Welcome back to de road


by Jamea Zuberi

Toronto mas

The Toronto Caribbean Carnival celebrated its Emerald 55th anniversary this year 2022 with the Grande Parade taking over Lake Shore Boulevard in Toronto last Saturday, after missing 2 years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The organizers, the Festival Management Committee (FMC) board lead by chair Laverne Garcia, were welcomed back with open arms by the Caribbean/Canadian community. The parade was met with pure jubilation and was embraced by thousands of masqueraders in 12 participating mas bands, hundreds of steel panists and star studded musicians such as Machel Montano, Patrice Roberts and Voice out of Trinidad and Tobago. Many international and local soca Djs and street parade revellers danced the day away on the Lake Shore and the Exhibition Stadium Grounds.

After 2 years of no carnival in Toronto it was a welcomed time of celebration, liberation and healing where people of all cultures could be seen wearing costumes with vibrant colours playing mas on the Lake Shore.

The country owes a debt of gratitude to Ms.Garcia and her team for revitalizing a much needed festival after two years of enforced idleness, we could now feel like life is back!  Congratulations to the winning band on its 21st victory, Saldenah Mas K Club lead by Louis Saldenah, which portrayed the theme “Streets on Fire”. Saldenah Carnival paraded 16 sections with close to 5000 masqueraders crossing the stage in the span of 1 hour where the audience was mesmerized by the brilliant costumes designed some of the best artists across the Caribbean region and North America.

There were 12 mas bands displaying a variety of themes throughout the day. In addition to Saldenah’s Streets on Fire, was Freedom Mas Band, which proudly announced that they were the only Jamaican Mas Band; Toronto Revellers with the theme Bon Voyage; Sunlime Canada-unleashed; Carnival Nationz Queens and Goddesses; Tribal Knights- Kingdoms; Fantazia-Origins; EPIC Carnival-Energy; Venom Carnival-Papillon; Atlantic Mas-Like a Butterfly; and Costume Creators-Unity and SugaCayne with the Roots Collection.

Leading up to the grande parade, the FMC hosted a number of events in the month of July which included children specific programing like the Junior King and Queen, and Kiddies Carnival in Scarborough. The King and Queen showcase returned to its multigenerational audience displaying brilliant costumes of giant stature dazzling under the lights of Lamport Stadium in downtown Toronto. OCPA (Organization of Calypso Performaing Artistes) and OSA (Ontario Steelpan Association) also hosted the calypso and steelpan showcases during the festival. 

Toronto mas

The Toronto Caribbean Carnival festival is celebrated throughout the month of July which coincides with Emancipation Day, commemorated on August 1st. The Federal government of Canada, in March 2021, granted Emancipation Day official national status. The Ontario Government did the same in 2008.

August 1st was the date in 1834 that the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 came into effect across the British Empire, around the world, including Canada. Emancipation Day is recognized throughout the Caribbean Region with Trinidad and Tobago being the first independent country in 1985 to declare August 1st a national holiday. This year in Toronto, Emancipation Day was celebrated by a number of organizations including the Underground Freedom Train hosted by Itah Sadu, Louis March and their team at the Blackhurst Cultural Centre, and Natasha Henry and her team at the Ontario Black History Society, and the Fort York National Historic Site.

This year marked the 9th annual Freedom Train ride where the former MP Jean Augustine was declared the conductor while Janice Gairey of the CBTU Coalition of Black Trade Unions was awarded for her contributions. Organizer and host Itah Sadu reminded onlookers that Emancipation is more than a word and greeted the audience in the spirit of liberation, in the spirit of emancipation and in the spirit of solidarity.

Emancipation is a time to reflect on the experiences which brought Black people to where we are today and for the world to continue to work collectively to break the shackles which continue to plague society!

Consider this as a call to action to mark your calendars for July 2023 where you too can be a vital part of this world class festival, which could not be staged without the generous support of a large contingent of volunteers. See you next year at the greatest show in North America.