By Meegan Scott
TORONTO, Ontario August 1, 2018 — “Let’s pull this together. Let’s start with Canada and create a strategy that can be replicated across the board.” So said Jamaica’s Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Pearnel Charles Jr, as he encouraged Jamaicans to benefit from investing and volunteering in activities, for accelerating Jamaica’s social and economic development.
Charles was addressing the third biennial Jamaica-Canada Diaspora Conference at the Canadian Legion Hall, on Irwin Road, in Toronto, on Saturday, July 21.
The Minister encouraged Jamaicans in Canada to “get on board” the initiative for engaging, empowering, and utilizing the talents of Jamaicans in the Diaspora, and at home.
The Minister’s rallying cry supports Jamaica’s Diaspora Policy, and actions, aimed at contributing to Jamaica’s target of 5 percent economic growth in four years; inclusive and mutually beneficial Diaspora engagement; and the utilization of Jamaica’s talent abroad — through volunteering, paid services, entrepreneurship, and business investment.
The Conference, themed “Out of Many, One People: A Spotlight on the Issues”, was considered a success by attendees and its conveners. The event presented an opportunity for Jamaicans in Canada to share their issues and recommendations, relating to investing in Jamaica; crime, policing and the justice system; healthcare; youth empowerment; custom and immigration; and education.
Among the Conference participants were: Lloyd Wilks, Consul General of Jamaica in Toronto; Vivion Scully, Consul for Jamaica Trade and Investment Promotion, North America Region; Philip Rose the Regional Director, Canada for the Jamaica Tourist Board; Sylvanus Thompson, Associate Director, Healthy Environments Program and Food Safety Program Lead at Toronto Public Health; and Yvette Blackburn of the Jamaica Diaspora Advisory Board.
Adaoma Patterson, President of the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA) and Jerrold Johnson, Chief Representative Officer at the JN Bank Canada Representative Office, were also in attendance.
Scully highlighted the “hunger” of participants to identify business opportunities; Rose noted the great ideas and interest in Diaspora Business Tourism; Thompson observed that the Conference delivered the opportunity for participants to discuss issues common to Jamaicans at home and abroad; while Blackburn felt the Conference succeeded in starting the process for delivering a “blueprint” on “how to best help the Diaspora” for 2019.
Conference attendee, Marlene Henry, said both facilitators and participants contributed richly. For the next Conference she would like to see an additional day, that would accommodate working sessions to expand on discussions and craft solutions.
Lloyd Wilks, Jamaica’s Consul General in Toronto, said the most important message shared by the Minister and Keynote Address was: “The Jamaican government embraces all Jamaicans, irrespective of social, political or economic standing”.
He added that the need “to participate actively”, “to identify as Jamaican”, and that “Jamaica is open and ready for business and Jamaicans should take advantage of the opportunities on offer now”.
He also highlighted the need for more “public relations, public education and marketing”, to ensure wider reach and more diverse categories of participants.
Come 2019, Wilks hopes for “increased levels of purposeful participation, total absorption of the ethos of, I am Jamaican, and greater investment in Jamaica from the Diaspora”.
The Consul General urges those, who attended the Conference, to share their experience with others.
On behalf of the government of Jamaica, Wilks, extended an invitation to Jamaicans, their descendants and friends of Jamaica, who missed the Conference, to “join us in the thrust to move Jamaica and Jamaicans forward, to fulfill our potential”. Get ready to participate in Conference 2019”.
The Jamaican Consulate in Toronto is asking members of the Diaspora, who have an interest in contributing to Jamaica’s social and economic development — through knowledge and skills transfer; tourism; investment; entrepreneurship; charity and humanitarian assistance; or dialogue and debates — to make contact at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meegan Scott, is a Jamaica-born strategic management consultant.