Is Toronto Exploiting Caribana?

Caribbean folks will flock to the festival for parties, barbecues and parades, sure to have lots of fun and spend lots of money. But will Toronto’s economy get the biggest party favor?

Getty Images
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When the jubilant extravaganza known as Caribana officially begins on July 14, more than 1 million people from around the world will take to the streets of Toronto in an outpouring of enthusiasm for the culture and pleasures of the Caribbean.

Established in 1967 to celebrate Canada’s centenary and its many cultures, the three week festival—the most diverse in North America—now has imitators almost everywhere people of the Caribbean have settled—which doesn’t stop them from making their way to Caribana as well.

“It’s blossomed into one of the happiest times of the year here,” said Alicia Sealey, a longtime member of the Caribbean Arts Group.

But while Caribana serves as a wonderful excuse to party and congregate in endless backyard barbecues and picnics in the parks, it is especially important as a reminder of home.

“The ability to beat pan (steel band), play mas (masquerade), wine, lime and make bacchanal with your kind for a few days, as if you were on Frederick Street, was a way to salve that yearning,” said Robin Timothy, a Trinidadian consultant who divides his time between New York and the island, adding, “and it is still is.”