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TORONTO — Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon Marlene Malahoo Forte, says she will seek to have at least one priority recommendation coming out of this year's biennial Jamaican Diaspora Conference implemented by the government.

The Minister, who has responsibility for Diaspora Affairs, was addressing a meeting of the Jamaican Diaspora Canada Foundation (JDCF)’ on Tuesday March 29, at the Jamaican Canadian Centre in Toronto, Canada. In attendance were Jamaica’s High Commissioner to Canada, Her Excellency Sheila Sealy Monteith and Consul General in Toronto, Seth George Ramocan. 

The Conference is scheduled to take place June 15 to 17 at the Sunset Jamaica Grande Hotel, Ocho Rios. It is the government’s way of engaging overseas Jamaicans, in a structured manner, towards Jamaica’s development.

“The theme of this year’s conference, ‘One Nation – Jamaica and its Diaspora in Partnership’, is intended to signal to you the message of the policy we will be moving forward with, that Jamaica and its Diaspora are one nation in partnership,” she said.

The Minister encouraged the group to come to the Conference prepared with clear ideas on the topics they want to discuss.

“If you identify a problem we are going to look for workable solutions.  And, you have to take ownership and responsibility for the problem, as much as you’re demanding ownership, responsibility and accountability from the government,” she said.

“We want to hear your concerns.  We want to hear your perspectives. We want to see how the national policy can benefit from your experience. We want to know how the things we do back home impact you and how the things you are doing here impact the national image,” the Minister added.

Senator Malahoo Forte shared with the audience the conference programme, which is still being finalized.

Two important meetings are scheduled for the day before the conference starts – the Diaspora Advisory Board and the Future Leaders’ meetings. The conference starts June 16, which has been officially proclaimed as Diaspora Day, with an opening ceremony to be addressed by Prime Minister, Hon Bruce Golding.

Plenary sessions will involve reports from government ministers and the three main Diasporic communities. There will be group meetings with locally based diplomats. There will also be town hall sessions, and panel discussions to deal with recurring issues.

The Minister said she will make a final decision on the 7-persons from the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada to serve on the Diaspora Advisory Board, based on recommendations from the three Diaspora communities.

“Your input will be to submit names of people who you believe will be good representatives and who will listen to your concerns and echo them. The purpose of having the advisors is to ensure that when the policies which relate to the Diaspora are crafted, formulated and implemented, that they will be your views,” she said.

Speaking to the audience with frankness and forthrightness, Senator Malahoo Forte won the hearts of the Jamaicans present. They listened to her in rapt attention, as she outlined her vision for a new Jamaica.

She reiterated her message during a similar meeting in Ottawa attended by Jamaicans living in that city and some who travelled from Montreal, Quebec.  

                                           

By CAROLYN GOULBOURNE-WARREN