My Big Fat Jamaican Wedding

Counting down to the big day

Synching Beaver Tails with Oxtails: How Jamaica and Canada are Similar

on July 2, 2012

Canada flag on Parliament Hill

On this day July 1st, we celebrate the 145th birthday of Canada.  We call this day Canada Day, the day in which this nation was formed.

Adam shared this Expo 1967 Canada video with me:

July 1st also marks 1 month exactly before Adam and I get on a plane to Jamaica for our wedding.  I am a little freaked out to be honest.  I so look forward to being in Jamaica and the wedding itself yet I am a little nervous at the long to-do list which awaits me.  I will have about 31 days to get everything completed.  (I have a to-do list which I compiled from a few online destination wedding to-do lists.  Make A To-Do List is Wedding Survival Tip #4.  Tip #5 is Get Help.  Please stay tuned for future posts.)

Although I am Canadian by birth and I was raised here, I did not start feeling Canadian until I was in my early twenties and had travelled across this country.  I think the reason for this latent patriotism was because I am a Black person and the Canadian media has limited portrayals of people who look like me and I could not relate to them.  I had never had a chance to experience and see firsthand what made Canada so special.  Through my travels, I met people from all walks of Canadian life and I could arrive in a city like Montreal for a day and wander through the streets and not feel lost.  I could feel at home walking through Halifax and experience the hospitality of its residence.  I got to see firsthand the beauty of this wonderful country.  Also, I felt like I had to go through other Canadian “rites of passage”– camping, going to a cottage, playing hockey, ice skating, white water rafting, canoeing– and by experiencing some of these things, I felt more Canadian.   By working in Quebec for a summer and immersing myself in French study, I felt more and more Canadian.

So today, I decided to dedicate this post to the celebration of Canada by way of Jamaica.  Canada and Jamaica are so different.  Canada is large, Jamaica is teeny-tiny.  Canada gets winter and snow, while Jamaica has beautiful sunshine and breezes.  Canadians are described as passive aggressive, polite, punctual, and nice while Jamaicans tend to be described as direct, late, and “easy going”.  Jamaicans tend to be spiritual, often religious, family- and community-oriented, and hospitable.  Canadians can be more atheist and non-religious, and individualistic.  Yet there are so many things that Canada and Jamaica have in common.

1. Multiculturalism

Canada celebrates its multiculturalism a lot.  According to wikipedia, the Canadian Multiculturalism Act  is a law which was passed in 1988 that aimed to preserve and enhance multiculturalism in Canada.  Canada first adopted a multiculturalism policy in 1971 under Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

Look out Obama! One of the first political leaders to become a sex symbol was Pierre Trudeau spawning Trudeaumania!

The Canadian Multiculturalism Act affirms the policy of the government to ensure that every Canadian receives equal treatment and that the government which respects and celebrates diversity. The Act also:

  • recognizes Canada’s multicultural heritage and that this heritage must be protected
  • recognizes Aboriginal rights
  • recognizes English and French remain the only official languages but that other languages may be used
  • recognizes equality rights regardless of colour, religion, etc.
  • recognizes minorities’ rights to enjoy their cultures

Canada’s multicultural mosaic

This Act sounds fine and dandy yet, it emerges from a not so glorious history in which Canada had restricted and banned immigration of non-whites, interned Japanese during World War II, enslaved Blacks, exterminated and set up residential schools to assimilate First Nations people, dishonoured land rights, and instituted a Chinese Head Tax. Other than a history of slavery and a classist pigmentocracy, it appears that Jamaica is ahead of Canada where multiculturalism is concerned.  On April 4, 1962. Jamaica changed its motto to “Out of Many, One People”.

“Out of Many One People” replaced the original motto “The Indians Twain Shall Serve One Lord” which had no connection to modern Jamaican independence in 1962. Plus it was very racist, suggesting that the Taino are Arawak peoples featured on the coat of arms who originally inhabited the island should serve the British. Like Canada, Jamaica has its shady past too.

The diversity of Jamaica has spanned centuries.  Canada’s diversity was reflected largely in the First Nations people who inhabited the land and then with the arrival of the British and the French and smaller pockets of Africans.  Jamaica’s diversity reflected a number of ethnic groups  from the very beginning.  First Nations people resided in Jamaica but all changed in 1492 with the arrival of Christopher Columbus and the Europeans.  The course of Jamaican history changed as the nation was conquered by the Spanish who brought thousands of African slaves, then the island was overtaken by the British.  Throughout five centuries, there have been arrival of many other ethnic groups to this Island– Iberian (Spanish and Portuguese) Jews escaping the Inquisition, Scots, Irish, Welsh, Syrians, Lebanese, Hakka Chinese, East Indians, Germans (some of my Hohn ancestors), and folks from other surrounding islands and countries.  As a result, you have a mixture of folks who call themselves Jamaican.

Jamaican school children reflecting some of the diversity of this nation

Here is a video that describes Jamaican diversity:

Here is another video about Jamaicans of German decent (some of my Hohn ancestors).  Germans have been in Jamaica for over 150 years.

Before I proceed, I must indicate that I had lost a significant portion of this post.  My computer suddenly disconnected from internet and then my screen returned with most of the content for this post gone.  It was devastating and represented hours of work.  I thought this would be my best post as it had a lot of cool references.  I was also shocked since in all my previous posts, WordPress automatically and periodically (less than every 5 minutes) saves drafts.  I wondered if my account was hacked which is still a possibility since when I discovered the loss of information.  So instead, I decided to stay up all night because I was determined to complete this post.

2. British Colonial History

Tea time and the monarchy are some of the remaining vestiges of British colonization that remain in both Jamaica and Canada.  This year, Jamaica celebrates its 50th year of Independence from Great Britain.  When Jamaica broke off in 1962, it did so completely.  A new flag and national anthem were composed.  Today, Canada celebrates its 145th year as a nation.  Canada’s road to independence from England is a much longer one than that of Jamaica.  It was not until 1965 when Canada got a new flag, its own flag.  In 1980, “O Canada” was officially adopted as the national anthem and replaces “God Save the Queen”.  In 1982, the Constitution Act was Revised so that the British Parliament can no longer amend the Canadian constitution.  Both Jamaica and Canada have Governor Generals who represent their respective nations to the monarchs.  Residents in both countries speak English as their first language and have a large number of Anglican churches.

Ha ha! I’m still on your money.

3. Aboriginal Peoples

Both Canada and Jamaica were first inhabited by indigenous or Aboriginal peoples.  The encounters between the European explorers and the original inhabitants were strained and often violent.  In Canada, the first encounters resulted in battles, treaty (dis)agreements, reservations, exterminations by disease and mass murder, and residential schools but also some marital and social unions.  In Jamaica, Aboriginal people were enslaved and eventually died out for the most part.  Despite this, the Aboriginal Peoples have contributed to both countries significantly.

In Jamaica, theorists believe that the Aboriginal peoples came in three waves.    Somewhere between 5,000 BC and 4,000 BC saw the arrival of the Guanahatabey or Ciboney people from the Cuba via the Yucatan peninsula via now submersed islands and then by boat via the Orinoco region of Venezuela.  The Ciboney were cave dwelling people.  The Saladoid or Ingeris were the first Arawak people to arrive next in 300 AD.  They had fine skills in ceramics.  The Taino were the second of the Arawak peoples to arrive around 700 to 1000AD via the Dominican Republic.  The Taino absorbed and enslaved the Saladoid.  The Taino are featured on the Jamaica coat of arms.

Taino musicians, an artist’s rendition

Reconstruction of a Taino village

By the time Christopher Columbus arrived in 1494, there were over 200 Taino villages. Sadly, many Taino died in slavery but others fled into the hills and lived among the Jamaican Maroons, forming a unique culture on the land.

Descendants of Jamaican Taino today:

Colin Rae Jackson (I found his photo on the internet) has 7% Taino DNA

Jamaican women with Taino ancestry (apparently she has the cheekbones and face structure of Taino)

The Taino contributed to Jamaica and the world in a number of ways– medicinally, the development of the hammock, various plants such as cassava, papaya, and soursop, and words such as tobacco, canoe, hammock, barbecue, hurricane, and Jamaica.

Jamaica originates from the Taino word “Yamaye” which means “land of springs”.  The “ca” was added to signify the people.  So “Yamayeca” became Jamaica.  To learn more about the Taino of Jamaica, visit this amazing blog.

Canada is inhabited by three main groups of Aboriginal peoples: First Nations, Inuit, and Metis.  Words such as Eskimo and Indian are no longer used as openly and are often seen as pejorative.  The Aboriginal peoples have roots in Siberia and crossed to North America via ice sheets that connected the two landmasses thousands of years ago.

First Nations people established unique and distinct communities on trade routes throughout Canada in 500 BC- 1000 AD.  According to wikipedia:

In the northwest were the AthapaskanSlaveyDogribTutchone, and Tlingit. Along the Pacific coast were the TsimshianHaidaSalishKwakiutlNootkaNisga’a;Senakw and Gitxsan. In the plains were the BlackfootKáínawaSarcee and Peigan. In the northern woodlands were the Cree and Chipewyan. Around the Great Lakes were the AnishinaabeAlgonquinMíkmaqIroquois and Huron. Along the Atlantic coast were the BeothukMaliseetInnuAbenaki and Mi’kmaq.

Mik’maq of Nova Scotia

The Inuit are indigenous people who live in the Arctic regions of Canada, the United States, and Russia.  The Inuit are believed to have arrived around 1000 BC from Alaska.

Some Inuit keep many of their traditional practices

The Metis are Aboriginal Peoples who descended from marriages between First Nations and European (mostly French) settlers.  They live throughout Canada and have a history that reaches back to the 17th century.

Louis Riel is pictured here and played a significant role in Metis autonomy and recogntion

Forming 1% of the Canadian population, Aboriginal peoples have had a significant cultural, political, and historical influence on Canada.  Aboriginal peoples have contributed through medicinal and herbal cures such as aspirin (salicylic acid) and penicillin, lacrosse, food preparation, kayak, and place names such as Toronto, Ontario, and Canada.

4. Rum

African slaves were brought to Jamaica to provide labour on sugar plantations.  Sugar was a major industry and by 1750 was the most valuable commodity in European trade.


Sugar production was a labour-intensive process which required a large labour force and land for production.  Jamaica became a large sugar producer.  The labour force required to produce sugar was provided first by the local indigenous Aboriginal populations but as their number began to diminish due to disease and extermination, a larger labour force was required.  Millions of Africans were captured and shipped off to Jamaica where they were enslaved.

Slaves working in a sugar cane field

The sugar was used to produce sugar for everyday use or molasses.  Molasses was then distilled to form rum.

Rum distillery on a sugar plantation

Jamaican rum was then shipped around the world.  Jamaica has the most famous rum.

Appleton Rum

Wray & Nephew rum

The rum was transported in barrels to Newfoundland which formed the perfect situation to create screech.  Newfoundland screech is produced in the following way according to wikipedia:

According to legend, screech was first created in the days of the Triangle Trade, when the same barrels were used to carry both molasses and rum, and were only occasionally cleaned. The barrels built up a deposit of strongly sweet sediment at the bottom, which was melted out with boiling water and either fermented or mixed with grain alcohol. This concoction, which is not even remotely like the modern rum, eventually became a marketing brand called Screech. It is now a mainstream, mid-priced rum.

The end result:

Newfoundland screech… unfortunately I didn’t have any when I was there

Me in the beautiful Gros Morne Park in Newfoundland, 2011

Something tells me a Jamaican lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland and he loves his Appleton Rum.

5. Codfish

The plentiful codfish industry was an important component of the Maritime history of Canada.  Codfish were believed to be so plentiful throughout history.

Codfish is rich in Omega 3s and has long since been associated with healing.

The ocean around Newfoundland was so plentiful with fish that in 1497, the explorer John Cabot said that codfish blocked his ship.  Spanish, Portuguese, and other European fishermen had caught fish in these waters before Newfoundland was colonized.  Before this happened, the local Aboriginal Peoples, the Beothuks, had depended upon codfish for a significant portion of their diet.  The northern cod were fished in the most productive area between Newfoundland and Labrador, yielding 800, 000 tons annually by 1968.  Unfortunately this began the decline of the codfishing industry in Newfoundland which was devastating.

This photo was taken in 1921 with what was considered a good haul of codfish. The Atlantic fishery began to collapse thereafter.

Codfish became an important part of Caribbean cuisine especially Jamaican during the period of slavery.  Viking fishermen developed a means to preserve the cod, by salting it, which allowed them more time to transport the fish back to Europe without decomposition.

Dried salted cod

You may wonder why Jamaican people ate codfish from Canada instead of local fish from surrounding waters.  (Jamaica is an island.)  Salted codfish was plentiful, could be kept in a hot climate without perishing, and the cheapest grades were available.  A low-end cod product called “West India cure” was used to feed slaves.  Cod hence became linked to the Triangle Trade.

Codfish was shipped to the West Indies where Jamaica was located

As I have often found in my own study, the African slaves tried to make the most of what they had.  In this case, it was “West India Cure”.  It is believed that it was in 1793, when Captain Bligh introduced the ackee fruit to Jamaica from West Africa, the seeds of a national dish were born.

Ackee and saltfish with some fried dumpling. Mm mm mm. This dish is usually eaten for breakfast. Since I’m vegan and allergic to fish, I do not eat this dish as is. My Mummy always makes a fish free ackee for me. I’ve now learned a vegan recipe of ackee that uses jerk tofu instead and it tastes amazing. The onions, tomatoes, and black pepper give it the proper kick.

Other Jamaican dishes that contain saltfish:

Callaloo and saltfish

Saltfish fritters

Newfoundlanders like to “kiss the cod” at their Screech In when a visitor can become an honourary Newfoundlander.

Pucker up, mon cheri.

I skipped this custom when I visited Newfoundland last year.  (Shiver)

6. Rich People

Jamaica certainly has a lot of rich people… living in Canada (and unfortunately, I am not one of them).  Take G. Raymond Chang, successful businessman, philanthropist, and chancellor of Ryerson University.

Raymond Chang… sitting on one whole pile of money

In 2010, Chang was named Outstanding Philanthropist of 2010  by the Toronto chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Over the last few years alone he’s donated upwards of $20 million.  Much of the money he donates is done anonymously.  He has given $7 million to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Canada, The Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation as well as the Royal Ontario Museum and the University of the West Indies.

As a result of a $5 million donation, the Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University was named in his honour.  I have taken a few night courses at the Raymond Chang School.  One day, I became curious about the origin of the school’s name so I looked him up on the internet and learned about Chang’s Jamaican origin.  Click here to learn more about Raymond Chang.

Then there is Michael Lee Chin for who this big ugly sitten’ was named after.

No… you don’t need to adjust your eyes. This is what it really looks like. And yes, it cost over $ 30 million dollars. The world’s greatest eye sore was a gift from Jamaican born business man and philanthropist, Michael Lee-Chin. Michael Lee-Chin Crystal at the Royal Ontario Museum.

The Michael Lee-Chin Crystal was so named thanks to a $30 million gift that businessman Michael Lee-Chin bestowed on the Royal Ontario Museum.  Inspired by the ROM’s gem and mineral collection, the gallery architect Daniel Libeskind sketched his idea on a napkin.

Michael Lee-Chin, what have you got to say for yourself? 

Like Raymond Chang, Michael Lee-Chin was born and raised in Jamaica, came to university in Canada to study engineering on a scholarship (McMaster University for Raymond Chang, Toronto University for Michael Lee-Chin), and they are also good friends who have Hakka Chinese ancestry.  Michael had a bit of a “rags to riches” story since he was raised by a single mother… a Jamaican single mother I’d like to add.  (Read my post  Jamaican Women A Run Tings.)  He is a philanthropist and chairman of Portland Holdings Inc.  As a boy, he also said he wished to own the National Commercial Bank (NCB) of Jamaica and guess what?  This is only one of the many companies he now owns.

Michael Lee Chin is a billionaire.  A b-i-l-l-i-o-n-a-i-r-e.  So $30 million to build an ugly piece of sittin’?  Why not?  It’s pocket change really to Mr. Lee Chin.

Then of course is my favourite… Gail Vaz Oxlade.

Gail Vaz Oxlade makes being cheap cool. She was so happy when I recognized her accent as a Jamaican at a financial conference for women. Her accent gets mistaken as so many things all by Jamaicans and non-Jamaicans alike.

I’m not actually sure how much she’s worth but I do know she had wealth growing up and gives amazing financial advice.  I have met her in real life, read two of her books, watched her television shows, and heard her speak at a financial planning conference.  She has said that she does very few speaking engagements but charges a really high fee.  The reason?  Speaking engagements take her away from her children so her pay must be worth being away from her children.

Gail makes wealth, debt-free living, and financial stability doable and accessible on any budget.  She really does.  Visit her website here or watch one of her two television shows.  There is Princess and ‘Til Debt Do Us Part both available here on the Slice  network.

7. Marijuana

Pot is legal– One of the myths many people believe about both Canada and Jamaica. When I go to the United States, some people believe that pot is legal. Many Canadians believe that pot is legal in Jamaica.

Contrary to popular belief, cannabis also known as marijuana, is an illegal substance in both Jamaica and Canada.  Mind you the laws around marijuana may be quite relaxed in these countries compared with others but they do exist.  For example, Toronto has an annual Pot March at 4:20pm on April 20th each year where protesters openly smoke marijuana in front of police without arrest.  As in some nations in the world, marijuana for medical purposes (provided you have the proper documents) is permitted in Canada.  In fact, I knew a few cancer patients who used marijuana derived pharmaceuticals during their treatment.

Yet Canada has stiff penalties for marijuana consumption and possession.  According to wikipedia:

Following the Canadian Conservative victory in the 2008 election, the government reannounced the policy in February 2009. The proposed legislation would have dealers facing one-year mandatory prison sentences if they are operating for organized crime purposes, or if violence is involved. Dealers would also face a two-year mandatory jail sentence if they are selling to youth, or dealing drugs near a school or an area normally frequented by youth. Additionally, people in Canada who run a large cannabis grow operation of at least 500 plants would risk facing a mandatory two-year jail term. Maximum penalties for producing cannabis would increase from 7 to 14 years.

Pot March in Toronto

In Jamaica, it is not unusual to see pot plants growing at the side of the road, in backyards, and even at hotel resorts.  Here, the penalty for possession, cultivation, and sale is imprisonment although this often overlooked.

Baby marijuana plant

Both Canada and Jamaica have huge movements for decriminalization of marijuana.  The Marijuana Party of Canada, the Green Party of Canada, the Liberal Party of Canada, and the Liberatarian Party are all political parties that support the legalization of marijuana.  All of these parties plus the New Democratic Party support decriminalization.  These are all of  Canada’s political parties except for the Conservatives.

On the website Grow Jamaica, you can see the trailer for a documentary film which interviews local Jamaicans about their views on decriminalizing marijuana.  What is particularly unique about Jamaica is that there is a spiritual community which advocates for marijuana consumption as part of its spiritual practice.  The Rastafarians are advocating for the religious right to smoke marijuana which they call the “sacred herb” and is part of an important sacrament.  Please note that some Rastas do not smoke herb.

Many Rastas, like the late Bob Marley, smoke marijuana or ganja as a sacrament. However not all Rastafarians smoke marijuana.

This push for legalization in Jamaica has motivated politicians to periodically visit this issue in parliament based on such grounds as discrimination against Rasta religious practices and further marginalizing the economic status of its growers.  Being a musical nation, Jamaican singers have been inspired to write and sing a sub-genre of reggae music that I would like to call “weed songs”.

Sean Paul was born and raised in Jamaica. His roots are Black, Portuguese Jew, and Hakka Chinese.

Sean Paul sings “Legalize It” which was popular in the mid-2000s.

8. Aluminum

Around 1950, it was discovered that Jamaica had large bauxite reserves.

Bauxite is used to make…


As the demand increased and the benefits outweighed the disadvantages, large plots of land were bought by Canadian (i.e., Alcan) and American companies (i.e., Reynolds) and Kaiser Bauxite that built plants to extract bauxite, also known as alumina, from Jamaican soil.  The bauxite was mined in open-pits with huge shovels.

My dad told me stories of how the land was purchased, often cheaply, from farmers and owners by first getting them drunk enough to sign contracts.

A bauxite mine in Cockpit Country (Jamaica) potentially has devastating effects on the local ecosystem and the local species that live there. Plus, there is a unique history of Maroons.

The connections between aluminum, Jamaican-Canadian connections, and my family are strong.  Bauxite was first mined in the early 1950s and even today Jamaica is one of the largest producers of this compound.  Bauxite is first mined and then exported to centres where it is made into aluminum.  Rio Tinto Alcan Canada Ltd. is a Canadian mining company and aluminum manufacturer.  Alcan was one of the first companies to begin mining bauxite out of Jamaica.  In 2001, I completed an exchange program in the Saguenay-Lac St. Jean region of Quebec where we visited the local town of Arvida.  Arvida was an industrial town where aluminum smelters were erected by its founder, Arthur Vining Davis, president of the Alcoa aluminum company (later Alcan).  Kaiser Bauxite was the company my father worked for in St. Ann’s, Jamaica.  Reynolds is another aluminum company, an American one, which my father used to work for here in Toronto during the 1970s.

I also mention this relationship because there is an ounce of conviction for taking some environmental responsibility in both Canada and Jamaica for this industry.  Driving through Jamaica, I see the devastatingly large physical impact aluminum production has on the land– massive pits of orange dirt where communities and homes once stood, videos on youtube about polluted lakes and sick children, and the sad fact that despite this huge industry Jamaica is still a Third World country.  Where is the wealth going?  To this day, I try to save tin foil and I feel guilty when I throw it out.

I know my father would have not wished for this to happen to Jamaica either since he also spoke to me about the impact of the bauxite mining on the land.

9. Beautiful natural environment

Okay, this is a perfect segue into the natural environments of both countries.  These photos are a feast for the eyes of some of the most beautiful places I have seen in both Jamaica and Canada.

Algonquin park

Gatineau Park

Capilano Bridge in British Columbia

Malahat region of British Columbia

Gaspesie in Quebec

Rocky Mountains in Alberta

Quidi Vidi in St. John’s, Newfoundland taken with my own camera

It’s like this for hundreds of miles in Saskatchewan and Manitoba

Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica

Bog Walk Gorge in Jamaica

Beach in Negril, Jamaica

10. Migration

Canada has been home to Jamaicans for centuries.  The first Jamaicans who arrived were slaves who worked in New France (Quebec) and Nova Scotia.  The second group were Jamaican Maroons who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1796.  The Jamaican Maroons were descendants of West African escaped slaves who lived in secluded autonomous communities away from the Europeans.  Maroon communities were difficult to access since they existed in the mountainous wooded areas and caves of Jamaica in the absence of roads.

Jamaican Maroon

Jamaican Maroons and the British– strained relations

In 1795, a war had broken out between the British and Maroons.  As a result, the Maroons were tricked  to lay down their arms by the British and they were brought to Nova Scotia.  Five hundred Maroons were settled on the outskirts of Halifax and offered jobs to fortify the Citadel.  The working conditions were difficult.

I visited the Halifax Citadel years ago in Nova Scotia. It is very large and there is so much open space and it is on top of a hill. It could not have been easy to construct that in the 1700s.

The Maroons continued to resist the local Nova Scotians and write appeals to the British government for repatriation– passage “back to Africa”.  In 1800, hundreds of Maroons received passage to Sierra Leone in Africa.

Between 1800 and 1920, small numbers of Jamaicans came to work in Nova Scotia coal mines but in the early 1900s, the Canadian government created restrictions for non-white immigrants to enter this nation.  In 1908, Robert Borden prohibited non-white immigration to Canada except for cheap labour.  All this from a country whose first first lady Agnes Macdonald, the second wife of Canada’s first prime minister John A. Macdonald 1867-1873 and 1878-1891, was born in Jamaica.

After World War II, the demand for cheap labour became very necessary so Jamaicans were among the many immigrants that flooded into Canada as an opportunity to escape poverty at home.  A heavily restricted quota permitted certain groups to immigrate.

According to wikipedia:

In 1955, Canada introduced the West Domestic Scheme (Anderson, 1993). This Scheme allowed eligible black women who were between the age of 18 to 35, in good health, no family ties and a minimum of a grade eight education from mainly Jamaica and Barbados to enter Canada (James & Walker, 1984). After one year as a domestic servant, these women were given a landed immigrant status and were able to apply for citizenship after five years. Even though the Scheme originally allowed only 100 women per year, 2,690 women entered Canada from Jamaica and Barbados by 1965. In 1962, racial discrimination was taken out of the Canadian Immigration Act and the number of Jamaicans who came to Canada dramatically increased (Lazar & Dauglas, 1992).

In the late 1960s, the Canadian government implemented the Family Reunification Act which made it easier for Jamaicans to immigrate.  In the 1970s and 1980s, the children and husbands of the women who immigrated to Canada between 1955 and 1965 began to migrate.  Most new Jamaicans settled in Ontario.

Jamaicans in Canada: When Ackee Meets Codfish. So want to buy this coffee table book. It’s a 50th Anniversary Celebration book. Jamaicans live all over Canada. When I was touring with my festival in the early 2000s, I met several and attend Jamaican Associations in Alberta and Manitoba.

There are so many famous Jamaican Canadians– there are too many to count.  Here are a few of note:

Tonya Lee Williams, soap opera actress and founder of the Reel World Film Festival

Stacey McKenzie, fashion model and model coach. Stacey is one of the most down-to-earth people. Although she has modeled internationally for such labels as MAC, Calvin Klein, and Jean Paul Gaultier, Stacey is a homegirl. The first time I met her, I complimented her on her lips because as a girl who grew up being teased for my lip size, it was refreshing to see someone who flaunts her lips proudly.

Canada’s hip hop ambassador, rapper, and producer Kardinal Offishall, also a very down-to-earth guy who makes me proud to be Jamaican and from Toronto

Nalo Hopkinson, amazing science-fiction writer and I love her creepy books like Salt Roads and Brown Girl In the Ring.

Filmmaker Clement Virgo, made Rude, Canada’s first feature length Black film that was commercially produced. I screened a number of Clement’s films and interviewed him at my festival screenings. It was such an honour to showcase his work.

Mr. Stanley Grizzle, a retired citizenship judge and labour union organizer. He is such a feisty character and whenever I spot him, we always have a nice chat. Although he was born in 1918, I can see him around Toronto. He also spoke on one of my film festival screening panels.

11. Stereotypes

Some Canadian stereotypes…

Play hockey,

We live in an igloo,

And that we speak like this.

I have discussed Jamaican stereotypes quite a bit on this site especially about women but rarely have I discussed men.  Jamaican men are portrayed in one of two ways:

Stereotype #1

The Jamaican gangsta stereotype of a hypermasculinized, irate, aggressive, violent, virile, vindictive, murderous villain a la Paul Campbell in Shottas and Dancehall Queen. When I met Paul Campbell in real life at a networking party in Toronto, he was very well-spoken and gentle.

Here is Paul Campbell’s demo reel.  Viewer discretion advised there is some coarse language and violence:

Paul Campbell talks about his upcoming play giving some depth of his well-roundedness as an actor.


Stereotype #2

The stereotype of the easygoing, laidback, non-threatening, pot smoking, unambitious, persistently high, lazy Jamaican man who has many different children by different women is so tired.

So what does a non-stereotypical Jamaican man look like?

Well, every man.

Jamaican men are the men in my family who are single fathers who take care to nurture and raise their children when mothers have abandoned them or passed away.

A Jamaican man is my father driving me to piano lessons, attending my recitals, taking my sister and I for long summer drives, and visits to the museum, library, amusement parks, and festivals.  He teaches me words in Spanish and sings us Jamaican song.

A Jamaican man is the big brother that drops his little sister off to my classroom each morning and asks me how she is doing in school.

A Jamaican man is my cousins and uncle who have become doctors and surgeons so that they may direct their talents and bring healthcare to the public, healing their communities, and increasing access.

A Jamaican man is the director of the school board in which I work who aims to educate students and inspire a staff of thousands.

A Jamaican man is a personal trainer who has his own television show who inspires women to get in shape and look their best.

A Jamaican man is my surgeon who removed my thyroid last year when I was terrified by cancer and my first surgery ever.  He valued each of my questions and made  me feel at ease.

A Jamaican man is my dentist who is also an art curator and successful businessman.

A Jamaican man is a real man.


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