy them when they do occur.

To bury police investigative errors is also to dishonor the memory of Christine Jessop and to insult Guy Paul Morin's suffering as the target of a misguided, single-minded prosecution.

 

For further information, please contact:

 

Kirk Makin, Innocence Canada co-president (and author of Redrum The Innocent; the murder of Christine Jessop and the controversial conviction of Guy Paul Morin)

Kmakin34@gmail.com

416-504-7500 ext. 101

Joanne McLean, Innocence Canada board member and counsel to Guy Paul Morin

Jcm-law@sympatico.ca

416-518-7318

Bhavan Sodhi, Innocence Canada staff counsel

bsodhi@innocencecanada.com

416-504-7500 ext. 104

 




 



Friday, 23 October 2020

Downtown Brampton launching art show of contemporary Caribbean Art

 Contemporary Caribbean Art Exhibition to Launch at PAMA in downtown Brampton, On

BRAMPTON, ON (Wednesday, October 23, 2020) Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives (PAMA) is pleased to partner with the CArt (Caribbean Art) Fair, the Black Artist Network in Dialogue (BAND), and guest curators Karen Carter and Greg Manuel to present the exhibition, when night stirred at sea: Contemporary Caribbean Art opening Oct. 29, first as a virtual exhibition and then on-site once PAMA re-opens to the public. PAMA is inviting the public to a special, virtual launch celebration for the exhibition on Thursday, Oct. 29. Register now to reserve your spot for the event.

Featured Artists:

  • Krystal Ball (Jamaican/Canadian, Toronto-based)
  • Vanley Burke (Jamaican/British, London-based)
  • Katrina Coombs (Jamaican)
  • Owen V. Gordon (Jamaican/Canadian, Toronto-based)
  • Ila Lovelace-Kuhnert (Trinidadian)
  • Christina Leslie (Canadian, Toronto-based)
  • Miles Regis (Trinidadian/American, Los Angeles-based)
  • Janice Reid (Jamaican/Canadian, Brampton-based)
  • Storm Saulter (Jamaican)

This exhibition showcases a selection of artists who were featured in the inaugural CArt (Caribbean Art) Fair in late January and early February 2020 in Mandeville, Jamaica. The Fair seems like another lifetime as a little over a month later the world began to go into isolation facing the uncertainty of a global pandemic.

The rising health crisis made the need for a comprehensive look at Caribbean art seem far less urgent. Then came the rise of the Black Lives Matter global movement, the protests, the conversations about racism, and about how the free labour of indigenous Africans from the transatlantic slave trade was used to build our modern capitalist society. These events shifted the conversations about the role the Caribbean has played in the development of the “new world” making the voice of the artists from this region and the larger diaspora more relevant than ever.

In difficult times, art has been an essential part of human survival. Artists create works that provide everything from a temporary escape to an important interpretive record of the human condition that lasts long past any given challenging time. The artists featured in this exhibition are all connected to the English Caribbean islands. Their works explore themes of identity, community, colonization, globalization, social justice, activism and climate change. The exhibition provides a small window into the complex beauty and inherent tensions of Caribbean cultural identity that connect this region and the larger Caribbean diaspora to the world.

Virtual Programming Highlights

  • Thursday, Oct. 29, 7 pm: Exhibition Opening Reception – Register Now
  • Thursday, Nov. 26, 7 pm: Art & Book Club in partnership with Brampton Library. This month’s feature book is These Ghosts are Family by Maisy Card - Register Now
  • Saturday, Nov. 28, 2 pm: Artist Talk - The Photographers, featuring Vanley Burke, Javier Dayes, Christina Leslie, Janice Reid, and Storm Saulter
  • Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021: Artist Talk - Painting and Textiles, featuring Krystal Ball, Katrina Coombs,  Owen V. Gordon and Miles Regis

Quotes

“It is a pleasure to be working with such a wide range of artists with connections to the English Caribbean on this exhibition.  During the inaugural CArt fair in Mandeville, Jamaica, in January of this year, we could never have imagined that only nine months later, we would be opening an exhibition with PAMA in a world even more in need of these artists voices.  

To be able to bring some of the artists together for a second time and to a broader international audience at PAMA is wonderful and in keeping with the mandate of CArt to connect Caribbean artists to the broader art world. To be able to do so at this particular moment in history adds yet another significant layer to our belief of the important role artists play in our understanding of the human condition.” Co-curators Karen Carter and Greg Manuel

“We are thrilled to finally see this showcase come to fruition after a year in the making and to welcome guest curators Karen and Greg to the PAMA family. As a Canadian of Jamaican descent, I felt very passionately that this was an important story to tell, now more than ever. We are so very pleased to include local and international Caribbean artists in the exhibit including Brampton’s own Janice Reid.” Rene Nand, Manager, Community and Cultural Engagement at PAMA

Special thanks to our media partners at One Caribbean TVToronto Caribbean NewsSauga 960 AMNew Theory RadioBrampton GuardianCaledon Enterprise and Mississauga News.

-30-

  Operated by the Region of Peel, PAMA is located at 9 Wellington Street, East in Brampton. Visit pama.peelregion.ca to learn more.

Media Contact:

Erin Fernandes Marketing Coordinator, PAMA M: 416-312-3425  Erin.fernandes@peelregion.ca

Issued by  Stephen Weir stephen@stephenweir.com

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

New Caribbean News Show Will Be Seen in Canada

CARIBBEAN WEEK IN REVIEW 

BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS (10.14.20) One Caribbean Television is pleased to announce the addition of Caribbean Week in Review, a 30-minute news program, to its fall line-up.

Each week, Caribbean Week in Review will offer comprehensive coverage of the region’s most important news stories. The program provides perspective that goes beyond the headlines by featuring in-depth interviews with newsworthy guests from across the Caribbean.

Caribbean Week in Review is produced by Riveting Media Inc., a Barbados-based video production and digital distribution company which has worked with many of the free-to-air TV broadcasters and cable providers in the region.

Rene Seon (pictured above), the show’s host is a former reporter and TV producer for Caribbean Newsline. She is joined by print and broadcast journalist, Dawne Parris, who was also associated with Caribbean Newsline as an anchor and news editor.

Since 2008, One Caribbean Television, a 24/7 television network, has provided news, weather, travel, lifestyle and entertainment programming about the people and places of the Caribbean. The channel is seen on cable systems in select cities in the United States, in Canada and throughout the Caribbean. It is also streamed on Amazon’s Fire TV, Apple TV, ROKU and VUit.

A new Caribbean Week in Review will air at various times each weekend. To learn more and for show times, visit: www.onecaribbeantelevision.com.

Contact: Mark Walton - 646.776.0914 -mwalton@OneCaribbeanTelevision.com

Issued on behalf of One Caribbean: Stephen Weir & Associates


Thursday, 3 September 2020

CaribbeanTales bringing Japanese Cuban movie to film festival in Toronto

 Jazzin’ to Cu-Pop in new Caribbean music movie


BY STEPHEN WEIR Caribbean Music is more than just Soca, Chutney, Calypso and Reggae and a new movie by a Japanese producer is about to prove it.  The film Cu-Bop Across The Border will be schooling Canadians about the Afro-Jazz sounds of New York and Cuba this month at the CaribbeanTales Film Festival (CTFF).

The annual film festival runs from September 9th until October 2nd. Because of the Covid shutdown the latest Caribbean films will take place online on the Video-On-Demand CaribbeanTales-TV platform with eight nights and 25+ short and feature films of live stream entertainment.  The Cuban movie is the showcase flick for the CTFF’s September 30th programme: Sounds of the Caribbean.

Two genius Cuban musicians; Havana Saxophone virtuoso Cesar Lopez and Axel Tosca Harlem’s wild man on the piano, are the stars of the this true 98-minute film. When Tosca, the prodigal son comes back to his hometown of Havana, a fascinating Afro-Cuban jazz jam session Lopez’s home turf takes place. It is good cinematography and fantastic music.

Cu-Bop Across the Border captures the small concert held inside a Cuban university. And like the title of the movie implies, this unique style of Jazz is more about the musicians living hand-to-mouth in New York City and just a  smidge better in the backstreets of Havana.  Call it a Musical Tale of Two Cities as the movie takes you into the alley music clubs where life isn’t that great for hard working socialists and free enterprise Jazz Men alike.

Cu-Bop is a jazz term that popped up in New York City back in the 40s. It refers to a style of  music based on Afro-Cuban rhythms that have been mashed up with American jazz harmonies. Championed by the likes of Dizzy Gillespie this unique  Afro-Cuban jazz movement was always stronger in the United States than in Cuba.

In this movie we follow the fun loving Cesar Lopez around the island music scene.  He is loved and respected by all ever.  Since joining the legendary Cuban band IRAKERE at the age 18 he has become a cultural icon.  Since joining in 1985 the band has been allowed to tour the world, Sax playing Lopez says that he got to share the stage with “Jazz masters like Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Winston Marsalis, Michel Camilo, Paquito D’ Rivera and others.”

Director and self confessed Tokyo jazz bar fanatic Shinichi Takahashi catches up with Lopez and his next band “HABANA ENSEMBLE” playing the j-bars of Cuba.  Formed in ‘97 they are as much a must-see act for cultural tourists as a night at the Tropicana.

 Slow at first to catch on to Cu-Bop, Habana Ensemble did record their take on the musical form on a record simply called  “Cubop”. 

While the movie shows the 51-year old bandleader comfortable in a bedraggled Havana, Tosca has found New York a hard struggle. Homeless, wandering the streets of Harlem with an electronic piano on his back, the Black man with the wild blond afro has had to scramble for all he can get. 

The film starts with early footage of Tosca playing in a Cuban restaurant in New York. He is performing what he calls Soup Music -- old-time Cuban standards that the rubes slurps up like a bowls of bisques.

The young pianist and singer was born in Cuba into a musical family. His mother, who has the briefest of brief appearances in the movie (family issues?), is the legendary Cuban vocalist Xiomara Laugart.

Growing up in Havana, Tosca shunned jazz in favour Hip-Hop. After coming to the States, he continued playing contemporary music and actually performed a little with the Funkedelics.

He has now seen the light and has been part of the Jazz band (U)nity for over five years now. Yes he has a dumpy NYC apartment, but he has a big following and a self-titled CD that is doing well.

Tosca speaks both English and Spanish and as a result the film is in both languages!  In the Toronto showing there will be subtitles for those of us who don’t speak both tongues!

The Cu-bop Japanese movie producers jumped through hoops to get Axel Tosca and his sidemen into Cuba. Relations between Cuba and the US were rocky – they musicians had to sneak into Cuba via Mexico!  

Turns out the Cuba government loved Tosca’s visit. The Minister of Culture shows up in the final scene of the movie bear hugging the bleach blonde pianist. But as the curtains come down on this three-year old movie, one wonders now if the same would happen if the countries were reversed. With an anti-Cuban president now in power in the US, could this must-see movie have been made? 


THE CARIBBEAN CAMERA NEWSPAPER

Saturday, 29 August 2020

... Announcement takes the Air out of popular Iceland November music festival in 2020

 Yesterday Airwaves, the annual 4-day Iceland music festival, announced that their November 2020 fest has been cancelled.


Even though Iceland is a relatively safe place to visit during the ongoing Pandemic, the style of the festival - cutting edge bands from Iceland, Europe, America and Canada performing in many small SRO halls and bars in and around Reykjavik - just can't be re-engineered, to safely accommodate a large number of out-of-country ticket holders this year.
Why? take a look at the pictures I took from the photographer's pit at the FM Belfast concert held inside the Reykjavik Art Gallery a couple of years ago. Lots of drinking, dancing and interacting with audience (one of their keynote songs is Dancing in My Underwear).

crowd surfing at AirWaves
Organizers wrote to ticket holders saying that new health measures make proceeding with this year’s "festival impossible".
"We reviewed many scenarios: with social distancing; with breaking the audience into separated groups, with lower attendance; with less venues. We returned to the same answer: there was no feasible solution to deliver the festival for 2020."
my view from the photographer's pit at Iceland festival

We booked five tickets, five airline tickets and the top floor of a downtown building for our annual family visit a couple months before the Virus hit. IcelandAir has promised to refund both the airfare and the festival passes. Will be talking to the owner of the apartment building where we were booked into. Pity, really nice 4-bedroom place overlooking the main drag (right beside the downtown Subway shop).
We have been going to Airwaves for over a decade and hope to go back one day. Airwaves is putting on a brave face and is already promoting Airwaves 2021. Hope it happens, but, are the popularity of festivals like this all of sudden yesterday's news?
Facebook posting by sweirsweir



Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Toronto Carnival CEO is not longer in charge. Concerns about the future of the 2021 Grand Parade grow

 The Winds of Change Blow Through the Offices of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival

An edited/rewritten version of my story appeared on the front page 
of last week's  The Caribbean Camera newspaper


Goodbye to Aneesa Oumarally. The Caribbean Camera has learned that the 40-something lawyer is no longer at the helm of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival. Veteran carnival administrators Denise Herrera-Jackson and Chris Alexander are now running the annual festival.

In a conversation with me (Stephen Weir) Ms. Oumarally explained that she had not been fired and that the decision to leave the Festival was made after discussions with the Festival Management Committee Board about the future of the 53-year old festival. Oumarally, a well-respected Mississauga lawyer is returning to the practice of law but will keep her hand in Carnival by re-joining the Festival Board.

The Festival Management Committee (FMC) Chair, Joe Halstead, confirmed her comments.  “ She wasn’t terminated,” he said in a taped interview. “I think there may be some misconceptions but this is a very simple matter. The FMC, as you know, did not have a Festival this year and clearly the prospects for next year are vague.  We don't know where we are going to stand next year (because of Covid public health rules) so we have decided that we must cut our costs.”

 “We do not have the revenues (for 2021),“ he continued.  “When we look at what costs we are going to have (without a 2020/21) revenue stream, salaries are a big part of that. We decided we can’t carry the salary of half the Carnival staff. It is not only the CEO; there are others we have had to do this to (Naila Seunath the information manager is no longer with the carnival) in order to cut costs. It is as simple as that.”

“We don't know where the money is going to come from and we don't know what the future looks like. At this point we can’t carry the burden of our entire workforce.”

In addition to the loss of the CEO and her information manager, the salaries of both Herrera-Jackson and Alexander have been cut by a reported 40 – 50 percent. According to the Chairman those who have left the Festival could be rehired and cut salaries restored if funding becomes available.

“You know I am very happy to say publicly and openly and that I'm grateful for the services provided by Anisa and Naila Seunath”

“In August 2019, I took a leave of absence from law to take on the role of CEO of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival,” Oumarally recently posted on LinkedIn. “This was not a role I applied for. At the time, I was the Chair of Governance of the (Toronto Caribbean Carnival) Board. I agreed to a one-year term. The understanding of my role was to add governance expertise to the organization, especially in the way we conducted our business, with a goal to increasing revenue.”

She left the Board and became an employee of the Festival in a year of turmoil.  Shortly before the 2019 parade, Richard de Lima, the Festival’s CEO of just six months, had his two-year contract abruptly terminated.  Soon after that, parade operations manager, Gerard Weekes suddenly resigned and returned to his home in Trinidad.

The festival went ahead as scheduled without a name sponsor or much corporate support. Oumarally and members of the FMC’s governance committee took over responsibilities of the CEO and were able to stage the festival. Their parade was held as scheduled but there was a noticeable decline in attendance, there was friction along the parade route, and there were hours long gaps on the road.

Following the parade Oumarally put aside her law practice and came on full-time to manage the coming 2020 festival. As fall approached the winds of change continued, long-time office manager Margo Harris retired and sponsorship marketing wunderkind Kal Juman resigned and took on a similar role with the Taste of the Middle East Festival.

“From the time I was named the CEO, I hit the ground running, learning everything I could about the business, it's management, how it was managed, the culture, the perceived culture, the stakeholders, the stakeholders' perception of the (festival).”

“Our planning for the upcoming festival seemed to be strong; we found ways to grow potential revenues, but we would not have actually known if we were successful until the festival,” she continued.

Those plans were dashed when the parade was axed because of the Covid-19 shutdown.   Although the annual fete, be it named Caribana or the Toronto Caribbean, has tittered on the brink of collapse it  has never missed holding the world famous Grand Parade … until 2020.

The carnival loss devastated the city, not just for the loss of a world event but also in terms of the collapse of the Black tourism travel industry into the city and the nuclear sized hit the city’s entertainment sector took.

Mas’ camps were closed. Costume launches cancelled.  Calypso and Pan concerts were deep sixed. Overnight, the Toronto Carnival lost a reported 75% of its team.

Even though the carnival was shuttered its cash box was not. Money has come into the festival coffers.  Sources at City Hall, Queen’s Park and Ottawa estimate that over $850,000 in grant money has been given the beleaguered festival to help soften the Covid blow.

The Caribbean Camera newspaper was told (who then told me) that the City of Toronto gave the Festival $625,000, the Federal Government (through Heritage Canada) gave $128,100 and the Province handed over $100,000. 

In terms of cash outlays, in addition to staff salaries, rent and an estimated $80,00 Mas band expenditures it is thought that the Virtual Road August 1st all-day on-line carnival cost $60,000.

The war chest is meant to cover this year’s costs and fund in part the Festival in 2021.  The ongoing Covid crisis means that the FMC doesn’t know what kind of Festival it will be allowed to stage and what sort of additional funding and sponsorship it could raise to make 2021 happen. It is possible they may not be allowed to hold the festival next year, or even the year after.

“500,000 to 700,000 is a lot of people and we are not going to get a city permit unless people are able to assemble,” explained Halstead. “Public Health clearance is the only way can hold assemblies like ours.” 


Even the fate of the popular King and Queen Competition is on the line. According to the FMC, they won’t get permission to hold the outdoor event until there are vaccines or other health protection measures available to all attendees.

So what next?  How does the Toronto Caribbean Carnival stay alive? According to Mr. Halstead, their board, including Ms. Oumarally, will be reconvened in September to figure out what they how they proceed, be it in 2021 or 2022 or beyond.

“We have to rethink what we do and how we do. It may be a smaller version or it may be virtual or some other thing,” he said.  “We may need different skill sets. We are going to be looking at our options between now and November and then we must present a plan to the city saying what we intend to do!

 

By Stephen Weir 08/21/2020