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Governor-General, His Excellency, the Most Hon. Sir Howard Cooke has described Jamaicans as people of great capacity, who have made a difference to the survival of the world.
“Jamaicans have a strong heritage in making a difference. We have made a difference in history, culture, politics, economics, academics, sports and entertainment. It is a direct result of our tenacity, competence and commitment as Jamaicans that we can claim to have made a difference,” he said.
Sir Howard was addressing patrons attending the 16th Annual National Heroes banquet and awards gala, held on October 22 at the Algonquin College in Ottawa, Canada. Organized by the Jamaica (Ottawa) Community Association (JOCA), under the distinguished patronage of Jamaica’s High Commissioner to Canada, His Excellency Carl Marshall, the banquet’s theme was: ‘Making a Difference’.
The Governor General noted however, that although Jamaica had made an indelible mark on the world stage, if the country wanted to remain a formidable state, then “attention must be paid to the environment and focus placed on sustainable development and growth of the people”.
Describing the environment as “our life support system”, Sir Howard said it is important to remember that it is influenced by people’s behaviour and they have the opportunity to either nurture or mistreat it.
He said that the world seemed to be experiencing more natural disasters than at any other time in history, and cited Hurricanes Ivan, Dennis and Emily, which had affected Jamaica.
“Even now Jamaica is recovering from the effects of the hurricanes. The resilience of the people is being tested. We are having floods in Jamaica that I have never seen in my 90 years. Some roads have washed away, the economy is challenged and yet people are still singing ‘Praise the Lord’,” he said.
Although the banquet celebrates the lives of Jamaica’s seven national heroes, each year the contribution of one hero is highlighted. This year it was Sam Sharpe, whose life was presented in detail in a production written and performed by Karl Gordon and friends.
“Sam Sharpe was no accident and he was no ordinary slave. He was literate and read the papers every day. He pioneered passive resistance,” said the Governor General, in reference to the peaceful protest organized by Sam Sharpe in 1831.
In his address, High Commissioner Marshall noted that Jamaica’s national heroes have left a legacy for all Jamaicans.
“We should hold this legacy aloft and not stand by and allow anyone to destroy it. Theirs was a life of gumption, of deep endurance, strength of character, enterprise and resourcefulness. They represent for us the true pillars of the struggle for our freedom, our survival and our advancement,” he said.
Member of Parliament for Ottawa West-Nepean, Marlene Catterall, lauded Jamaicans for remembering “your heroes”. She also praised JOCA for presenting awards to members of the community by “recognizing that heroes are born everyday”.
The award recipients were described by President of the Association, Harvey Brown, as “everyday heroes without whom our lives might have been a little more difficult”.
This year JOCA awards were handed out to eight individuals and one company for their outstanding contribution to the organization and community. The awardees were Savannah Afro-Caribbean Products Inc., Business; Sarah Onyango, Entertainment; Dr. Frederick Pryce, Community Service; Jasmine Thompson, Volunteer of the Year; Lilieth Boswell, Volunteer Services; Janet Haynes, Education; and three youth awards went to Janice Reid, Community Service; Dr. Michael Kirlew, Young Achiever; and Nadine Mott, Entrepreneurship.
Also in attendance were the High Commissioner for the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), Her Excellency Lorraine Williams; Chief of Ottawa Police Service, Vince Bevan; Deputy Chief Larry Hill and Mrs. Hill; Deputy High Commissioner, Mrs. Patricia Rodney-Evering; Mrs. Eileen Marshall and the Governor General’s Aide-de-camp, Captain Samuel Ellis.