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
Getty Images

However, some contributors to Caribana do get paid, specifically the designers and seamstresses in the Mas Camps, Yards and Tents. The festival awards winning bands financial prizes, and the Caribana-supported Black Canadian Artists Association raises money for its artists. The city also pays for clean up, Web sites and much of the advertising and extra security.

The extra security is a sore subject with Roach and many others, who see it as way to cast aspersions on Caribana. He also doesn’t like that the city changed the parade route from a central location to an area on the Lakeshore, where there are no residences or businesses. He believes the police preferred having it contained there, using as their excuse fears of violence, which has in fact been negligible.

But recently, the city center has slowly begun moving toward the lake. “The gods of carnival smile on us,” he said. “Unlike Europeans and some Asian settlers, immigrants from the Caribbean may not have brought investment capital or construction or entrepreneurial expertise to this city of high rises and subways, but we did bring rhythm—that spiritual element of calypso, reggae and soca and the ineffable power of African rhythms that undergird carnival—and that brings people of every background and race together.”

Valerie Gladstone specializes in the writing about the arts for The New York Times, Artnews, Time Out New York and many others. She is the author of a children’s book with photographer Jose Ivey, A Young Dancer: A Year in the Life of an Ailey Student.