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Hundreds of Jamaicans turned out recently for the historic launch of the Jamaican Diaspora Canada Foundation (JDCF), held in Toronto, Canada.
President, Philip Mascoll and Vice President, Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams informed the gathering about the objectives of the organization, which include to serve and advance Jamaica and the interests of Jamaica and Jamaicans everywhere.
“The JDCF is for every Jamaican living in Canada. We have 300,000 Jamaicans here and it is time to take care of yard. We can do it by all working together. Our potential needs to be unleashed,” Mr. Mascoll said.
Mrs. Ffolkes-Abrahams said although the group would be focusing on law enforcement, social development, education and health issues, the big topic at the moment was deportation.
“We have to urgently deal with the deportation issue,” she said, noting that it was unfair to send people back to Jamaica with no support.
Offering congratulations to the organizers, Jamaica’s Consul General to Toronto, Vivia Betton noted that together, “we can achieve a lot by pooling our ideas and our efforts in support of our country and our communities in Canada”.
The Consul General added that because of the skills and expertise acquired by so many Jamaicans living overseas, they had a unique and important perspective to bring to Jamaica.
“This, coupled with the creativity, intelligence and the vision of our people at home, are recipes for success,” she said.
Jamaica’s High Commissioner to Canada, Carl Marshall told the group that the task was huge as they tried to connect with all Jamaicans living in Canada. “The JDCF will now have to work to connect with the thinking of Jamaicans right across Canada, to know what it is they would like to see done, to know what it is that they would like to see Jamaica do and the way that they here in Canada can assist the growth and development of Jamaica,” he added.
Mr. Marshall urged all the Jamaican organizations in Canada to throw their support behind the JDCF, reiterating that “nothing is being formed here that is going to be on a higher level, lower level, wider level than anything that has ever existed before. We are looking for great co-operation”.
The High Commissioner read a message from Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Delano Franklyn, congratulating the organizers for bringing together Jamaicans in Canada.
Senator Franklyn said the Jamaican communities overseas were of great importance to Jamaica in its pursuit of nation building, and the perception that Jamaica remembered its nationals in the diaspora only during periods of crisis, was not true.
He noted that Professor Rex Nettleford was recently appointed Chairman of the 12-member Board of the Jamaican Diaspora Foundation. The two Canadian representatives, Mrs. Ffolkes-Abrahams and Mr. Mascoll, will join two others from the United Kingdom and three from the United States, on the Board.
Keynote speaker at the launch, Rev. Dr. Peter Morgan said Jamaica “needs a national renaissance, a rebirth, re-awakening, revival, reconstruction, renewal, restoration and resurrection”.
This would be a new society characterized by personal integrity, public justice, social peace, economic sufficiency, people empowerment and political security based on moral and spiritual values and principles, he said.
Dr. Morgan, who has been commissioned to establish a network of church leaders across the diaspora, challenged the Canadian arm of the diaspora to become “an institute of research, a lobby group, professional consultants, business investors and social and religious activists, promoting and shaping the identity of the Renaissance Jamaican”.
“The Renaissance Jamaican is any citizen who is committed to the future of Jamaica, not for his or her own sake, but for the well being of the body politic,” he explained.
Canada’s High Commissioner to Jamaica, Claudio Valle, who travelled to Canada specifically for the launch, gave his support to the diaspora Foundation, noting that the launch would cement the relationship between Jamaicans in Canada and those at home. “While trade, investment and political engagements are important elements in fostering close bilateral relationships, it is the depth of people-to-people ties that are the most defining characteristics,” he said.
Paula Fennell, Administrator at the Canadian office of the Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS), read a message from Managing Director, Earl Jarrett, who said that JNBS was proud to be a part of the Diaspora Foundation.
Jamaicans of the diaspora, he said, have always maintained close links with their homeland, whether by way of visits, charitable initiatives or remittances.
However, the launch of the JDCF signalled a new phase in the history of the relationship between Jamaicans at home and those overseas, Mr. Jarrett said.Also in attendance were Speaker of the Ontario Legislature, Jamaican-born Alvin Curling; David Griffiths, President of the Jamaican Canadian Association; and Olive Steele, President of the National Council of Jamaicans and Supportive Organizations in Canada.

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