The Jamaica Diaspora Crime Intervention and Prevention Task Force (JDCIPTF) held a triumphant Town Hall Meeting in Toronto on Saturday, April 7, 2018. The hall of the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA) was filled with approximately 200 participants, at 3 O’clock in the afternoon, waiting to hear from the keynote speaker. The Senator, The Honourable Pearnel Charles Jr., Minister of State, in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade (MFA&FT) would discuss the theme, “How Can the Diaspora Aid in Jamaica’s Crime-Free Future?” There was an air of patriotism when the entire room stood up and bellowed out both the Canadian and the Jamaican National anthem song by song writer and soloist, Cassandra Harper. Bishop Ronald Kelly led the participants into prayer. Ms. Adaoma Patterson, President of the JCA, and Mr. Lloyd Wilks, the Consul General of Jamaica at Toronto commenced with their opening remarks in that order. Followed by Dr. Rupert Francis, Global Taskforce Lead, who provided an overview of the Task Force. It was this Task Force, made up of eight individuals spanning the region of North America, that was responsible for the planning and implementing of the Town Hall meeting. The aim of the Task Force was to mobilize “experienced and trained crime fighting professionals” in the Canadian Diaspora to assist the Jamaican government in its crime prevention strategies, in line with its mission statement.
Minister Pearnel Charles Jr., introduced by H.E. Janice Miller, High Commissioner for Jamaica to Canada, then took the podium with the JCA logo- the Canadian maple leaf with the Jamaican national colours- printed at the front. Minister Charles Jr. highlighted the coincidence and timely change of office he had just undertaken. In fact, it was his first official engagement as the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, because, only a week before, he held the position of Minister of National Security. Both of these portfolios made him the most knowledgeable person in the room to address the audience about the state of affairs in Jamaica. There was a synergy in these two portfolios which enabled him to discuss solutions about Jamaica’s challenges to crime.
The Minister identified a number of crime-fighting strategies that had been implemented over the last two years by the Ministry of National Security, under the umbrella of the Five Pillar Crime Strategy: (1) Effective policing, (2) Swift and sure justice processes, (3) Crime prevention through social development, (4) Situational crime prevention, and (5) Rehabilitation and redemption. One such program is the We Transform Program. The goal of the program, he noted, was to reduce recidivism among youths by offering them opportunities involving mentorship, internship/job placement. Minister Charles Jr. encouraged the Diaspora to not allow the fear of crime to prevent them from helping Jamaica. The Diaspora, he says, “judges Jamaica the hardest, not because we hate Jamaica, but because we love our country.” On that moving note, he passed the microphone to the master of ceremonies, Yvette Blackburn, Diaspora Advisory member, who conducted the question and answer session.
The questions and comments varied and touched on a number of challenges that include; the Vagrancy Act, Youth Justice Services, using arts and creative solutions as an alternative remedy, partnerships with churches in the Diaspora, core root causes of crime, diversion and mental health programs, and the media’s contribution to creating the perception of crime. The Minister advised the Diaspora to become part of these solutions, so together we can achieve a crime-free Jamaica.
These discussions between the Diaspora and the Minister began prior to the Town Hall and continued post-town hall. Kevin Junor, Deputy Superintendent of Ontario Corrections, organized two special events for the minister to attend. On Friday, April 6, 2018, a dinner was hosted by the Association of Black Law Enforcers (ABLE) at the Royal Canadian Institute (RCMI). “The conversation focused on operational and tactical issues that are currently being implemented by the Jamaican security agents to address crime in Jamaica,” says Mr. Junor.
On April 7, 2018, a second dinner was hosted by members of the Ontario judiciary and a former member of the Ontario legislature. Mr. Junor stated, “the focus was on how the Diaspora can be of strategic support to Jamaica and other nations in the Caribbean region.” On April 8, 2018, The Task Force coordinated a meeting with the Jamaica Ex-Soldiers Association (JESA). The discussion outlined ways the various Jamaican organizations within the diasporas can amalgamate in order to develop successful strategies to fight the same cause, in accordance with the vision of the Taskforce.
The Task Force was formed in May 2016 by Dr. Rupert Francis, Alternate member of the Diaspora Advisory Board for the Mid-West Region of the United States, a retired JDF Army Officer, Criminal Justice practitioner and educator for over 45 years. Since inception, the Task Force has been growing in number and mobility. It has joined forces with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, the Ministry of National Security, the Jamaica Diaspora Institute, and Criminal Justice Professionals throughout the UK, USA, and Canada. The Task Force members are mainly Jamaican born professionals living in the Diaspora. The committees of planners, who coordinated the Town Hall meeting, include: Kevin Junor, Shauna-Kay Cassell, Louis Issacs, Dr. Clovis Nelson, Donovan Tait, Kimone Gooden, Kevin Robinson and Dr. Francis. “The Task Force wishes to thank all the participants who attended the Town Hall, as well as all those organizations and restaurants who contributed to making the event a triumphant success,” stated Dr. Francis, “we will start identifying our next local launch and continue meeting with Jamaican hubs/organizations. So, stay tuned.”