By Lincoln DePradine
Dominicans are fighting to restore a semblance of normality, after devastating floods and ferocious winds of a Category 5 storm ravaged the Island in September.
So it’s apt that Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit used a boxing parlance to describe the country’s resilience. Dominica was “knocked down’’ in September but not “knocked out’’. “I want you to know that we are not daunted”.
That was the crux of his written message to Dominican-Canadians, as they celebrated the 39th anniversary of Dominica’s independence from Britain, last Saturday in Toronto. The theme “Building a Brighter Future Together’’.
Prime Minister Skerrit promised that Dominica will “redesign, reconfigure and reprogram the systems and procedures that underpin economic and social activity, so that the impact of any disaster on you and me is considerably lessened, and the time taken for life to return to normal, significantly reduced’’.
Understandably the impact of hurricane Maria and the ongoing efforts to rebuild Dominica reverberated throughout the celebration; from performances to the keynote address from Judge Dr. Irving Andre.
Dr. Andre, a former Dominica schoolteacher who now presides at the Superior Court of Justice in Brampton, highlighted the “acts of selflessness, generosity, public mindedness and humanity’’ that were displayed in Dominica and beyond, following the passage of the hurricane.
The hurricane, he said, “washed away, in many persons, at least for the time being, the sins of vanity and prejudice, of alienation and greed, from a seemingly vanquished nation’’.
As well, many hurricane victims found a “brotherhood and sisterhood which they had too long taken for granted,’’ said Andre, the author of several books and the married father of two daughters.
“It soothes the soul,’’ Andre added, “to see convoys of trucks from Trinidad, shipments from neighbouring Barbados, Guyana, St Vincent, St Lucia, Grenada and Antigua, and security personnel from Jamaica, line up to provide help to a stricken neighbour.’’
This year’s celebration Skerrit noted occurs in the context of a country shattered but not broken. “I mourn with the families, friends and associates who lost loved ones during that horrific night of September 18th into the wee hours of the 19th. The best tribute we can lay down in their memories is to create a built environment that mitigates the factors and circumstances that contributed to this tragic loss of life’’.
On the occasion of the independence commemoration, the Commonwealth of Dominica Ontario Association presented “Dominicans of Distinction’’ awards to members of the community, in recognition of outstanding work.
The council presented bursaries of $1,000 each to two teenagers, Victoria Young and John Winston Gobin. Gobin, 18, is studying Sport Management at Brock University, while Young, 19, is pursuing a Science and Business degree at the University of Waterloo.
Grenada’s Consul General, Derrick James, also presented a cash donation in excess of 3,400 dollars to Ann-Marie Layne, Consul General for Antigua and Barbuda, to aid with post-hurricane reconstruction in Barbuda.
Representatives of various other Caribbean countries, including members of the Council of Caribbean Association – Canada were also in attendance.