The new Toronto Caribbean Carnival is trying hard to get its plans in place for the August 5 event which may or may not be called Caribana but will definitely look and feel like the 38-year old event which annually puts Toronto at the head of the ethnic cultural calendar for summer North American festivals.
Joe Halstead, Toronto's former commissioner of economic development, culture and tourism, has been named to lead the city-endorsed Festival Management Committee (FMC), which also includes Glen Grunwald of the Toronto Board of Trade and Ed Peters of the Ontario Steelpan Association. Making it all possible is Curtis Eustace of the Toronto Mas Bands Association — the costumed heart of the festival, which has publicly broken with Caribana's old guard and has no patience left for certain perennially disturbing patterns. This will be the second time the Toronto Mas Bands has publicly broken with the CCC and successfully produced the festival in 2003 as well.
But not everyone is warming to this make-over and Monica Pollard, chairperson for the Caribbean Cultural Committee (CCC), who assumed the post in December, is one such person.
She contends that her
group, which has organised the two-week summer event for
almost four decades, has been sidelined.
Councillor Joe Mihevc, the long-standing City point person for its relationship with the largest Caribbean Festival in North America, has a different take on the turn of events. His stance, he says, was brought about by the lack of accountability on the part of the former organisers. "The city funds 1,500 organisations, directly and indirectly," he said. "And, not one of them which fails to produce a clean audit gets funding the next year. It's public money."
The CCC’s ‘Hands Off Caribana Action Committee,’ led a march on Toronto City Hall, at Dundas Square on May 6.
They claim the city’s move to take over the festival; shut them out and hand it over to another group is merely political. Charles Roach, Caribana's founding chairman told the Toronto Star this week, "It seems to me that if a corporation, even the city, messes up on handling some financial matters, I don't think that that's a reason to take control of something from their hands, as much as it's a reason for not giving them money. Just name some people to run it, just like that? That bothers me a lot." he told a Heartbeat News reporter.
CCC spokesman Elsworth James said in a statement issued in mid-May that that a deal had been reached under which the two sides would work together which would be allow the use of the Caribana name. Mr. James also said the deal would allow a restructured CCC to take over next year's event.
But Mr. Mihevc said there was no such deal. "This certainly is a surprise to me," he said, adding that there were continuing discussions. ". . . To say that peace has broken out would be premature."
Indeed the CCC may never again be the same as it's 2006 chairwoman, Monica Pollard, abruptly resigned this week.
She told the Globe and Mail on May 18th that she could not persuade the group to move forward in a "professional, corporate manner" and that she faced "repeated internal challenges."
Toronto Carnaval has long been defined by the Grand Parade taking place on the Saturday of the 3-day weekend which is timed for the holiday of the first Monday in August which for the 38th Toronto Caribbean Carnival will be August 5th.
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