Canada (McKoy’s News) – Spotlight on Jamaicans in Canada: Jamaicans have been travelling to Canada even before it was a country. For the first century or so, they migrated in a trickle and were like many of the other early settlers – adventurers seeking wealth from what lay in the ground; they were lawyers, teachers and labourers.
Although lawmakers used thinly-disguised racist legislation to control the stream of Jamaican migration, the trickle grew into a flood as a result of Caribbean-led deputations to Ottawa seeking amendments to the legislation. Jamaicans worked at the jobs most others didn’t want – the men as sleeping-car porters, the women as domestic servants. As recently as half-century ago, even well-educated women had to come in as domestics. However, after fulfilling their obligations, they went on to work and contribute in fields of endeavours related to their interests and qualifications.
Today, Canadians of Jamaican heritage are to be found at all levels of the society and in all parts of the country – from Signal Hill in St. John’s to the Citadel in Halifax to Mount Royal in Montreal and Parliament Hill in Ottawa; from Yonge and Bloor in Toronto to Portage and Main in Winnipeg; from the Saddledome in Calgary to BC Place in Vancouver and beyond to the vast stretches of tundra and taiga of the northern territories.
Canadians of Jamaican heritage are productive, responsible and contributing citizens, who have done much over the decades to enrich the fabric of their adopted nation, Canada.
Many immigrants – or the children of immigrants – from Jamaica became pioneers in their particular fields of endeavor by being among the first racial/visible minority Canadians to break through barriers to full participation in fields such as academia, athletics, law, labour/union, policing, justice, media, medicine, philanthropy and politics. Through their efforts, doors were pushed open and succeeding generations have had greater access to opportunities which had previously been denied earlier populations because of practices, which – if not racist intent – nevertheless had the impact of limiting the chances for success for many individuals from minority and vulnerable groups.
Often while fighting their own struggles for acceptance into Canadian society, Jamaican-Canadians established organizations to help newcomers adjust and integrate while maintaining connections to their cultural heritage. Organizations such as the Jamaican-Canadian Association, Tropicana Community Services, John Brooks Community Foundation and Scholarship Fund, PACE (Canada) and The Black Business and Professional Association represent a few organizations in the Greater Toronto Area which owe their origins to the vision of Jamaican immigrants. In addition to the community organizations in Ontario, which has the largest population of Jamaican-Canadians, there are Jamaican/Caribbean Associations in Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Colombia.