Toronto and Mass -- growing together
It is illustrative of the awkward fit between Toronto
and the culture of Carnival that it took many, many years for
Toronto and the organizers of this northern Carnival to settle on a route.
The Toronto of 1967 was not the Toronto of today....It was in 1967 that Canada introduced a point system that
would allow would be immigrants from the Caribbean, India and China... to be admitted on the basis of skill, rather
than race. The Caribbean community in Toronto in 1967 was made up of largely students although there were
workers who had manage to slip by Canada's White immigration policy....Given the racial and ethnic composition of
the 1960s, it must have been taken an
incredible leap of imagination and overwhelming self-confidence for the small
but broad based group of Caribbean Immigrants to propose a cultural project to celebrate
Canada's centennial year.
It was 1967, the year of Expo'67' even in dour Toronto citizens were loosening up. Still nothing could have prepared
main stream Toronto for the first Carnival
parade down Yonge street.
It was a small group of masqueraders who I think had great courage back then to wear their gaudy costumes to and
parade. But they did. That occasion was the start of today's enormously popular carnival that has put
Toronto on the tourist map and made it a major
tourist event, if not the biggest summer event in North America.
Adjustments on both sides
The period from 1967 to today has seen adjustments on both sides. Official and
non-official Toronto weren't always
happy with this tropical efflorescence that took to the streets the first Saturday of every August. There
complaints at City Council that the money -- the little money -- given to the Carnival organizers could have gone to
more worthwhile municipal causes. There
was talk of lack of accountability . There was talk of...ah...misbehavior on
the day of the parade. There was talk of imbibing of...ah...cane based potables
on the street.
This was Toronto, after all -- New York ran by Presbyterians, if not Calvinist. Let's just say the idea of an unabashed
street Carnival was
something alien to Toronto while the idea of Carnival confined to one street was alien to early
participants in the
parade...So city council was faced with a tropical fete and growing numbers of spectators. The
question for many councilors (or Aldermen as they were called back then) was :
"How do we fit this phenomenon
into our city?" By then two ideas had taken root. This street carnival was not going away and it brought buckets of
money into the city. Obviously, the parade and the festivities were here to stay. Obviously young Canadians too,
had begun to see the festivities as theirs...
Hindsight makes me think it was inevitable. It
didn't seem so over the years. The Carnival seems temporary. The
people who presented it's bands and the people who were passionate about the Carnival were
insecure. There were
always rumors that City Hall wouldn't let it happen 'this year'...The physical incorporation of the Carnival in the
Toronto was one with which the city Councilors and the organizers had to wrestle. Although the
discussions were always about the best routes for the
parade, I like to think that the subtext was about how to
integrate a foreign cultural concept into a staid city... So continuous were the changes that now I can hardly
where most of the routes ended.
Adapting to each other
The continuous changing of the routes was important. I see that as an attempt by the
city and the Carnival to adapt
to each other. Toronto couldn't get the measure of parade that wasn't modeled on the Santa Claus Parade. The
culture couldn't get accustomed to a city that restricted it to one measly day one measly route. ...Finally,
it all came to land on the Lakeshore.
On that route the band leaders finally got an extended distance to show off
their creativity. The search for an appropriate route was part of the process
of integration. I know it all sounds
terrible symbolic, but once an acceptable route was establish the culture of Carnival and the culture of the city
found confluence...This piece is from a Share publication special "Toronto International Carnival 2002."
Visit Share at:http://www.sharenews.com
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