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The Diaspora community in Canada recently paid tribute to former staff of Air Jamaica at a function held at the Consulate General in Toronto.
“On behalf of the Government and people of Jamaica, I would like to extend our deepest, warmest and sincere heartfelt appreciation to all of you, the members of the Air Jamaica staff, who have served the airline over its 40 years of existence,” said Consul General, Seth George Ramocan, who hosted the event.
Mr. Ramocan paid tribute to the “skillful pilots, charming flight attendants and ground staff,” noting that the airline was a source of pride for all Jamaicans.
On May 1, Trinidad-based Caribbean Airlines took control of Air Jamaica, although the company is still using the Air Jamaica name.
Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, who was in Canada to launch an incentive programme for Canadian travel agents, explained why the Government made the decision to divest Air Jamaica.
“It was something we had to do because it was fulfilling another important duty to our own people. When we consider that we were losing $30 million each month and you look at what the social demands are – hospitals, schools, roads, the PATH programme – you realize we had to make a decision,” he stated.
Representatives of several community organisations, who have benefitted from the generosity of Air Jamaica, were on hand to thank the airline for being a good corporate citizen and assisting the community whenever they were called upon.
President of the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA), Audrey Campbell, noted that Air Jamaica is woven into the fabric of history for all that it has done for Jamaica, the JCA and the wider community.
“Thank you for the contribution they have made to the organisation, for the growth that you allowed us to accomplish, for the funds that we raised so that JCA can continue to deliver the services that we deliver today,” she said.
Past president of the Jamaican Diaspora Canada Foundation (JDCF), Philip Mascoll, said Air Jamaica was one of the “parents” of the Diaspora movement in Canada, moving hundreds of Jamaican/Canadians to Jamaica to take part in the biennial Diaspora conferences.
Air Jamaica, he said, was a group of Jamaicans “who made us a part of their family and who became a part of our family.”
Tributes also came from President of Arts and Culture Jamaica, Cherita Girvan-Campbell; President of the Kendal Primary School Past Students’ Association, Nola Harris; representative of the Jamaica Liaison Service, Stephen Day; Richard Chapman representing the 300-member Canadian Domino League; and Trevor Massey from Wolmer’s Alumni Association.
Mr. Massey noted that we should all feel lucky that for “one shining moment Jamaicans owned an airline, which defined the country and gave us an identity here in Canada. We had Jamaicans flying Jamaicans and it was a really good feeling. Someday I hope we can find that feeling once more.”
Former Air Jamaica Manager at the Toronto Pearson Airport, Shelley Goulbourne, now employed to Caribbean Airlines, thanked the Consul General for the staff appreciation and promised that Air Jamaica will always be a part of the former employees’ lives. “Wherever we go we will never forget Air Jamaica,” she said.