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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A word from the CAG (Caribana Arts group)

Today, CARIBANA Arts Group held a press conference at The Real Jerk Restaurant in Downtown Toronto. The purpose of the press conference was to advise the media, CAG members, and the general public at large that CAG's lawsuits with Scotiabank/The Festival Management Committee, and with the Charles Roach Estate have been resolved. Attached, please find a copy of a prepared statement from CAG's Chair, Knia Singh, that was delivered at said press conference.

CARIBANA™  ARTS  GROUP 215 Spadina Avenue, Suite 400, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5T 2C7   ▪   647-693-4441   ▪   www.caribana.com

May 14, 2014

Good morning,

Thank you all for attending today as we address important issues surrounding the internationally known and loved CARIBANA™ festival.


The CARIBANA™ festival was established in 1967, and since then it has been a growing driving force in the Toronto community, celebrating Caribbean arts and culture.  It has placed Toronto on the international map as a world class city, it has provided unsurpassed economic activity annually for any festival of its kind in North America, and it has presented a vibrant and exciting cultural event within one of the most multicultural cities in the world.

The CARIBANA™ festival has been driven by community volunteers, and only in its later years started to receive financial support from the government since the festival was generating enormous amounts of revenue for the local restaurants, retailers, hotels, and airlines.  According to a Ryerson University study released in 2010, the festival generates over $438million dollars of economic activity in Toronto annually, and approximately $200 million dollars of tax revenue for the City and the Province.  These types of numbers would indicate that between the years 2000 and 2005, CARIBANA™ has generated over $2 billion dollars of economic activity for the city and $1 billion dollars of municipal and provincial tax revenue.

Unfortunately, the CARIBANA™ Arts Group, nor the broader community at large, has benefitted from the hundreds of millions of dollars that come into this city annually because of CARIBANA™.  The chronic underfunding of the CARIBANA™ Arts Group made it difficult to provide adequate infrastructure at times, as a result qualified audits were produced in 2004 and 2005.  

In 2006, the city of Toronto CARIBANA™ liaison councillor Joe Mihevic appointed a new team the Festival Management Committee (FMC) to administrate the festival.  After protests from community members through the “Hands of CARIBANA™” committee lead by the late Charles Roach, an accord was drafted between the City, FMC, and CARIBANA™ which stated that this arrangement was to be for one year.  During the year CARIBANA™ Arts Group would work to get it's house in order and at the end of that year the FMC would dissolve.  The CARIBANA™ Arts Group trusted this arrangement and worked with the FMC under these terms and conditions.

In 2007 the funding was not returned to the CARIBANA™ Arts Group, and the FMC did not dissolve.  In 2008 the FMC signed on sponsor Scotiabank without notifying or consulting the CARIBANA™ Arts Group Board of Directors.  This action had a devastating impact in the community as it was perceived by the community that Scotiabank had bought the CARIBANA™ festival since it was being called Scotiabank CARIBANA™.  During the next 3 years between 2008 – 2010, the CARIBANA™ Board of Directors attempted to negotiate with the FMC a licence agreement, control of the festival, anything that would be a step in the right direction but it was to no avail.  
Legal Action

In April of 2010 after ongoing attempts to negotiate an agreement with the FMC were unsuccessful, the CARIBANA™ Arts Group issued a cease and desist letter to the FMC and Scotiabank to stop using the CARIBANA™ trademark without authorization or a licence.  In May of 2011 legal action commenced in regards to trademark infringement which is outlined in the statement of claim.  Through the generous support of the law firm Iler Campbell, the CARIBANA™ Arts Group received legal representation on this matter.

Legal Settlement

Commencing this legal action was one of the most difficult things the CARIBANA™ Arts Group has undertaken in recent years.  The lack of information in the public domain made it hard for the public to understand exactly what was taking place.  The CARIBANA™ Arts Group was acting responsibly and within its legal right to protect its property which is the CARIBANA™ trademark.  In addition the CARIBANA™ Arts Group was acting on behalf of the public interest to protect a festival created by members of the Caribbean-Canadian community from being taken over and controlled by another corporation.  Any legal action taken by the CARIBANA™ Arts Group was not done in malice, but done in principle.  The CARIBANA™ Arts Group created North America's largest street festival with tremendous positive economic impact and ran it for 39 years.  It is a staple in our city with everyone looking forward to a hot summer day in August to celebrate CARIBANA™.  When the control over a festival of this nature is taken away from its creators and facilitators after it has given so much culturally, economically, and socially, all that can be left is disappointment, hurt and disbelief.  

To stand up to corporations with endless resources in the name of what is just is not an easy task.  And to hold those who you respect and care for as community organization accountable for their action is something the CARIBANA™ organization will always do to main its integrity.

The CARIBANA™ Arts Group is proud to announce that the legal matter initiated in 2011 with the Festival Management Committee, Scotiabank, and the Estate of the Late Charles Roach, have been settled.  

On December 23, 2013 through a desire to move forward for the advancement of the Caribbean community in Toronto, the CARIBANA™ Arts Group and the Estate of the late Charles Roach reached a settlement concerning the court matter.  

The commitment by the CARIBANA™ Board of Directors to resolve this legal dispute is a strong signal to the community that the CARIBANA™ Arts Group highly respects the contributions of the late Charles Roach to CARIBANA™ and society as a whole, and wishes to move past the incidents that led to this unfortunate legal matter.

Initiating this lawsuit was extremely difficult for the CARIBANA™ organization due to the close historic relationship between Charles Roach and the CARIBANA™ festival.  Charles Roach stood up for CARIBANA™ at every opportunity and are relieved this matter has been resolved.  We look forward to working with the Roach Estate to honour the contributions of Charles Roach to the CARIBANA™ festival, and to recognize the greater social impact he has had in the areas of law and community activism in Ontario.

On May 5, 2014 the settlement with the Festival Management Committee and Scotiabank was completed.  The CARIBANA™ Arts Group views this as positive step for the community and looks forward to taking this matter from the legal context to the communal context.

The fact remains that the Toronto community has been unclear as to what really happened to CARIBANA™.  The community must know that the CARIBANA™ Arts Group has never ceased to exist, nor did it ever sell the festival to the FMC, Scotiabank, or the city.
CARIBANA™ has always been a community event presented by the CARIBANA™ Arts Group formerly known as the Caribbean Cultural Committee.  It is important that the control of the major events associated with the festival remain with the non-profit corporation that created it and nurtured it into the tourist attraction that it is today generating hundreds of millions of dollars annually for local business owners, the city and the province.

CARIBANA™ has set the stage for other Caribbean festivals to take place during the first weekend in August around the GTA such as Irie Fest, Jambana, OVO Fest and others.  In regards to the Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival the records show that from 2008 to 2010 this was referred to as Scotiabank CARIBANA™, and prior to that simply CARIBANA™.  

With historical facts on our side the CARIBANA™ Arts Group will always see the first weekend in August as CARIBANA™ weekend.  Internationally it is known as CARIBANA™ time, locally it is known as CARIBANA™ time, and it should always be known as CARIBANA™ time.

CARIBANA™ is a historical cultural event, and should be recognized as a part of Canadian heritage.  Its contribution to the social and economic fabric of Canada's largest city cannot be denied, and should not be set aside due to political or corporate interest.  This festival means the world to many Caribbean-Canadians, and so many volunteer hours of labour have gone into this festival for the past 47 years to make it the success it has become.  No community should ever feel robbed of its contribution, and I can assure you that members of the community feel that it is wrong the control of the festival is not in the hands of the founding community organization.

The CARIBANA™ Arts Group has always been willing to negotiate a management agreement with the FMC, for the FMC to manage the festival, but that should be the choice of the CARIBANA™ Arts Group, not the choice a few people that have the power to politically maneuver themselves into positions of control.

If this has happened to a festival as large as CARIBANA™, what is to say that this will not happen to other cultural festivals in the city.  We must ensure as a community that the contributions and creations of those that have come before us, are not lost in the desire for control.

The structure of the CARIBANA™ Arts Group has always been open to the public which allows any member of the city to volunteer with the organization, become a member or even run for election to the board of directors.  This format ensures accountability to the community and community involvement.  Unfortunately the current structure of the FMC does not provide opportunities for the public to engage in the same way they can with CARIBANA™.

The CARIBANA™ Arts Group is the face of the community, and is the organization responsible for bringing this world class festival to Toronto since 1967.  And when we say CARIBANA™ we include every single person that contributes in some way to the festival taking place.  We recognize the major contributions that the Toronto Mass Bands Association makes yearly to the festival, the invest capital, secure resources, obtain volunteers that work night and day around the clock to design assemble and display the costumes everyone comes to see on the day of the big parade.  The Mas Camps even hold their own fundraising activities because it is an enormous risk which requires significant resources to make successful.  We have the Ontario Steelpan Association that provides the melodious sounds of the steel pan which is the instant representation of the Caribbean on multiple levels.  Local Calypsonians who deserve more infrastructure funding to promote Canadian talent especially in the field of live performance at events during the festival, we must support our local entertainers.  There are many more groups and organizations that make this festival successful, and most importantly all of the participants, that fly into the city, take time off of work and spend money at restaurants, clubs, and hotels.  It is a synergy that takes place, and we must recognize that the CARIBANA™ Arts Group is here to ensure that all these groups have their needs met in the spirit of community culture and CARIBANA™.

Current Activities

Since 2006 the CARIBANA™ Arts Group has remained active in the community even though it does not receive any type of government funding.  This year CARIBANA™ presented the second annual CARIBANA™ ON ICE on March 1st 2014 at Nathan Philips Square.  We also presented Camp CARIBANA™ across various Toronto locations, teaching and sharing Caribbean culture through dance, cooking and costume making with primary school children.  This activity will continue this summer in conjunction with local community groups and with support from the TDSB.  On April 27, 2014 we presented our Spring to CARIBANA™ Brunch celebrating family spirit and togetherness.  And since 2011 the CARIBANA™ Arts Group stepped into to Jane and Finch to continue the Junior Carnival which has been rebranded as CARIBANA™ Flags and Colours, and invite our past immediate Chair Henry Gomez to share with you what to expect this year.

Community Engagement and Future Plans

The CARIBANA™ Arts Group will use its history, experience, and passion to continue to present events around the city, and will work with whoever believes community and culture should remain as the primary purpose of this festival.  This is a new board with a new vision, looking to build on the strengths of a great history, and correct the mistakes of the past.  We must prepare the scene for a new generation of Toronto residents to continue this internationally known cultural festival in the way the founders intended it to be.  It was meant to “Achieve Social Development, Economic Empowerment And Unity Within And Among The Black And Caribbean Communities Through The Industrialization Of Caribbean Carnival Culture”

The CARIBANA™ Arts Group Board of Directors has been working tirelessly since the inception of the organization to achieve this goal.  And I can say as the first Canadian born Chair of CARIBANA™ that we must not fail our young people because it is a new generation, and with a new generation comes new ideas.  Let us protect and preserve what has made this city an even more wonderful place to be, and has contributed so much in so many ways.  

CARIBANA™ is more than a parade, CARIBANA™ is for the community, and CARIBANA™ is back!

Thank you

On behalf of the CARIBANA™ Arts Group

Knia Singh 

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Suing Charles Roach was wrong. Without him there would be no Caribana. It's like Apple suing Steve Jobs. Having this announcement held at The Real Jerk is ironic and appropriate.

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