Time for action to deal with perennial problems

Congratulations are in order to carnival bandleader Louis  Ronald Saldenah, mas’ man extraordinaire, who copped the “Band of the Year” title at the Peeks Toronto Caribbean carnival 2018.

Louis Saldenah has now won the title 19 times – an achievement of which another notable bandleader, his father, the late Harold Saldenah, would have been justly proud.

We also wish to congratulate all the masqueraders who made this year’s carnival in Toronto the colourful extravaganza that it was. Undoubtedly, the Toronto Caribbean carnival (formerly known as Caribana)  has maintained its reputation as the largest cultural event of its kind in North America.

Chris Alexander, the chief administrative officer with the Festival Management  Committee  (FMC), organizers of the carnival, noted in an interview with the  Caribbean  Camera this week that the masquerade bands did “an amazing job.”

Alexander  reported that “the quality of the mas’ has improved tremendously’’ and that  “most of the bands had lots more masqueraders than they normally would have.”

Well, that certainly was the good news.

Unfortunately, there was some bad news – perennial problems  – from  Lake Shore Boulevard on Saturday.

And in the interest of  the Caribbean and Black communities and indeed in the interest of  the festival itself, we need to address these problems.

Crowd control and the behaviour of some spectators  are  a major cause for concern at the  annual festival.

We  have been receiving numerous complaints about the behaviour of some spectators ” spoiling the  fete for others.”

Some carnival  aficionados who travelled long miles to witness this year’s spectacular grand parade, say they will not be returning next year  because of  the unruly crowds who feel they have the right to join any band and literally “mash up de place.”

Carnival bandleaders have been complaining about spectators infiltrating their bands year after year but the problems are causing growing concern.

And while parade organizers have been putting up fences to prevent spectator disruptions of the parade, some persons have been complaining about the ” barriers.”

People who complain about “barriers” should know better. Band members should be allowed to play  mas’  without disruption from spectators.  These complainers are the same ones who say that the parade should not be held on Lake Shore Boulevard because it takes our community out of the core of the city and leaves us on the periphery.

Fortunately, their views are not taken seriously by the majority of  people in the Black community, so many of whom came from countries where carnival is not just mainstream but everything to the DNA of the culture.

Alexander reported that the spectator problem has persisted “with some using bolt cutters and other tools to breach fences.”

Reporting on this year’s parade, he noted that at one point the situation “became overwhelming” with the VIP area being overrun by intruding spectators.

So what’s to be done?

Alexander has said that preventing spectator interference with the carnival is an “ongoing discussion’’ that will continue at the FMC.

He suggested that there should be an “education’’ component to teach people that they are not “entitled’’ to join a band, even if they purchase a ticket to the Grand Parade.

But how do you “educate” hooligans, black or white, who are not prepared to listen?

Clearly the actions of these criminals can no longer be tolerated.

Building higher fences is not a solution to the problem. And while educating people about how to behave at the carnival parade through some sort of a public relations program may seem to be a good idea, trying to educate those who do not want to be educated will not work.

Let us not forget that in the past we have had incidents of violence at the carnival.

When spectators are showing up with cutters and other tools to cut through fences, we know that these instruments can be used for other illegal purposes as well.

It is high time that more serious action should be taken against these criminal offenders.

Yes, it is time for police action.