Evening of elegance and festivity at JCA’s 61st Anniversary Gala

Mayor Olivia Chow
Aston J Hall

For over six decades, the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA) has been a pillar of strength, unity, and cultural celebration within the vibrant Jamaican-Canadian community. This year’s milestone 61st Anniversary Gala Dinner and Dance, themed “A Journey of Resilience and Perseverance,” not only marks the JCA’s enduring commitment but also pays homage to the remarkable journey of Jamaica’s independence.

The JCA’s legacy mirrors the indomitable spirit of the nation it represents. Under the guidance of Co-chairs Michelle McKenzie-Dolly and Dr. Sylvanus Thompson, the association has thrived through challenges and triumphs, becoming a symbol of community engagement and cultural preservation. Just as Jamaica has overcome obstacles, the JCA has risen above adversities, a shining beacon of strength and unity.

As the event unfolded on Saturday, August 12th, attendees experienced an evening of elegance and festivity. Culinary delights curated by Chef Selwyn from The Art of Catering tantalized the taste buds. The all-female Rayzalution Band set the tone with a tight performance, while DJ Funky kept the mood right. The event was gracefully hosted by Arlene Amitirigala.

This year’s event sponsors, UBC Carpenters Local 27 and Chris Campbell showed their support for the JCA’s mission.

David Betty

At the heart of the gala lies the recognition of those who have made exceptional contributions to the community, one of them for over sixty years of service. The 2023 award recipients constitute a diverse group of individuals and organizations dedicated to excellence and community growth. This year’s honorees include Dr. Sylvanus Thompson (Community Award, Individual), The Walnut Foundation (Community Award, Organization), Herrol Mattocks (Volunteer of the Year Award), Benito Palomino (President’s Award), Camille Hannays-King and Ellen Wynter (Lifetime Award), Sharon Wynter-Bowen, Dean Parker, and Glenford Gordon (Continuous Membership – 25 Years), Ismay Murray (Continuous Membership – 50 Years), Desmond Marrett (Long Service Award), and Anthony Scott (Exceptional Support and Volunteerism).

As the JCA commemorated 61 years of existence, it not only celebrated its own remarkable journey but also reflected the enduring spirit of the Jamaican-Canadian community. The theme, “A Journey of Resilience and Perseverance,” encapsulated the trials and triumphs that have etched the JCA’s legacy. Through this commemoration, the JCA paid homage to its storied past while casting a hopeful gaze toward a future defined by unity, strength, and an unyielding commitment to community excellence.

In his keynote address, the distinguished Associate Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice, Aston J Hall, articulated the essence of the evening’s celebration. He spoke to several vital themes:

Jamaica’s Independence and Heritage: Justice Hall underscored “the significance of celebrating Jamaica’s hard-fought independence and honoring the visionary figures, most notably Norman W. Manley, whose dedication paved the path to political autonomy.”

(From left) Alton Telfer, Gifford Walker,
Nehemiah Bailey and Roy Williams

Economic Prosperity and Community: The Justice emphasized “the compelling need for economic prosperity within Jamaica and lauded the JCA’s role in fostering community service and support, drawing inspiration from their unwavering passion.”

Personal Journey and Resilience: Through a poignant personal narrative, Justice Hall highlighted the transformative power of familial determination and resilience, anchoring the importance of starting from humble beginnings and diligently working towards one’s aspirations.

Contributions of Jamaicans in Canada: He acknowledged the historical contributions of Jamaicans in shaping Canada’s diverse tapestry, “from the earliest Maroons to contemporary changemakers,” underscoring the significance of nurturing a sense of belonging and unity.

Building a Strong Future: With a call to action, Justice Hall encouraged individuals to “embrace their dreams, champion personal resilience, and collectively strive for progress, particularly among the younger generation.” He emphasized the imperative of investing in the community and oneself.

With each passing year, the Jamaican Canadian Association reinforces its role as a unifying force, a keeper of heritage, and a driver of positive change. As the echoes of the Gala

Sylvanus Thompson

resound, the JCA’s journey of resilience and perseverance stands as an inspiration to all, a testament to the enduring strength of the community and the promise of a brighter future for all Jamaican-Canadians.