Mr. Jane and Finch, a dedicated Black community leader
By Tashia Antoine
Mr. Jane and Finch, a dynamic documentary that was aired on CBC Television last Friday evening, shines a light on dedicated black leader, Winston LaRose, a man with a big vision for the people of his community in Toronto.
At 80 years of age, LaRose embarks on his greatest challenge as an activist- to run for city council in his beloved community. LaRose shows no intentions of slowing down after having devoted much of his adult life to helping the residents of the Jane-Finch corridor. For over 25 years at his store-front office in Yorkgate Mall, he has been helping people with a range of problems – housing needs, immigration challenges, difficulties with at-risk youth and many others.
Then as he notices the early signs of gentrification within his community with the development of city subway and light-rail transit projects, he feels it is his duty to further protect his community against displacement and discrimination by running for office in Toronto’s controversial 2018 municipal election.
Neither his age nor the twists and turns of a hectic campaign deterred LaRose and he had the “political recognition” of Mayor John Tory and Humber River–Black Creek MP Judy Sgro who are aware of the extent of his work as director of the quarter century old community organization in the area – The Jane-Finch Concerned Citizens Organization (JFCCO) which had been actively engaged in the battles against crime and social and economic injustices.
His work with the JFCCO runs parallel with the 25 years that his main opponent, City Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti has been in office.. During the election campaign, Mammoliti came under fire for his racist remarks in referring to the people he represents in this community as “cockroaches” and calling for a complete overhaul of the area. which he has consecutively been re-elected to serve- an area suffering from underemployment, entrenched poverty and police brutality. These conditions propel LaRose into political advocacy to proudly continue representing the people from all walks of life who settle there and to take a stand for the community that has now become his family.
Off to a promising start in his campaign, LaRose’s chances for victory fritters away when newly elected Premier Doug Ford surprisingly slashes the size of Toronto’s City Council by dramatically reducing the number of seats from 47 to 25. This new and quickly implemented legislation causes a drastic strain as LaRose’s has to cover a much larger area on the campaign trail.
The story of Mr. Jane and Finch is not a tale about a win or lose situation at the polls. It is a story about the perseverance of an octogenarian who continues the fight for freedom and change as his people still suffer from neglect, poverty, and stereotyping. He has witnessed and lived the journey of colonial oppression in his native Guyana and his indominable spirit, passion and integrity will not allow him to stop fighting for freedom until his community is lifted and empowered.
This documentary may be perceived as the story of a man who made history as one of Toronto’s oldest candidates for City Council.
And it should inspire those who live in the areas facing problems similar to those of LaRose’s community to follow the remarkable example of Mr. Jane and Finch.