Prime Minister Justin Trudeau helped launch a grand parade of costumed youth on Saturday as part of Toronto’s Caribbean Carnival.
Trudeau greeted the crowd at the opening ceremony of the Kiddies for Mas: Junior Carnival parade. Around 2,000 young people, aged 2 to 16, took part in the event, which started at the Malvern Community Centre.
The parade included 12 Mas groups. Toronto Mayor John Tory and Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson were there. The children, dressed in brightly colored costumes, marched through the streets of Scarborough.
There was a range of bright colors, chunky feathers, shiny beads and lots of sequins. Some of the costumes, depicting scenes from the Caribbean diaspora, were majestic.
Trudeau told the crowd the event was a celebration of Canada’s Caribbean community and he said the costumed youngsters on Saturday seized the opportunity.
“Thank you to the young people celebrating, showing how happy we are all to be together in person once again,” Trudeau said.
“Today is about them, getting out there, celebrating this amazing community.”
Trudeau noted that this is the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Toronto that the parade has taken place.
“It’s been a tough time the past two years,” Trudeau said.
“We have seen a rise in anti-black racism and intolerance that is associated with so many of the challenges people face, and on a day like this we can remember what it is like to be Canadian.”
Laverne Garcia, executive chair of the festival’s management committee, said the day was a celebration of Caribbean history and culture. The committee produces the Toronto Caribbean Carnival and Kiddies for Mas.
“What we’re doing is we’re celebrating the next generation of masquerades that will lead carnival into the future,” she said.
“The roots are in emancipation. It’s about freedom and diversity. Especially for children, it’s a chance to celebrate who they are and where they come from. Plus, it also shows them a way to integrate and learn about their history and culture.”
Earlier, she said the committee was “so excited” to be able to hold the parade this year.
the @GoTOCarnival Junior Carnival Parade is back
Mayor says parade is about children
Tory, for this part, said the event was about kids and it was a way to help them build their confidence.
“It’s about making sure everyone is included, feels included, and that we’re also included in this big celebration,” Tory said. “Congrats to the kids. They look fantastic. They’re excited. It’s all about them. Let’s keep this parade going. Let’s get up and have a great carnival for the kids.”
Thompson, who represents Scarborough Centre, said there needed to be more opportunities for children who dress up on Saturday.
“We must ensure that we prepare a bright future for our next generation,” he said on Twitter.
After the speeches, the masquerades headed west on McLevin Avenue and north on Neilson Road to Neilson Park. This year, the 12 junior groups will compete for the junior title of “Group of the Year”.
The parade precedes the Toronto Caribbean Carnival Grand Parade on July 30.
On its website, the Toronto Caribbean Carnival states: “This Caribbean tradition of street parading was founded to celebrate freedom and emancipation from slavery and is appropriately celebrated during what has been recognized by the Canadian government as Emancipation Day weekend.”