Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Supplies being readied yesterday for today's Mercy Flight to St Vincent

Toronto group collecting supplies and shipping donations to St Vincent for Volcano Relief. 

By Stephen Weir If the weather is good and the La Soufriere Volcano on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent doesn’t let off any more flight stopping ash today, a shipment of relief supplies donated by Torontonians, will wing its way to St. Vincent and the Grenadines via St Lucia.
Volunteers worked through the weekend(pictured above) collecting and packing supplies for the battered country as the volcano continues to spew ash and rocks on the main island and nearby Barbados. 

 “We have 20 people here right now at the KLC warehouse (a Scarborough forwarding company owned by Ken Chitolie),” said Cordell Telfer, “It is difficult because of Covid. People aren’t allowed into the warehouse, so, our volunteers, suitably protected, meet people out front and bring their donations inside to be wrapped and packed for the flight.” 

 “Because the airport in Kingston (SV) is closed, what we are doing today will be off-loaded in St. Lucia and forwarded from there dependent upon the conditions (in the air and on the sea).” Mr. Telfer and most of the volunteers are with CARI-ON a Toronto based disaster preparedness organization working with the St Vincent and the Grenadines Consul General. The KLC warehouse has donated part of its facility gratis to CARI-CON for storage of donated relief items. 

 “ We are coordinating the Canadian response,” he continued. “ Because CARI-CON doesn’t have a building as such, we are now working with Pastor Rudy Clarke at the Pine Valley and Steeles Faith Ministry Church. We will be accepting donations at the Church to take pressure off the KLC warehouse. We are already getting ready for next week's shipment. Unfortunately we don’t see an end in sight.” 

 The call has already gone out for a list of much needed materials including: cots, blankets, tents, non-perishable foods and clothing (a full list appears at the end of this news story). “We also need water, (the eruption has covered the island in ash and disrupted the water system) Covid masks, hand sanitizers and boxes so that we can pack this stuff up for shipping,” he continued. “We also need the little things, toys for the children, cards and dominoes and games. A lot of people left their homes with nothing and are just waiting it out with nothing to do but worry.”

According to volcano watch reports, La Soufriere continues to be active. The volcano erupted again on Monday April 12th emitting hot gas, ash and stone down on homes, farmlands and forests. Earlier today, April 13th, a smaller eruption took place. 

Over 16,000 people have been displaced. Residents in the immediate area of the volcano have been evacuated to government shelters. As the volcano continues to be active an off-island evacuation plan is in place using two volunteer cruise ships. People have already been taken to nearby Barbados even though that island is also feeling the impact of La Soufriere’s volcano. 

“The ash cloud produced by the eruption on Monday was blown in the direction of Barbados and seemingly turned day into night as ash fell from the sky like snow across the island,” reports the AccuWeather world weather news service. The Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados was closed and was expected to remain shut down until noon on Wednesday as a result of the ash-fall.” 

 There is no end in sight to La Soufriere’s eruptions; already many countries in the region are planning to meet tomorrow (Wednesday) to discuss this ongoing disaster and its impact on tourism. 

According to journalist William Doyle Marshall, the Caribbean Tourism Organization has added the volcanic eruption issue to its agenda for disaster discussion with American disaster expert Retired U.S. Army Lt. General Russel Honore on Wednesday morning. The original agenda was to look at how should Caribbean tourism, and the region-at-large apply the lessons from COVID-19 to the upcoming hurricane season,” but now it is all eyes on the exploding mountain!

CARI-CON is accepting E-Transfer donations at carionsvgvolcanorelief@gmail.com and a GoFundMe at http://bit/ly/SVGVolcanoFundraiser
The group can be reached at 416-889-3293 and carion.org@gmail.com.


Over 16,000 people have had to be evacuated from their homes in the Red Zone to the safer Green Zone to shelters, personal homes and hotels. The need for assistance is tremendous as the country battles with excessive amounts of ash-fall, water shortages, and electricity outages. The Pine Valley and Steeles Faith Ministry Church at 4370 Steeles Avenue W. (Pine Valley and Steeles) is helping to collect and forward donations. 

 Meanwhile The National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) has released a list of the following items and KLC Shippers in Toronto has agreed to offer free storage and shipment of these relief supplies from Canada to St. Vincent: 

 · Folding cots 
 · Blankets 
 · Tents (10x10ft or 20x20ft) 
 · Sleeping mats 
 · Respirator mask with filters 
 · Goggles 
 · Reflective vests 
 · Caution tape 
 · Hygiene kits 
 · Non-perishable food items 
 · Clothing (NEW) 
 · 5-gallon buckets

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

The First Lap: Keeping the Carnival Alive

 First Lap Won’t Be Canada’s Last Lap - It All Happens This Sunday 

Reveller's Mas Costume Model on the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Catwalk 

By Stephen Weir / photographs courtesy of Toronto Carnival. What’s in a name these days?  For followers of the carnival arts, the moniker First Lap: Keeping the Carnival Alive presented by Carib Beer speaks long and loudly of the reemergence of the annual Toronto Caribbean Carnival traditions and all of its moving parts.

(Macomere Fifi right)

Coming to a cell phone, tablet and computer near you will be a taped gathering of the Mas Bands. You will see the launch of new Mas Band costumes, the sweet sounds of Soca star David Rudder (i.e. King David), a performance by Dance Caribe and the best in Canadian style Pan Music.


The 2021 First Lap is a professionally shot feature length programme that will soon be aired in Toronto and the Caribbean. It happens this Sunday evening (April 11).  For 90 minutes the Toronto’s top carnival models will be showing for the first time this carnival season costumes from six Toronto Mas Camps.

(Tribal Carnival model right)

“ We have been working on the First Lap online show for the past two weeks,” explained Digital Imaging Technology manager Anthony Berot. 

Using a seasoned crew and broadcast quality cameras, the show was filmed over two days on the Queen Elizabeth Theatre stage (Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto), explained Berot.  

That was before the latest round of Covid restrictions were dropped. The broadcast crew made sure that all the guidelines were followed and that everyone stayed safe.

(Mas K Camp Model at right)

The First Lap: Keeping the Carnival Alive will air free on April 11th on the Festival’s website (www.torontocarnival.ca) and on the Festival’s FaceBook, YouTube and Twitch accounts.  As well Trinidad’s Wack Radio (a popular Caribbean online Radio/Television station dedicated to promoting the music and culture of Trinidad and Tobago) will be streaming the show on Sunday at 7pm.

All-star Pan Orchestra on stage at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre

The actual nuts and bolts of putting this show together was handled by three veterans producers of the annual Toronto Caribbean Carnival Parade - Wendy Jones, Kwesi Thomas, and Adrian Charles.

David Rudder on stage left

The Toronto Carnival has already posted a 3-minute First Lap video tease on Facebook. Narrated by SKF the Champ, (DJ Sheldon K Francis); he introduces the models from Louis Saldenah’s Mas K Camp, Epic Carnival, Tribal Carnival, Venom Carnival,  Carnival Nationz and NBA great Jamaal Magloire and his Revellers.

Epic Model on Stage Wearing Carnival Mas Costume


Interspaced between the costume reveals, SKF introduces international Soca star David Rudder and his band. Performing as well are two top Calypsonian singers – Connecter (Joel Davis) and Macomere Fifi (Eulith Tara Banks) as well as a Pan all-star band drawing in musicians from the Ontario SteelPan Association 

(Carnival Nationz Mas Model left)

It is the First Lap programme -- the precursor to more carnival events online and live in 2021.  Mas Bandleader Louis Saldenah recently spoke to the media about carnival activities this summer.  He and his fellow leaders are hoping to do lots more this year but they are watching closely what the Province of Ontario is doing in terms of Covid restrictions on public events in 2021.

Calypso singer Connector performs on First Lap

The festival is secondary to people’s health and controlling the coronavirus, he told the Toronto Star and other online news outlets. “Dead people can’t participate in a parade.”

First Lap: Keeping the Carnival Alive Presented by Carib show is already to roll this Sunday,” said Anthony Berot. “There are many different platforms that will be airing the programme. If people miss the 7pm airing or want to see it again, check out the www.torontocarnival.ca website. We will have it up and running during the month of April.”

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Justice Minister David Lametti names two judges to help structure a wrongful convictions review body

 Innocence Canada Endorses Leadership Choice

For immediate release

1 April 2021

Toronto: The appointment of two prominent retired judges to help structure a wrongful convictions review body represents an important step forward on a historic project, Innocence Canada said today.

Innocence Canada co-presidents Ron Dalton and Kirk Makin applauded the appointment of Justices Harry Laforme and Juanita Westmoreland-Traoré to fulfill this important role, saying it ensures a sound set of recommendations for an independent review commission.

"As a renowned jurist with a broad knowledge of the law, Justice Laforme is an ideal choice," Mr. Makin said. "Being indigenous, he also brings keen insight into how the law is often prone to malfunction when it comes to defendants from marginalized groups."

“Justice Westmoreland-TraorĂ© (pictured left) is an equally inspired choice. The first black judge in Quebec, her bilingual background and rich experience in academia and human rights are ideal credentials for the project she will now help lead.” Mr. Makin said.

"Justice Minister David Lametti announced the next step in the creation of the independent commission today, almost 18 months after his government said it intended to create such a body."

Advocates for the wrongly convicted have pushed for a properly-funded, independent commission for the past 25 years. A half-dozen inquiries into notorious miscarriages of justice have also strongly endorsed the idea.

Innocence Canada and a handful of university projects are currently the last hope for individuals convicted of serious crimes who continue to maintain their innocence. Working pro bono or historically under funded, these groups investigate claims of innocence and file detailed submissions in an attempt to persuade the Department of Justice to reopen these cases.

An independent commission - such as exist in a handful of jurisdictions including the United Kingdom - would have resources and police-like powers to investigate, search and compel witness testimony. It would afford a speedier route for defendants to obtain retrial or full exoneration.

"For more than a generation, the goal of creating an independent commission has been the Holy Grail of the innocence movement," Mr. Dalton said. "While we are concerned by how long it is taking to get this project going, we look forward to the prospect of all parties co-operating to create this vital institution."




For further information, please contact:


Kerry Emmonds – Executive Director

Innocence Canada


416-504-7500 ext. 101

Distributed on behalf of Innocence Canada By Stephen Weir

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Hamilton Black Film Festival is excited to announce the list of films it is showing in May, 2021


                     184 Province Street, North Hamilton ON L8H 4H8 

Office: 905-966-7750  E: info@hbff.ca W: www.hbff.ca 


“Your self image is so powerful it unwittingly becomes your destiny.” – Oscar Micheaux - the first African-American to make a film (1919).


For Immediate Release 

Hamilton Black Film Festival is excited to announce the list of films selected  for the 1st annual BIPOC Film Festival May 28th-May 30th


Hamilton Ontario - March 24, 2021 - The Hamilton Black Film Festival featuring films made by the BIPOC community is delighted to share the films selected for its first film festival virtually from May 28th to May 30th.These films were selected by a diverse community of submitted creatives. Among those selected are feature films, documentaries and short movies from Canada, the USA and Africa. (click this link for the full listing of films to be shown: https://hbff.ca/836-2/                    


HBFF will present a transformative experience through the eyes of the BIPOC community in film. Experiences range from the topical to the everyday experiences of people from around the globe.


The festival will feature films by, for and about the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) community. Of important note is our principles of inclusion. This means that we want viewers to think broadly about BIPOC contributions from both in front and behind the lens. 


The official opening of the film festival will be on May 28th at Hamilton’s Westdale Theatre. Awards will be presented on May 30, 2021.

Due to COVID, screenings will be virtual. Talkbalks are captioning for those with hearing challenges and are made available for greater accessibility. 

“The HBFF is a not-for-profit organization whose goal is to bring about an accessible platform to showcase films that are made by, for and about People of Colour around the world, focusing on both the challenges and triumphs of everyday life.” said HBFF Founder, Paize Usiosefe. 

Festival passes go on sale this Saturday, April 2, 2021.

For more information contact: Louise Noel-Ambrose - Publicist at 905-865-1027, eventobepr@gmail.com  Twitter: @hamiltonblackfilm Instagram: @hamiltonblackfilm  https://www.facebook.com/hamblackfilm #HBFF #HamOnt #HBFF2021



Press Release circulated on behalf of the HBFF By



Friday, 5 March 2021

 Glen Assoun Compensated for Wrongful Conviction

For immediate release


March 04, 2021 – 6:15 PM

HALIFAX: Innocence Canada confirmed today that a confidential financial settlement was recently reached between the Nova Scotia and federal governments and Glen Assoun, a 64-year-old Nova Scotia man who was exonerated in 2019 in the 1995 murder of Brenda LeAnne Way.


"As is the norm when a settlement is negotiated in a case where a miscarriage of justice took place, the terms cannot be disclosed," said Ron Dalton, co-president of Innocence Canada. "Suffice to say, no amount of money could ever make up for the years of freedom Glen lost to a parade of errors and misjudgements by police and prosecutors."


Ms. Way, a 28-year-old prostitute, had been trying to clean up her life when she was found dead in an alley on Nov. 12, 1995. She had sustained multiple stab wounds and her throat had been cut. Convicted in 1999, Mr. Assoun ended up spending almost 17 years behind bars.


"At a certain point all of our clients need to get out from under the burden of wrongful conviction and get on with what remains of their lives," said Mr. Dalton, who was himself wrongly convicted in 1989 of murdering his wife.


Lawyers Phil Campbell and Sean MacDonald, who have represented Mr. Assoun throughout his quest for justice, noted that, while Mr. Assoun has shown tremendous resiliency throughout his two decade-long ordeal his financial sacrifices were significant as he was denied the ability to work and amass savings for his later years.


“At the end of the day, Minister Lametti and the Prime Minister and the Nova Scotia government did the right thing for Glen," Mr. MacDonald said. "And that should be celebrated.”


The settlement has the added benefit of being formal recognition by the governments involved that terrible mistakes took place in Mr. Assoun's case, Mr. Dalton said. 


He noted that the 17 years Mr. Assoun spent in prison and the further five years he was on strict bail conditions added to the time the real killer has been at large.


"While Glen’s ordeal has lasted over twenty years and he will continue to carry the scars of his experience, we at Innocence Canada want to express our gratitude to Federal Justice Minister Lametti and others who ensured that this important step has been taken to get Glen back his life."




For further information, please contact:


Kerry Emmonds – Executive Director

Innocence Canada


416-504-7500 ext. 101


Issued by Stephen Weir

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

: Four Black Police Officers To Give Deposition on Racism with the York Regional Police Force


On Wednesday, February 24, four Black York Regional Police Officers, and their lawyer will be appearing before the York Regional Police Services Board (YRPSB) to make a vitally important  deputation on matters of systemic racism and discrimination within the service.  The media is invited to attend and cover this important live online deputation that is being held during Black History Month.  

"The Deputation is an act of Bravery on the part of the officers who have been traumatized over many years. It is also an act of Bravery on the part of the York Region Police Service Board to  build bridges and address systemic racism,” explains the officers’ Counsel for Justice and Equity – Courtney Betty.  The goal is to make York Region a model for other Police Forces to follow."

“As a result of ongoing internal anti-Black racism conflicts, I have had with my employer for almost 10 years, I along with three other Black officers who have had the same complaints regarding YRP's differential treatment of its Black employees will be appearing before the York Regional Police Service Board to voice our concerns,” says  Police Constable Dameian Muirhead, “We will also be sharing intimate details about how this treatment has impacted our mental, physical and emotional health,” he continues. “Our close relatives have also been negatively impacted by these experiences.”


The officers who will speak on Wednesday morning are:


·      19-year veteran Detective Constable Neil Dixon. He is currently on leave as a result of suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, due to a near-death experience after a racial profiling incident involving two White YRP officers and a Sergeant.

·      Special Constable Vernley France has been with the force for 19-years. In 2015, he came forward to address the issues of racial discrimination and anti-Black racism in the workplace.  As a result of his coming forward, York Regional Police retaliated in the form of a series of  ongoing reprisals against the Caribbean Canadian constable.

·      Police Constable Dameian Muirhead is an 18-year veteran of the Service.  The Jamaican Canadian officer continues to endure various internal and external adversities while maintaining exemplary work performance as documented in all his formal work evaluations.  

·      The Fourth Officer, is identified as Police Constable ST


Normally held at  the York Region Administrative Centre’s chambers in Newmarket Wednesday’s deputation will be live online on Zoom and viewable by the media and the public on YouTube. 


The YRPSB is a seven-member civilian governing body mandated to oversee the police service. Expected to attend the hearing are members: Virginia Hackson (Chair, Mayor of East Gwillimbury), Maurizo Bevilacqua (Vice Chair, Mayor of Vaughan), Wayne EmmersonJosh Cooper, Jennifer FangWalter Perchal and Norma McCullough. Mrs. McCullough is the only Black member of the Board; she  is currently a member of the Association of Black Law Enforcers.

There are 2,400 men and women working for the York Regional Police under the command of Chief Jim MacSween, Deputy Chiefs’ Brian Bigras, Paulo Da Silva, Cecile Hammond and Robertson Rouse.  Deputy Chief Rouse, a Trinidadian Canadian, is the only Black officer in the service's Upper Command

There are 1.2 million citizens living in York Region, 25,000 who self-identify as Black.


Further Information

For interviews, photographs and more detailed biographic information on the officers. Please contact

Stephen Weir,

Communications Consultation

416-489-5968, Stephen@stephenweir.com



York Regional Police Services Board Meeting:  February 24, 2021 –9:00 a.m.

To watch on live YouTube  https://youtu.be/WIVa251JYts



Friday, 5 February 2021

It is official - Saturday is Bob Marley Day in Toronto



On Behalf of the City Council, Mayor John Tory – in a very eloquent speech – officially declared February 6, 2021 Bob Marley Day in Toronto.  


This marks the 30th year that the City of Toronto has officially declared Bob Marley Day. In his message, the Mayor recognized the impact of Bob Marley both in his music and his philosophy of world peace and unity captured in his famous song “One Love”. 

The video link below captures the Mayors' message along with the messages from our award winners:

Media Download:



The Bob Marley Day committee also recognized the following individuals for their contribution in building our City and our country. 

  • Celina Caesar-Chavannes  
  • Jennie Esnard  
  • Theresa Betty  
  • Dr. Aubrey Zidenberg  
  • Andria Barrett  
  • Nicholas Marcus Thompson   
  • Velma Morgan  
  • Balarama Holness 
  • Director X
For further information, contact Courtney Betty at 647-884-1181.

Betty's Law Office
(416) 972-9472
Distributed by

Stephen Weir & Associates on behalf of Betty's Law Office
Toronto, Ontario