Confusion reigns over ‘Caribbean Heritage Month’

Will October be offically declared “Caribbean  Heritage Month” in Ontario?

Or will it be August?

Michael Coteau, Camille Kerr and Sara Singh

Two  MPPs have introduced bills in the Ontario Legislature calling for the declaration of a “Caribbean Heritage Month.”

But both are proposing different months and this is reported to be causing “confusion, division and outrage ” within the Caribbean  community.

On October 28 last, Liberal MPP Michael Coteau introduced Bill 134, Caribbean Heritage Month Act, 2019. 

This bill which  is intended to mark the provincial recognition of October as Caribbean Heritage Month across Ontario, will need to pass three readings to become law.

However, on November 6 last, New Democrat MPP Sara Singh tabled a bill to proclaim August as Caribbean Heritage Month.

“August resonated most as the ideal month to highlight the rich culture and diverse heritage of the Caribbean, because of the existing Caribbean festivals that take place in August corresponding to popular festivals in the Caribbean region — including various Independence Days and the end of harvest season,” said Singh.

But  Camille Kerr, president of the Caribbean Women’s  Society (CWS), which started celebrating Caribbean Heritage Month in October 2018,  said the the bill tabled by Singh is causing “confusion, division and outrage ” within the community.

Kerr told the Caribbean Camera that October is ” a significant month for the Caribbean-Canadian community.

 ” On October 8, 1971, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau announced multiculturalism as an official government policy. Multiculturalism was intended to preserve the cultural freedom of all individuals and provide recognition of the cultural contributions of diverse ethnic groups to Canadian society.”

She also noted that the points system incorporated into the Immigration Regulations in October 1967  ” made it easier for people from the Caribbean to obtain immigrant status.”

“Caribbean Heritage Month will be an opportunity to remember, celebrate and educate future generations about Caribbean-Canadians and the important role that they have played and continue to play in communities across Ontario,” said Kerr.

Commenting on the dispute over the “Caribbean Heritage Month” issue, Coteau told the Caribbean Camera that he tries ” to stay out of the politics behind the group and Sara Singh and tries to do what the community wants.”

Singh could not be reached for comment.

Kerr  said that a demonstration will be held on  November 28 in front of the Legislative Building at  Queen’s Park “to get the attention  of the Conservative MPPs.”

She explained that that Bill 134 is no longer in Michael Coteau’s hands as the Doug Ford government has control over what bills will go forward to the next stage.”

“It will now be up to the Conservative government to put it on  the agenda,” she  added.