Toronto Officials Fear Funk at Caribana

Published July 24, 2009

Lots of funk is usually a good thing when experienced during Black community entertainment events. But in the case of Canada’s biggest Caribbean cultural celebration, the funk from a sanitation workers strike has been overwhelming.

Toronto’s annual Caribana, which began July 14, is said to attract $300 million in revenue to the city. This year’s event, however, has forced some changes that leave the remaining days of the festival and its overall success uncertain. The 24,000 unionized sanitation employees and other city workers have reportedly forced Toronto’s tourist bureau to scale back its promo efforts. City officials fear embarrassment before visitors, who often travel from throughout the world to attend the event.

Pungent trash has polluted much of the air floating around Caribana’s rhythmic steel drum lines, curvy dancers and colorful costumes in the weeks since late June when strikers stopped collecting garbage. Mayor David Miller says litter is making the problem worse.

“It is becoming clear that there is a small group of people that are taking advantage of this strike to use Toronto as their personal dumping ground,” Miller recently told media. “This is not and should not be acceptable to any of us. I would ask people to be patient.”

Reports vary among opposing sides about the progress in contract negotiations.

The strike has already forced Caribana to re-locate its kick-off from Nathan Phillips Square to Yonge Street and Dundas Square for the first time in its decades-long history. Formally known as the Scotiabank Caribana Festival, the event’s King and Queen of the Bands competition has organizers nervous since it’s due to happen Ju ly 30 at a city-staffed venue. But an even bigger issue if the strike is not resolved will be the mess left behind from an expected 1 million observers of the Caribana Parade on Aug. 1.

Residents, business owners, city workers and officials all agree that it would be a funky situation.

Written by Eddie B. Allen Jr.

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