Mary Ann Chambers, Chancellor of the University of Guelph, told a gathering at the Jamaican Canadian Community Centre in Toronto on Saturday that “education is the foundation for better futures and the opportunity to make our world more caring and progressive.”
In a keynote address at a gala to mark the 60th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence and the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA), Chambers, a former Ontario Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, said that “when we support and guide our young people so they can rise above the challenges many face every day, we help them to believe in themselves and we give them hope.
“When we emphasize the importance of education, we help our youth to appreciate the opportunities that education can provide. When we help them to recognize and respect the value of honest work and the joy of seeing what their skills and efforts can produce, we help them to experience genuine pride.
“And when we show them how to truly love themselves and how to love and respect others, we give them the very best gift of all.”
Chambers applauded the JCA which organized its “60 years of greatness” gala,” for its tutoring programs and its 20 years of bringing people together to support scholarships for aspiring college and university students.”
She described the organization as “a place of acceptance, comfort and support for Jamaicans in the Greater Toronto Area and beyond, who sometimes had reason to wonder if they belonged here.
“JCA has long advocated for social justice, sometimes making itself a larger target than its individual members.”
Chambers also noted “with great admiration,” the “coming together in this space, to provide a caring and understanding atmosphere that serves to instill confidence and trust, informing and protecting members of our community, many of whom have been hard hit by COVID and its family of devious and deadly variants.
“We have all heard that there are specific populations, defined by where they live, their socio-economic status, the precarious or risky kinds of work they do, and other factors such as race, that have been particularly challenged by the pandemic.
“This place, this centre, is proving to be a respected hub of the community where good things happen.”
David Betty, president of the JCA, said in his message at the gala, that “from our first conference on West Indian Immigration in October 1963 to the School Booster Programme, and the Saturday Morning Tutorial Programme, which is still going strong, we continue to impact the lives of individuals from the Jamaican, West Indians and African communities, as well as the wider ethnocultural communities.”
And he noted that “as Jamaica emerges from the deluge of the pandemic and braces itself for the economic fallout of the fiscal and monetary policies employed, throughout the world, during the pandemic, we in the diaspora stand ready as ever to play our part in ensuring that Jamaica not only recovers but builds back stronger.”
Prime Minister Trudeau said in a message sent to those at the gala that “Canada and Jamaica have shared strong bilateral relations since Jamaica achieved independence on August 6, 1962.
“Our close bond is strengthened by a vibrant community of more than 300,000 Jamaican Canadians who make significant contributions to our nation in all fields of endeavour.”
Trudeau thanked the JCA for organizing the gala and “for its commitment to fostering fellowship in the community.”
Volunteer Awards were presented to six people at the gala.
Four of them – Eunice Graham, Francella Moore, Bruce McDonald and Sandra Whiting – received the 35 Years of Continuous & Lifetime Achievement Award.
The other two – Wilbert Johnson and Michelle Davis – received the 25 Years of Service Award.
Community Service Awards were presented to four – Neil Armstrong, Camille Hanays-King, Kathy McDonald and Andria Babbington.