JIS News

TORONTO – Canadian Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper, has hailed the contribution which he says Jamaican immigrants have made to his country's development.

Speaking at a commemorative reception to mark 50 years of diplomatic relations between Jamaica and Canada, at the Jamaican-Canadian Centre in Toronto, Canada, on Monday (Oct. 22), Mr. Harper said notable among these persons was Attorney-at-law, Robert Sutherland, who established his legal practice in the North American country during the 19th Century.

The Prime Minister pointed out that Sutherland, who was born in Jamaica during the 1830s, immigrated to Canada as a young man, where he attended Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. There, Mr. Harper said, Sutherland studied law and earned the distinction of being the first black person to graduate from a Canadian university, and qualify to practice law in that country.

Mr. Harper pointed out that Sutherland accumulated an estate worth some $12,000, which he bequeathed to Queen's University, which was experiencing financial challenges at the time. The Prime Minister said the money, which was presented to the university following Sutherland's passing, was able to fulfill institution's operating budget for an entire academic year.  

Mr. Harper said Sutherland's benevolent gesture was able to preserve Queen's University existence, thereby enabling it to evolve into currently being one of Canada's leading tertiary institutions. For this, the Prime Minister described Sutherland as one of the outstanding Jamaicans, "who set a fine example all those many years ago".

The reception was also attended and addressed by Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, who is currently in Canada on a six-day official visit, at the invitation of Mr. Harper.

Approximately 500 persons, inclusive of government officials, heads of Jamaican community organizations and businesses, members of the clergy, judiciary, and diplomatic corps, attended the event.

The function formed part of the itinerary for Mrs. Simpson Miller and her delegation, which includes Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, Senator the Hon. A.J. Nicholson; Permanent Secretary, Office of the Prime Minister, Onika Miller; and Director of the Bilateral and Regional Affairs Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade, Ricardo Allicock, who will hold discussions and meetings with government and diplomatic officials, and members of Jamaican organizations, during their visit.