Toronto Caribana Brouhaha Continues

By Jasminee Sahoye

Toronto, Canada, May 31, 2006 – A group known as Hands Off Caribana, headed by lawyer and activist Charles Roach, now claims to have struck a deal with the city of Toronto to have the summer carnival hosted under the auspices of the Caribbean Cultural Committee again this year.

In a statement, HOC in conjunction with the CCC, stated that the group, which has hosted Caribana in the past, has reached an agreement with City Councilor Joe Mihevc, who is the city’s liaison for the annual festival, and the Festival Management Committee’s vice chair Courtney Betty, to recognize that the Caribana festival and its management must be held under the aegis of the CCC.

But Councillor Mihevc, through his press liaison, said negotiations and discussions still are underway with the FMC and the CCC with regard to the name change, but noted that plans are already in progress for the staging of the festival from mid-July.

Meanwhile, the CCC continues to face problems and two weeks ago, chair, Monica Pollard tendered her resignation. In a letter to Secretary, Susuga Alleyne, Pollard said she was stepping down “due to repeated internal challenges.”

“My intent in coming back to the CCC was to help with the restructuring of the organization. However, despite my best efforts to move the corporation forward in professional, corporate manner I regret to report that I have failed,” Pollard stated.

She said her presence in the CCC at this time is counter-productive. “I am not in a position to help make the necessary changes, and by removing myself would permit others to proceed in a manner in which they are more comfortable,” she added.

Pollard has been facing stiff opposition from some directors in the CCC, and her resignation comes just one week after she accepted an invitation as CCC chair to join the FMC, a high-profiled team of professionals put together to manage this year’s summer carnival.

Acting chair, Henry Gomes now takes her place at the FMC table.

Controversy started earlier this year when the City Council refused to grant its annual subvention to the CCC after it did not submitted its audited statement of account to the council.

The council decided to form a management committee with the assistance of the Toronto Mas Bands Association to run the festival under a different name, Toronto Caribbean Carnival.

Joe Halstead, former city commissioner of economic development, culture and tourism, assumed the chair of the newly minted FMC more than a month ago.

In overseeing the festival, the FMC will receive revenues and the operating portion of government grants. The Toronto Mas Bands Association, traditional performers at the summer event, will still receive cultural grants from the city, province and likely Ottawa, totaling roughly $490,000.

Other members of the new Festival Management Committee include Glen Grunwald, president and CEO of the Toronto Board of Trade, Ed Peters, of the Ontario Steelpan Association, and Curtis Eustace, of the Toronto Mas Band Association.

“The TMBA is determined to do whatever it takes in order to restore pride and dignity to our summer event, which is so important to our community and the city of Toronto,” Eustace said.

The new committee last week named two men as chief operating officer and event manager, respectively, and is hoping to address the absence of women on the Committee. It also has a clause that forces the organization to give a full report on the 2006 event by Dec. 31 and re-evaluate its future course. (HBN)