“WE ARE GIVERS, not takers.”
Those were the words spoken by the late Austin “Tom” Clarke, one of Canada’s most celebrated prize-winning literary icons when he was referring to Barbadians who have made the North American economic and cultural colossus their home away from home.
“Barbadians have been contributing to Canada’s prosperity for more than a century, whether it was in trade, government, cultural expression or private business for more than 200 years,” he told this newspaper. “We have not always received recognition for our blood, sweat and tears that were shed in pursuit of our dreams as immigrants and those of Canadians across the country. ”
Well, thanks to the efforts of several dedicated Bajans, that recognition has come. It is contained in an excellent 293-page volume, Beyond Rum & Salt Fish, which Dr Grant Morris, a highly successful urban planner and development specialist who heads his own consulting firm; Dr Barbara Trieloff-Dean, a top professional in Canada’s financial services sector; and several other members of a diverse editorial team who combined their efforts to collect and published the volume to commemorate Barbados’ golden jubilee of independence.
“It’s a commemorative book that seeks to tell a story about what Barbadians have done and are doing to advance Canada and themselves,” explained Morris: “We are in Canada, not just to pick up a pay cheque but to help develop this country.”
Trieloff-Dean, who was born and raised in Barbados of immigrant parents, agreed with Morris.
“The commemorative book tells a brief history of Barbados, its progress as a nation, who we are as a people and the contributions made by Barbadians to the advancement of our adopted homeland,” she said.
To achieve their goal, the editorial team reached out to Barbadians and their organisations across Canada, key Bajan public figures at home and in North America, experts and historians in a variety of field that run the gamut from academia, science research, medicine, finance, health, parliamentary life and education to culture and financial services.
That explains why the book contains more than just biographical sketches of outstanding Bajans. It contains articles on the history of Barbados, the country’s march to independence from early days of colonisation to the attainment of sovereignty; profiles of every Prime Minister; an analysis of the country’s economic underpinnings, especially the financial services
sector; a history of Barbados’ Jewish community; the influence of region “in shaping the moral fibre of the Barbadian community;” the emphasis on education; and the role of philanthropy in the country’s development.
Just as important are reflections on parliament life in Barbados, foreign affairs, the nation’s presence at the United Nations, the roles of the dozens of Barbadian associations in Canada; the story of the rum industry; banking; the “business of tourism” and culture; and the impact of the credit union movement on the economy.
Among the contributors are Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, Sir George Alleyne, Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Central Bank Governor Dr DeLisle Worrell, Bobby Morris, Barbados’ Ambassador to Caricom; the Reverend Peter Fenty, Suffragan Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Toronto; and the late Robert Morris, a lecturer in economics and business at the Barbados Institute of Management and Productivity, BIMAP.
The book’s title was chosen to underscore a historical fact, the trade between Canada and Barbados which can be traced to ships plying the high seas and carried Canadian cod fish from Halifax to Barbados and returned home laden with rum.
“We wanted people to understand how our ties with Canada were developed and how we have gone beyond rum and salt fish in those early days, to the sophisticated country we now have,” explained Morris.
Tony Best is the NATION’s North American Correspondent. Email: Bestra@aol.com.