Manitoba Government Proclaims July Caribbean Heritage Month

Premier Heather Stefanson and Minister Andrew Smith, presented the proclamation last night to the leaders of the Caribbean Community

On Monday, January 25, 2022, the Honourable Premier for Manitoba, Heather Stefanson, and the Honourable Andrew Smith, Minister of Sport, Culture, and Heritage, proclaimed July as Caribbean Heritage Month in Manitoba.

The province is home to a large diaspora of first, second, and third-generation Caribbeans. It was a historic event attended by many of the Council of Caribbean Association of Manitoba (C.C.O.M.) leadership, including past President John Jack, who flew in for the event.

To our knowledge, the Caribbean Community has never had a sitting Premier come to their home to let them know that their contributions to the province have had a long-term, profound impact. Moreover, thanking them for sharing their cultural experiences with Manitobans.

Premier Stefanson was as genuine as it gets, especially when it came time to give her speech. Her words were moving and meaningful, making a few community members at times a bit emotional because they were there when C.C.O.M was just a dream. But their emotions were joy and happiness.

Mr. Lance Brenner, C.C.O.M President

For a proclamation to happen, there had to be a will to see it through. The celebration of this day could not have been possible without all the leaders of the Caribbean Community and the Minister for Sport and Heritage, the Honourable Andrew Smith.

Minister Smith was instrumental in ensuring the Caribbean community was recognized via the proclamation and worked closely with the leadership to ensure the month and timing were acceptable to the community. Throughout the process, Minister Smith and the Manitoba, P.C government sent a clear message to the Caribbean Community they are here to work with them and help advance the needs of the people.

One clear example was the Minister’s earlier announcement of the government’s commitment of $100 million over the next three years to go towards sports and cultural programs. Both are underfunded sectors of the Caribbean Community.

For decades the Manitoba Caribbean Community has been told not to vote Conservative because of ideological differences and a lack of funding for initiatives that reflect the community’s needs. To say they did not have valid concerns would be disingenuine.

We can say that Premier Stefanson is not her predecessor and deserves the benefit of the doubt; she truly has the best interest of all Manitobans. The notion of the Caribbean Community not voting P.C is antiquated, especially when you have a Premier who has expressed a genuine sincerity to help the community. Change takes time, but it is also necessary for Caribbean Community members to be somewhat engaged in the political process and take the time to understand the effects of representation.

No longer can and shall the Caribbean Community blindly cast their votes because of the status quo. It is also up to the Premier and Ministers to work with the leadership and community groups to better articulate their message highlighting the initiatives that the Manitoba P.C government has put in place or is working to change to advance the cause of the Caribbean Community. In particular, when it comes to funding for sports, immigration, and cultural events.

Last night’s event was a celebration of the Caribbean culture and the willingness of a government to invite the community to have a voice at the table. In addition to Premier Stefanson and Minister Smith, Ministers Reyes, Gordon, and M.L.A. Khan were also in attendance, along with Mayoral Candidates the Honourable Dr. Robert Falcon Ouellette and business person Don Woodstock.

Premier Stefanson’s and Minister Smith’s proclamation of July as Caribbean Heritage Month in Manitoba is more than just words; it’s a reaffirmation that the Caribbean community has cemented its place in Manitoba, and their contributions have been acknowledged.