Wednesday 21 April 2021

Breaking News From Ottawa re: Black Class Action Lawsuit

Federal Budget acknowledges the reality of systemic discrimination and Black employee exclusion from the Federal Public Service of Canada

In its 2021 budget, the Government of Canada signaled an intention to address the painful realities of systemic racism faced by Black Public Service Workers. There remains much to be done to address the staggering underrepresentation of Black employees in the upper echelons of the Public Service and to take down barriers to the full inclusion and equality of Black Public Service employees. Much more must also be done to address the past harms of the practice of Black employee exclusion, and its impact on thousands of Black Public Service workers.

The Government’s budgetary commitment included $285 million over five years toward the collection of disaggregated data which will benefit all Canadians, including Black Canadians and members of the Public Service in future public policy decisions. The budget further proposed amendments to the Public Service Employment Act which is a necessary first step in moving toward a diverse and inclusive workforce that addresses systemic barriers to hiring and promotion. 

This response by the Government arose in the context of the Black Class Action lawsuit filed on December 1, 2020. This suit seeks to remedy the practice of Black employee exclusion and to strike down systemic barriers to the hiring and promotion of Black employees in the Public Service. The suit also seeks to secure just and equitable compensation for exclusionary practices in hiring and promotion on the part of the Government. All of these elements must be urgently addressed in order to achieve true fairness and equality for Black Public Service employees.

According to PSAC National President Chris Aylward "PSAC welcomes the proposed changes to the Public Service Employment Act in the federal budget,”. It’s an important first step in acknowledging decades of painful exclusion and discrimination experienced by thousands of Black public service workers. We hope this is a sign that the government will take the necessary steps to correct past injustices and create a fair and equitable Federal Public Service.” 

Lead plaintiff for the Black Class Action, Nicholas Marcus Thompson, also issues a similar call to the Government; “Black Public Service Workers renew their offer to work with the Government and all political parties in a collaborative manner to eradicate the practice of Black employee exclusion and to redress the harm to Black public servants over the past 50 years.” 

Since filing of the claim in December on behalf of 12 plaintiffs, over 700 class members have stepped forward and 12,900 supporters have signed the Black Class Action's online petition calling for the Government to end the plight of present and past Black Public Service workers. The class action is supported by various Unions including the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), who recognize the great contributions of Black public service workers in helping to shape Canada, and the need for much needed change to the system of hiring and promoting Black employees, whose representation remains woefully disproportional to their numbers in the general population and in the Public Service.

The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, has on numerous occasions recognized and committed to end Anti-Black systemic racism and discrimination in the Public Service and in Canada. This Class Action presents a golden opportunity for Canada to finally reconcile the historical inequities and ongoing exclusion faced by Black Public Service Workers, in order to move forward in creating a more representative Canadian Public Service, which is to the benefit of all Canadians. 

For further information or media inquiries please contact: 

Sara Fonseca

(416) 972-9472

circulated on behalf of

by Stephen Weir

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 and a GoFundMe at http://bit/ly/SVGVolcanoFundraiser
The group can be reached at 416-889-3293 and


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 ( 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 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