The NCBAC: A Brief History
Following is an adaptation of the History written by Keith A. P. Sandiford
The National Council of Barbadian Associations of Canada Inc. (NCBAC) is an umbrella organization catering to some sixteen affiliates in this country. The Board of Presidents, consisting of the presidents of each member organization, reviews the work of the National Executive Committee. The Council was designed to represent, promote and foster the social, economic and cultural aspirations of Barbadian immigrants whose numbers during the 1960s and 1970s had increased by leaps and bounds. It has convened many conferences, seminars, symposia and workshops with the express purpose of educating Barbadian-Canadians on a wide range of social, legal and economic issues. It has compiled and published the reports and recommendations flowing from all of its various functions. It has made official representations to parliament in several forms on such vital subjects as the Meech Lake Accord, multiculturalism, lives of minority groups. It has sometimes also appeared as witnesses before committees of parliament and other government agencies. On one memorable occasion, it coordinated the input of many Barbadian associations to the Spicer Commission on constitutional change.
Fons et Origo
The NCBAC is now 32 years old, having been formally constituted as such in 1984. But it is really the offshoot of an older organization, which had come into being about fourteen years before. Barbadian associations in the central and eastern regions as early as 1971 arranged regular annual conferences. Members of these associations met, mainly in Toronto, challenged each other at such games as bowling and dominoes, staged banquets and workshops and held annual general meetings. By the early 1980s, it had become clear that these events and functions were of great social and cultural value and the decision was reached to establish a more formal structure. Out of these discussions the NCBAC emerged in 1984 with the ratification of its initial Constitution, which, among other things, announced the following aims and objectives: To assist in the orientation and adaptation of Canadian residents of origins in Barbados to the Canadian milieu and to foster a better understanding of Canada and other Canadians. To encourage Canadians of origins in Barbados to participate in Canadian society. To provide a forum for communication among different Barbadians and Caribbean communities residing in Canada. To co-operate with other organizations whose educational, cultural, social and recreational activities render a contribution to the development of Canadian national life. To assure due recognition of the contributions of Canadians of origins in Barbados in Canada.
Honouring its leaders
A succession of able presidents and executive officers did their utmost to implement these aims and objectives over the past twenty years. The Presidents (in chronological order) since 1984 have been Mr Ricardo Gill, Dr Horace Goddard, Mr Berkeley Harris, Mr Victor Allman, Mr Gordon Bynoe, Dr Keith Sandiford, Mr Simeon Cox, Mr Basil Blackman, Mr Andrew Small, Mr Jonathan Sealy, Mr Reginald Taylor and Ms. Sandra Asgill. Quite fittingly, the NCBAC has chosen to honour these leaders at its annual conference in 2004. The NCBAC was originally funded by the federal government to the tune of $60,000 a year, which permitted it to hire a part-time Executive Director, to rent office space in Ottawa, to stage occasional workshops, to hold executive meetings in various cities in Ontario and Quebec, and to arrange its annual conferences in a more extravagant manner than formerly. Partly as a result of government assistance, the NCBAC experienced steady growth during the period 1984-1992 and decided to establish three distinct regions: the central, eastern and western. The presence and interest of the Barbadian associations in Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg necessitated an amendment to the Constitution to ensure that these cities were represented on the National Executive Committee. An order of rotation was also established to allow each major centre a chance to host workshops and the annual conference. Consequently, NCBAC functions have since been held in Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton, London, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg. With its headquarters in Ottawa, under the guidance of Mrs Florence Redman, its first Executive Director, the NCBAC immediately associated itself with such national organizations as the Canadian Ethnocultural Council (CEC) and the Canadian Labour Force Development Board (CFLDB). Through these larger bodies it was often able to make representations to the federal government on such important issues as immigration, employment equity and human rights. Its Central Region also became deeply involved in a wide range of social matters and sometimes raised funds for the relief of the distressed in cases of hurricanes and similar disasters. The Council has also worked in close association with the Office of the Barbadian High Commissioner in Ottawa and with the Barbadian Consulate in Toronto. The NCBAC could perform its functions efficiently so long as it was supported by public funds. The Executive Director was able to coordinate its efforts and to serve as its hub. But the extent of government funding gradually decreased during the late 1980s and eventually disappeared altogether. This meant that, during the last five or six years, the Council has had to raise its own revenues simply to remain afloat and to manage without the services of a central administrator. This has created enormous problems for the last few presidents and treasurers.
Facilitating the Academic Success of Black Children in Canada
One of the greatest triumphs of the NCBAC was its involvement in a project in co-operation with the national councils of Jamaicans and Trinidadians in Canada. These three groups of West Indians sponsored a huge and highly successful national conference in Toronto in 1991 aimed at "facilitating the academic success of black children in Canada". They also succeeded in staging a number of useful workshops in such centres as Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver on the important topic of "parenting in Canada" during 1992-93. This was all part of the NCBAC's avowed commitment to promoting the interests of Barbadian-Canadian youth. It has also established a scholarship fund to encourage excellence in academic achievement on the part of the young. This determination to co-operate with other Caribbean organizations in Canada was in keeping with the original aims and objectives of the NCBAC. In 1984, it had invited several non-Barbadians to take part in its workshops and presentations. At that conference Dr June James, a Trinidadian physician resident in Winnipeg, as well Dr Ralph Agard, a Trinidadian sociologist resident in Toronto, made very useful contributions. Also present at that conference were such influential non-Barbadians as Ms Jean Augustine, who would later become a member of the federal cabinet; the Hon. David Collenette, Minister of State for Multiculturalism; Dr Samuel Ifejika, Chairman of the Orion Foundation; and Dr Glenda Simms, then one of the leading spokespersons in Canada on behalf of women's rights.
The Annual Conference in the Age of Self Sufficiency
The NCBAC consistently attracted well over a dozen affiliates during the 1990s, each paying an annual fee of $250 to help defray expenses. Towards the end of that decade, however, when the federal government ceased to support the organization in a financial sense, the NCBAC had to reduce its activities in a most serious manner. In this period of compulsory self-sufficiency, occasional workshops came to an end, the executive members could meet far less frequently, discussions were mainly restricted to teleconferencing, and the most important function on the calendar became the annual conference.
Even so, the annual conference has served an important purpose. It has kept the national umbrella alive during a very difficult period, allowing Barbadians from various urban centres to meet and discuss problems of common concern. These annual meetings have allowed Barbadian-Canadians to mix intellectual with social activity in a healthy and pleasant fashion and have often served as a source of inspiration to its member associations. By encouraging Barbadians from various provinces to travel and compare personal notes, the conferences have taught them a good deal about the country they have adopted as their home. In addition, some very interesting and informative workshops on a variety of useful subjects have remained a key feature of the annual meetings. In Edmonton in 1994, for instance, Dr Tony Field, a well-known Barbadian physician, addressed the delicate subjects of cancer and sickle cell. In Calgary in 2001, Mr Michael Tudor, a popular psychologist, conducted two intriguing workshops on personality differences. In Vancouver in 2002, resource persons dealt with psychology and business. In Winnipeg in 2003, two local medical practitioners gave interesting and useful presentations on breast cancer and male menopause. From time to time, the annual conferences focussed inwards. This was the case in Toronto in 1984, for example, when the decision was taken to establish the Council on a more formal basis and in Hamilton in 1991 when the majority felt that the time had come to review the NCBAC's overall performance and to take stock of its proper role and function. At that time a few constitutional amendments were suggested, leading to the replacement of the former members-at -large on the National Executive Council by representatives of the various regions, seniors, women and youth. Another recommendation was accepted in 1992 at Winnipeg when the term of elected officers was increased from one year to two.
The tradition of scheduling the annual conferences during the Victoria Day week-end was temporarily abandoned in 1995 when one of the most exciting of the meetings actually took Place in Bridgetown, Barbados, in August 1995. This gave Barbadian-Canadians their last chance to meet with the very popular Dame Ruth Nita Barrow, who was then the Governor General of Barbados.
The Council has grown increasingly conscious of the fact that the Barbadian-Canadian leaders who operated during the 1980sand 1990s are ageing steadily and it is trying more desperately now to attract younger members. The conference of 2004 is thus focusing very sharply on the activities of Barbadian-Canadian youth and one of the highlights in Montreal this year will be its Youth Project, for which Canadian Heritage has offered a sizeable grant. It is hoped that those attending this year's Youth Forum will convey very positive messages to their colleagues all across Canada. It is only by attracting younger leaders to its fold that the NCBAC can ensure its survival long after its founders and early supporters have departed the stage.