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The Jamaican-Canadian Community


Canada (McKoy’s News) – The Jamaican-Canadian CommunityMost Jamaicans who arrive in Canada settle in the census metropolitan areas of Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, and Hamilton. The total number of Jamaicans in Canada has increased dramatically since the 1960s and the reasons for coming are also different. Currently, Jamaicans can be found in every major Canadian city and occupy a multitude of occupations. Before the 1960s there was a small amount of Jamaican immigrants in Canada.

Because changes in the Immigration Act allowed non-whites to enter Canada without restrictions, many Jamaicans took advantage of the opportunity and entered Canada with the hopes of achieving their goals for a better life. After the purging of many racist immigration policies, a large number of Jamaicans started to enter Canada as tourists and many would later apply independently for landed immigrant status. In the late 1960s, the Canadian government instituted the Family Reunification clause into its immigration policy, which made it even easier for Jamaicans and other groups to bring their loved ones to join them in Canada. Thus, during the 1970s and ’80s, many Jamaicans who entered Canada were children and husbands of the Jamaican women who moved to Canada between 1955 and 1965. Caribbean immigrants to Canada were more likely to settle in large cities and their provinces of choice were Ontario and Quebec. The largest concentration of Jamaican immigrants can be found in the following areas of Greater Toronto: Scarborough, Old Toronto, North York, York, Ajax, Pickering, Mississauga, and Brampton. Other cities include Montreal, Edmonton, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Kitchener, Waterloo, Windsor, and Halifax

Jamaican-Canadian: While Jamaicans of all classes and races are present in Toronto, the predominant group is drawn from the Black working class, forced to emigrate in search of a better life. Most have found work and comparative prosperity, but remain cultural outsiders, perpetuating and transplanting the island’s culture in a Canadian environment. Most Jamaicans retain a strong attachment to their distinctive food, sports, music and dialect. Jamaican culture is alive and well in Toronto and can be maintained without much difficulty. Small grocery stores, restaurants, record shops, ethnic newspapers, radio programs and visiting politicians from the island all cater to the illusion that Jamaica hasn’t been left too far behind. Even large food chains now stock island food such as plantains and canned ackees, and the popular pattie is sold everywhere and may one day rival the hamburger as a quick meaty snack.

Music is a vital necessity for the well-being of the Jamaican psyche. Jamaicans live for their music and look forward with anticipation to weekend parties which often are non-stop night-till-dawn dancing marathons. Jamaican musicians have been enormously creative and innovative over the years, and reggae, the latest product, has gained worldwide attention and helped to confirm a sense of national identity. While its pulsating beat certainly captivates the ear and entices the feet to dance, its appeal lies partly in the fact that the music speaks for the poor. It is Third World protest music turned popular music; slum music which has become chic.

For the immigrants from the island, a strong patriotic bond with Jamaica seems to last forever. They worry about the island’s politics and concern themselves with its welfare-its economic woes and their social repercussions.

Jamaicans share a common heritage and culture with West Indians from the former British islands, and while this article focuses on Jamaicans in Toronto, it is not intended to imply any uniqueness or distinction between them and their Caribbean relatives. In a very real sense when one speaks for one group, one speaks for all.

Jamaican Owned Businesses in the Jamaican-Canadian Community  

Jamaicans have made their mark in virtually every facet of Toronto life. Examples of Jamaican owned businesses in the Greater Toronto area include:

Alan Hobbins, Piano Teacher
Julliard trained, accomplished classical pianist and Harry Jerome award recipient

Black Pages Directory (Canada)
Established in 1989 for the purpose of identifying and promoting Black and Caribbean businesses and professionals. Facilitates the recycling of dollars within our community. Study after study has consistently shown that a dollar changes hands an average of seven times in some communities but only once in the Black and Caribbean community.

Bramic Sales Inc.
West Indian and Asian food importers and distributors.
(416) 297-0114

Colour Innovations
A full-service company providing specializing in printing, digital photography and multicolour lithography.

Excel Group Development
Coaching & Sales Management Seminars

Jean Pierre Aesthetics and Spa
A full-service health and beauty treatment centre in the very heart of downtown Toronto.

Jones and Jones Productions
Producers of Jamaican gospel, reggae and theatrical productions.

Michidean Limited
Pattie bakers and wholesale distributors.
7725 Birchmount Road

Oakville Sight & Sound
Retail home theatre specialists, focusing on audio and video systems.
290 North Service Road West
L6M 2S2

Soothing Hands Equine Massage
Kim Allaby, Horse Massage Specialist

The Publicity Group
Public relations agency owned by Tonya Lee Williams.
The Training Oasis, Inc.
Experts in executive and management team building.


The Jamaican-Canadian Association (JCA) was founded in 1962 by a group of Jamaicans then living in Toronto. The impetus for the creation of the Jamaican-Canadian Association was the emergence of Jamaica from colonial status to becoming an independent nation in August, 1962. Jamaicans in Toronto formed a committee comprised of the following: Roy G. Williams, Bromley Armstrong, E. S. Ricketts, Miss Phyllis Whyte, Mrs. Catherine Williams, George King, Leyton Ellis and Kenneth Simpson to plan and execute a celebration of the momentous occasion. This committee enabled the disparate group of university students, nurses, domestic workers and scattered others (representing the demographics at that time) to come together as a unit to participate in a collective public activity as Jamaicans in Toronto for the very first.

The celebration of Jamaica’s Independence took the form of a Dinner Dance which was held at the King Edward Sheraton Hotel on King Street East in Toronto on August 6, 1962. Jamaicans came out in their finest attire. Representatives from each level of government attended and brought greetings and congratulatory messages. A sumptuous meal was served and enjoyed by all. Toasts were proposed to each level of government with appropriate responses. The high point of the night came when the new black, gold and green Jamaican flag was unfurled for the first time as the assembled group haltingly sang the national anthem, also for the first time. After that, they danced the night away. A good time was had by all as the assembled group on that occasion truly embraced the national motto “Out of Many One People.”

Jamaicans were exhilarated by this event. They felt proud and patriotic. They had made many new social contacts. They had come together as an entity bound by patriotism and a shared heritage. They had bonded. There was a strong sentiment that this new-found euphoria should not be allowed to dissipate. There was a strong desire to create a permanent entity to institutionalize and replicate the experience into the future.

The JCA started out as a patriotic and social organization but very soon of necessity it added an advocacy role and then later, again due to necessity, it added social and community services in order to address the varied needs of a rapidly expanding diverse population (comprised of Jamaican, Caribbean, African and other nationalities). The association has had to adapt over the years to the changing needs of its various communities. It has grown in size, presence and influence. It has struggled to acquire a permanent home base over the years as it acquired premises at 65 Dawes Road (lost by fire), and 1621 Dupont Street (subsequently sold). Now it proudly occupies and provides services from its Cultural Center at 995 Arrow Road in Toronto.

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