In its 53rd year, Caribbean Carnival festivities are once again being celebrated by the Toronto Police Service, although without the usual fanfare of a kick-off at police headquarters and participation in parades and events.
This year, Service members are marking the event virtually as the COVID-19 pandemic has sidelined events.
Celebrating Carnival has brought together a kaleidoscope of the diversity that resides in Toronto over the years to join in the excitement of the major international event.
This festival has grown to become a celebration of inclusion and pride in the fact that Canada is a global community of diverse peoples, languages, religions and cultures.
Caribbean Carnival Toronto began as the dream of a group of enthusiastic individuals from diverse backgrounds, but with a common West Indian heritage. Their dream was the construction of a monument of goodwill, a celebration of Caribbean culture and a statement of belonging to their adopted land, Canada. This dream was forged in the heady days of 1967 when Canada was celebrating its Centennial. The West Indian community was asked to make a contribution that would enhance the celebrations of Expo ’67.
This contribution took the form of a colourful parade down Yonge Street that was spontaneous, exuberant and enjoyable. This parade was the first proud statement of the West Indian presence within Canada. During that time, the festival was created to showcase the different Caribbean islands and their camaraderie. There were people from Trinidad, Jamaica, Guyana, Barbados and St. Vincent working on it. The uniqueness from each island stimulated many discussions around building the event into a cultural force that would support our community and better the city as a whole.
The Toronto Police Service has always been an enthusiastic supporter and participant of this lively, joyous and important event since its inception. The Service’s participation includes a colourful and dynamic float in the Carnival’s parades named "Diversity in Motion, Community and Police Working Together". There are also numerous and varied celebrations that take place at our local Divisions across the city.
“I am excited about the many strong community-police partnerships we have built over the many years,” said A/Supt. Stacy Clarke who leads the Community Partnerships & Engagement Unit, who are responsible for the coordination of the Service’s Caribbean Carnival participation. “The Caribbean Carnival is one of the many festivals in our city that delivers an experience that is worth your while. You could literally feel the energy and good spirits in the air. It truly provides us with an opportunity to celebrate life and experience something different with family, friends and members of our diverse communities.
“Unfortunately, as we are under social distancing measures, the health and safety of our communities is of the utmost priority. Nevertheless, this provides an opportunity to reflect and appreciate the celebrations and its history.”
The annual event in Toronto has grown to become an exciting three-week cultural explosion of Caribbean music, cuisine, and revelry, as well as visual and performing arts. It’s a major international event and the largest cultural festival of its kind in North America.
As Carnival is an international cultural phenomenon, the Greater Toronto Area comes alive as the city explodes with the pulsating rhythms and melodies of Calypso, Soca, Reggae, Hip Hop, Chutney, Steel Pan and Brass Bands. This colourful exhibition and display of genius provides a musical panorama and has grown to become an expression of Toronto's multicultural society, bringing in attendees and participants from all over the world.
Over the years, what is now the Caribbean Carnival Toronto, has welcomed the festival traditions of members of many communities that are now present in Toronto. Its powerful message of the celebration of diversity for the rest of the world will continue to spread for generations to come.