Prime Minister Trudeau kicked off Children’s parade amid cheers

By Stephen Weir

Justin Trudeau and Lavern Garcia at left

The Prime Minister of Canada has gotten a lot of ribbing from his critics for his new hairdo (some say it looks like Jim Carrey’s hairdo in Dumb and Dumber), but that did not faze the thousands of children who took part in Saturday’s Junior Parade. When CBC announcer and MC for the parade Kevin Harrington announced that Justin Trudeau was about to kick-off the Toronto Caribbean Carnival’s annual parade for youngsters, a long roar of approval went up that could be heard all over Neilson Park in Malvern.

Under blue, blue skies, the prime minister, flanked by a staggering number of Toronto politicians – 11 – in total, were there to mark the return of the children to the streets of Malvern after a 2-year absence.  The other dignitaries included mayor John Tory, deputy mayor Michael Thompson, MP Gary Anandasangaree, Minister Raymond Cho, MPP Mitzie Hunter, MP Michael Coteau and Lavern Garcia, the head of the Caribbean Carnival.

Trudeau has taken part in the parade twice in past years but never in his role as Prime Minister.  “Thank you to the young people who are out celebrating, demonstrating how happy we are all to be gathering in person once again,” the PM said at the start of the ribbon cutting ceremony “Today is about them, getting out, celebrating this extraordinary community.”

And while most of the speeches were rather light in terms of addressing issues of the day, three speakers – the mayor, the deputy mayor and Laverne Garcia – addressed the challenges that are facing the community in Toronto today.

“We have seen a rise in anti-Black racism and in intolerance that is associated with so many of the challenges people face, and on a day like this, we get to remind ourselves what it is to be Canadian.” Lavern Garcia. “What we’re doing is we’re celebrating the next generation of masqueraders that are going to be leading the carnival into the future,” she said.

“For two long we have not been able to achieve (here in Canada),” echoed deputy mayor Michael Thompson, the only Caribbean Canadian member of city council. “Now I know we have the prime minister and the mayor who recognize that fact and we are all working together! So (this morning) we celebrate with pride our contributions to this country.”

“We need more opportunity for all of the young kids who are basically masquerading today. We must let them know, that the future is brighter and all of us are collectively working for that brighter future … What this country needs are more good people. So let’s have fun and a good time as we welcome people to this community.”

The Junior Carnival was first introduced 45 years ago in 1977 and has been held in a number of communities including Eglinton West and Downsview. The Junior parade is a form of self‑expression and teaches young people how to engage with the world around them.

After the official ribbon was cut the children began their march through the community. Wearing costumes and dancing to music, the children were cheered on by parents, friends and people from the community who stood along the roads often 5 people deep. At the end of the parade each mas band was judged for their costumes and their dance presentations, just like the adults will be judged next Saturday.

“You could just feel the energy in the air at Scarborough’s Junior Parade and Carnival today!” tweeted the Prime Minister after his official duties were done. “We were there to celebrate the Caribbean cultures that reflect our country’s diversity – and recognize the youth who are the future of the (country). Have a fantastic festival, everyone!

The Gallery pictures are by Gilbert Medina