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The Jamaica High Commission and the Consulate General of Jamaica in Canada recently honoured four Jamaican Canadians for outstanding contribution to both countries.
The four – former politicians Mary Anne Chambers and Alvin Curling, and businessmen Michael Lee-Chin and Raymond Chang, were presented with the inaugural Jamaica Award of Excellence, at a function held at St. Lawrence Hall in downtown Toronto.
High Commissioner to Canada, Evadne Coye, who made the presentations, commended the honourees, noting that they served as inspirations to young Jamaican Canadians, who will now realize that they too can achieve their highest aspirations, by making the best use of opportunities.
Consul General to Toronto, Anne-Marie Bonner, said the awardees were chosen because of their tremendous contribution to their homeland, Jamaica, and their adopted country, Canada. “Their lives and contributions inspire others to live vigorously and courageously as citizens in a free society. They are Jamaicans, who, despite the adoption of Canada as their home, have never forgotten their roots and continue to recognize the significance of their Jamaican lineage,” she stated.
The Consul General added that by virtue of their achievements, the four awardees have proved to be a source of pride and example, “enhancing the quality of life of our people in a tangible and measurable way, and bringing prestige, honour and dignity to all Jamaicans.”
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Dr. Kenneth Baugh, in a message, said the honourees, in their respective fields, have been well served by some of the characteristics, which most define Jamaicans as a people – integrity, resilience, commitment to hard work, compassion for one’s fellowman, and humility.
Former Premier of Ontario and Chancellor of the University of Toronto, David Peterson, who was the keynote speaker at the event, said the awardees are “four extraordinary people, who are citizens of the world, and any country would be happy to claim them.”
Mary Anne Chambers, who served as Ontario Minister of Children and Youth Services, did not seek re-election in the October 10 provincial elections, citing health reasons. As Minister, she was responsible for early learning and childcare, child protection, children’s mental health services and youth justice programmes.
On a personal level, she not only provides scholarships annually for university students, but has adopted two basic schools in the parish of Trelawny. Noting that there could be no greater honour than being recognized by the country of one’s birth, Mrs. Chambers said she will always have a special place in her heart for Jamaica.
Alvin Curling spent 20 years as a Member of Provincial Parliament, amassing the most votes ever in a provincial election. He has served as Minister of Housing and Minister of Skills Development and became the first black persons to be appointed Speaker of the Ontario Legislature. He has also served as Canada’s Ambassador to the Dominican Republic. Accepting his award, he paid tribute to Jamaica as a country that stands strong and firm. “When I do things without fear, it’s because my Jamaicans are there right behind me,” he stated.
Michael Lee-Chin was honoured for his philanthropic initiatives both in Canada and Jamaica, as Chairman of the Canadian-based AIC Ltd and Jamaican-based National Commercial Bank (NCB). He has donated generously to the Royal Ontario Museum, which named its new addition ‘The Michael A. Lee-Chin Crystal’. Equally, his philanthropic efforts in Jamaica were highlighted, including the NCB-spearhead Jamaican Education Initiative, to encourage donations to a national education fund.
Mr. Lee-Chin told the audience that he is blessed to be born in a country that nurtured him and born to parents, who have strong Jamaican values and who led by example. “If it wasn’t for the generosity of Jamaican taxpayers, I wouldn’t be standing here tonight,” he said, referring to the scholarship he had received from late former Prime Minister, Hugh Shearer to study in Canada.
Raymond Chang, who was unavoidable absent, is the Chairman of CI Mutual, Chancellor of Ryerson University and has significant investments in Jamaica. A member of the Board of Governors of Ryerson since 2001, he is a significant contributor to the university’s School of Continuing Education, which has named the G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education in his honour.

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