When Olivia Grange talks about the Jamaican diaspora in Canada, she knows whereof she speaks.
Grange spent many years with her family in Canada but kept in close touch with the place which is known affectionately by so many Jamaicans as The Rock.
She returned to The Rock, threw her hat in the political ring and built a career as a hard working government minister. But she still considers Toronto her second home.
Grange , now Jamaica’s minister of culture, gender, entertainment and sport, came back to Toronto last week with a message for fellow nationals which she delivered on Saturday at the Jamaican Canadian Association’s 56th anniversary and Independence gala.
She reminded them that among the missions of her ministry was the strengthening of ” Brand Jamaica.”
As she explained , Brand Jamaica ” is about creating new markets for our cultural and creative products or enhancing old markets. It is about re-visioning the ways in which we look at our creative energies and make it work for the greater prosperity of our foremost creative persons and the country in general. ”
She also noted that “it is furthering among our Jamaican people at home and abroad the economic value of our creativity and the ways in which they can participate in this globally acclaimed dynamic.”
Fine words from a super salesperson.
The message was well received as indeed was the minister herself.
Grange, as the super salesperson for Brand Jamaica, had more good news for members of the Jamaican diaspora in Canada.
She said her government was looking forward to ” enhancing Jamaican Caribbean festivals in Canada and will create and market with the help of the Ministry of Tourism , a calendar of all our activities at home and abroad.”
She then appealed to” business persons and entities here in Canada” for their support “so that Brand Jamaica can be enhanced and the people of Jamaica at home and in the Diaspora can reap dividends from the globally-certified creativity of the Jamaican people.”
We certainly have no hesitation in lending support for such a plan,
Grange also took the opportunity to invite Jamaicans to “come home” for the unveiling on September 7 of a national monument in honour of that well known cultural icon, Louise Bennett-Coverley, affectionately known as Miss Lou.
The unveiling ceremony is part of a program of activities to celebrate the 99th
anniversary of the birth of Miss Lou who lived for several years in Scarborough,Ontario
We urge all those who can to attend the unveiling ceremony.
Although Grange’s message was intended for the Jamaican diaspora, it should inspire governments in many parts of the Caribbean to do more to establish closer links with the sons and daughters of their countries who live abroad. It certainly would be in the economic interest of these governments to do so.
Unfortunately, there is a wrong- headed notion among many in some parts of the Caribbean that those who left home to seek opportunities abroad “abandoned” their land of the birth and that there is no reason to reach out to them. This notion should be quickly dispelled.
Then there is another common view of Caribbean immigrants as people who often find themselves in trouble with the police or are on run from immigration authorities and are not in any position to contribute in any way to the improvement of their homeland, especially since they are believed to be in low income positions, if employed.
This, of course, is not a true picture of the Caribbean community in Toronto where there are many West Indians who high achievers who send remittances to relatives back home and would be willing to play a role in the development of their native countries but are not encouraged to do so.
Many of these high achievers who are specialists in various fields complain that when Caribbean government are looking for consultants , they are just not considered.
Clearly, governments in the Caribbean need to do more research about immigrants from the region.
The Jamaican government clearly understand the economic benefits of maintaining links with its nationals abroad and is continuing to work towards even closer links.
We applaud their efforts in this direction and hope that other Caribbean governments would take a leaf from Jamaica’s book.