| In the weeks leading up to the annual Caribana festivities in Toronto, there
was some confusion as to whether the city's mayor would be invited to
participate in events. This was sparked about a month ago when Mayor Mel
Lastman told a reporter that he wasn't looking forward to a trip to Mombasa,
Kenya to lobby African delegates to support Toronto's 2008 Olympic bid. "I can
just see myself in a pot of boiling water with all these natives dancing
around me," Lastman said. Since then Lastman has been under attack by various
organizations around the city, and they are not about to stop, until Lastman
gets the message that racist remarks by someone in his position is
unacceptable. An anti-racist rally supported by over 40 organizations held at
Nathan Phillips Square, last week was meant to drive the message home.
Knowing that traditionally the mayor participates in major parades, Grace
Galabuzzi, one of the organizers of the newly formed African-Canadian
Coalition wrote a letter to Frances Jeffers, Chair of the Caribana Cultural
Committee (CCC) asking that they not invite Lastman to participate in
Caribana. When Galabuzzi spoke to a member of the board regarding their
decision, he was told that the CCC had responded to the AFC's request in the
affirmative. "I was told by a board member officially, that the mayor could
not attend the Caribana event." The mayor's office was obviously not notified
about the CCC's decision, because, Scott Manage, Senior Writer, at the mayors'
office, insisted that Lastman was invited to Caribana and I should check my
sources. When Lastman did not attend the opening event, and I called back the
mayors office, Manage said that the mayor was invited, but had other
commitments. He pointed out that the next day, the mayor would be
participating in a Caribana ki!
ds event. "He will be riding in
a fire spitting corvette that the organizers provided with the kids, that is
certainly an indication that they asked him to participate," says Manage. The
mayors' office should get a listing of the Caribana events because the kids'
event that Manage was referring to was not, according to a Caribana official,
"a Caribana sponsored event."
But the CCC's recent press release has some folks confused as to what exactly
is Caribana's position on Lastman's comment and participation. The press
release states, "in response to media reports that Mayor Mel Lastman was
welcome at Caribana 2001, the CCC states categorically that everyone is
invited to join the celebrations." It adds that, while there were members of
the board that shared similar sentiments about Lastman's statement, which is
in line with the rest of the African-Canadian community, "Caribana is
committed to welcoming people to join our festivities, not excluding them."
Margaret Parsons, Executive Director of the African Canadian Legal Clinic
(ACLC) states, that her understanding of the CCC position is that the mayor
can attend the parade as a regular citizen. "Sure [the mayor] can come and
dance like the rest of the folks, he should not be denied that right. But
after he made those racist remarks, he cannot attend in his capacity as mayor.
Usually the mayo!
r sits in front of the parade, w
hat would that look like," Parson's asked.
Galabuzzi thinks that the CCC was forced to retract their statements because
of the funding arrangement with the city. The city provides approximately
$353,000,000 dollars to Caribana.
Furthermore, Galabuzzi believes that CCC's initial position represents the
overwhelming sentiment of the community, but the mayor used "the funding
arrangement the city had with Caribana to extort a retraction."
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