OPSEU Coalition of Racialized Workers

2014 Toronto Caribbean Carnival

OPSEU members attend Caribana festival

OPSEU's Workers Of Colour at 2014 Toronto Caribbean Carnival

On Saturday, August 2, the Workers of Colour Caucus invites all members to participate as we celebrate North America’s largest festival of Caribbean history and culture –Toronto Caribbean Carnival.

For the fifth year, the Workers Of Colour Caucus will join Louis Saldenah Mas-K Club with their presentation of the “River of Mirrors” in the Xpats section. The section theme is "Medieval: Royals and Rogues"–a reflection of the Middle Ages, drawn from the elegance and richness of the royal court to the elusive roadside bandits roaming the outskirts of a vast kingdom.

The WOCC will also be participating in numerous Caribbean Festivals throughout Ontario. Everyone is invited to experience:

  • The Toronto Caribbean Kiddies Carnival on July 19 2014;
  • Durham Caribbean Festival on June 29 2014;
  • Barrie's Caribfest on August 16 2014; and
  •  Vaughan's CariVaughan on August 23 and 24 2014.

Registration is on a first-come-first serve basis and is limited. For more information and registration, please contact Vince Gobind at invinceable.intl@gmail.com.

Thanks For 2013 Caribbean Festival Successes:

In 2013 Workers of Colour Caucus (WOCC) was proud to have OPSEU members participate at the Toronto Caribbean Carnival.  OPSEU’s representation at this event was drawn from 4 out of 7 regions, and also included participation from 4 out of 8 Equity groups; a true show of solidarity within OPSEU.

The WOCC noted with appreciation the presence of the following OPSEU members and leaders at last year’s Toronto Caribbean Carnival:-

  • Sara Labelle, Region 3, Regional Vice President (RVP)
  • Gord Longhi, Region 3, Executive Board Member (EBM)
  • Felicia Fahey, Region 6, EBM
  • Sandi Blancher, Region 1, Vice-Chair, Hospital Professional Division (HPD)
  • Peter Thompson, Region 1, Chair, Workers of Colour Caucus ( WOCC)
  • Angela Rossley, Region 3,  Chair, Provincial Women’s Committee (PWC)
  • Dave McCarl, Region 3, Member, Provincial Human Rights Committee (PHRC)
  • Krista Maracle, Region 5, Vice Chair, the Aboriginal Circle

We were very pleased by all the new and veteran members that participated (played mas) as well. We really appreciate the time people took out of their busy schedules to support WOCC…THANK YOU!

The History of Toronto Caribbean Carnival

The Toronto Caribbean Carnival (formerly known as Caribana) has run annually since 1967, and was originally performed as a gift from Canada’s Caribbean community, as a tribute to Canada"s centennial. Caribana also coincided with African Liberation celebrations and Emancipation Day—a day to celebrate the end of legal slavery an usually held on August 1.

Toronto’s Caribbean Carnival, like other Caribbean festivals around the world, is more than just a party. It is a breaking down of the artificial barriers of society – of class, race and gender. It is a celebration of Caribbean culture, food, creativity, art, music and history including the diverse ethnic and social make-up of the people of the Caribbean islands: people of African descent; French colonialists (usually plantation owners); South Asian and Chinese indentured labourers; British, Spanish and Creole settlers and the indigenous Amerindians. It is a celebration of literal and spiritual emancipation.

Toronto’s Caribbean Carnival is generally perceived to be based on Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival. Before 1834, when slavery was abolished, Trinidad’s Carnival celebrations had two aspects: torches, drumming and other African-derived ceremonies of the slave classes, and the other being the “fancy-dress” silks and satins of the European plantation owners. Often, French monsieurs and madames would dress as fantastical versions of their own slaves, while the slaves would parody the plantation owners. After emancipation, former slaves, under the concealment of a costume, brought their dances, their songs and their festival traditions to the streets, recreating in symbolic ways the freedom from the "cane fields" and from slavery.

Toronto’s Caribbean Carnival falls on the anniversary of the emancipation from slavery from British controlled Canada and the Caribbean on August 1, 1834, and also on the date of a European festival celebrating the first loaf of the new year’s wheat and the opening of the fields for common pasturage.

Carnival and Caribana has evolved from this, to masquerade bands at the Toronto Caribbean Carnival competing for top honours called “Band of the Year.” This competition reflects the diverse expressive traditions of the Caribbean. The bands must pass a judging point which will rate each band section for its costume design, energy of masqueraders, creativity of presentation–to name a few. Caribbean Carnival has grown from hundreds on Yonge Street in the late 1960’s to thousands on University Ave in the 1980‘s and 1990’s to one of Canada’s major tourist attractions with over a million participants on the Lakeshore today. While Caribbean Carnival runs for two weeks, its climax is the Parade of the Bands on the final weekend of the festival.