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Toronto Caribbean Carnival
Abbreviation TCC[1]
Formation 1967
Type Cultural festival
Legal status Active, non-profit
Purpose Celebration of Caribbean heritage
Headquarters Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • 19 Waterman Avenue Suite 200, Toronto, ON  M4B 1Y2
Official language
English, French
Denise Herrera-Jackson
Parent organization
Festival Management Committee
Affiliations City of Toronto, Toronto Mas Bands Association [2], Ontario Steelpan Association
CA$1.2 million
Website Toronto Caribbean Carnival

The Toronto Caribbean Carnival, formerly and still commonly called Caribana, is a festival of Caribbean culture and traditions held each summer in the city of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is a Caribbean Carnival event, that has been billed as North America's largest street festival, frequented by over 1.3 million visitors each year for the festival's final parade and an overall attendance of 2 million.

The festival was introduced to Canada by immigrants from Trinidad and Tobago. Much of the music associated with the event, such as steel pan, soca and calypso originated from Trinidad and Tobago. Caribana reflects the Carnival events that take place in Trinidad and Tobago, such as the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival. The entire event, which is one of the first Caribbean Carnivals along with those in New York City, Notting Hill and Boston to be held outside of the Caribbean region, brings in over one million people to Toronto and over $400 million into Ontario's economy, annually.[2]

Following a trademark law dispute between the original operators of the festival, who still owned the Caribana name, and the current organizers, the festival was renamed Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival in May 2011.[3] In 2016, the name was changed to "Toronto Caribbean Festival" after Scotiabank ended its sponsorship.


While the Caribbean Festival holds events over several weeks, the culmination of the Caribana event is the final weekend which is punctuated by the street Parade of Bands. This weekend traditionally coincides with the Ontario statutory holiday Civic Holiday. The street Parade of Bands consists of costumed dancers (called "Mas players") along with live Caribbean music being played from large speakers on the flat-bed of 18 wheeler trucks. The genre played is mainly soca calypso, and steelpan, but you can also find floats which play chutney and reggae.


In addition to the main parade, the Caribbean community also celebrates a smaller pre-dawn parade known as J'ouvert (Pronounced "Jou-vay"). This too has been modelled after and taken from Trinidad Carnival. In Caribbean French-creole this means "day open" or morning. The J'ouvert portion of Carnival is the more rhythmic part of the Carnival celebration and is usually featured with steelpan bands, and persons using improvised musical instruments. It is not usually accompanied by any singing, but will have a lot of whistles and other music makers. Spectators and or persons "playing Mas" will occasionally get themselves covered from head-to-toe with mud, flour, baby powder, or different water-colored paints in the tradition of the Caribbean-based J'ouvert celebrations. In many instances everyone in the band is supposed to resemble evil spirits while parading around at night. There are some common characters[4] that are a part of Afro-Caribbean folklore[5][6] and include things like Red Devils (people covered in red paints), Blue Devils (people covered in blue paints), Green devils, Black devils, Yellow devils, White devils, (usually people throwing baby powder or flour.) or people just covered in other concoctions which are supposed to resemble mud[7] or oil.[8][9]


Leading up to the main parade a number of Caribbean music artists perform in Toronto. These parties are generally called "fêtes", for a French-Creole Caribbean word meaning "festival", and usually start in June–July.


The bands are the most important part of the main Carnival parade. The bands are actually in competition with one another during the parade. They must pass a judging spot which will rate each band section for its costume design, energy of masqueraders, creativity of presentation and so on. Work on the costumes begin soon after the previous year's celebration and usually takes one full year to complete all of the costumes.


Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival logo 2011-2015

Caribana has been run annually since 1967, first performed as a gift from Canada's Trinidadian community, as a tribute to Canada's Centennial. The main Caribana events were run by a nonprofit Toronto-based organization, the Caribbean Cultural Committee (CCC), its board members mostly made up of expatriate-Caribbean nationals living in Canada.

As the festival became a permanent annual event, the festival organization became dependent on borrowing money from the City of Toronto prior to the festival, to be repaid out of festival profits afterwards. By 1992, the festival had built up a significant debt to the City. To aid the festival, the City of Toronto forgave the outstanding debt after the 1992 event.[10] The same year, Caribana developed a new partnership with Toronto-area hotels.[11]

In 1993, the organization fired its operating chief.[12] At launch in Nathan Phillips Square, Premier Bob Rae calls the event a "beacon of hope" for all Canadians, as a symbol of racial harmony. "Carry a Can to Caribana" launched, in support of Daily Bread Food Bank.[13] Also in 1993, the Caribana Marketplace covered market was added at Marilyn Bell Park along the parade route.[14] A well-behaved crowd and barricades along the entire parade route contributed to an incident-free parade.[15] With attendance down, the board chair blamed the federal and provincial tourism ministries for not funding their American advertising campaign.[16]

In September 2004, after the 37th festival, the consul general of Trinidad and Tobago pledged to work more closely with Caribbean Cultural Committee to get support for the carnival from the business community; the committee received around CA$1 million that year from the national, provincial, and city governments, but it cost about twice that run the festival.[17]

In 2006, the Caribbean Cultural Committee ran into financial troubles again. Because of a lack of financial accountability, the City of Toronto cut off funding until the organization could get its finances in order. Instead, the funding was given to the Toronto Mas Band Association which had organized the festival in 2002. Due to an ongoing dispute about the ownership of the trademark "Caribana", the 2006 festival was promoted as "the Toronto Caribbean Carnival (Caribana)".

In May 2010, the festival added a new initiative to involve post-secondary schools. The only college to participate was Centennial College School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culture, where they created a costume theme of the Tropical Amazon.[18] On September 1, 2010, new management took over the Festival Management Committee (FMC) and named Denise Herrera-Jackson as CEO/Chair of FMC and Chris Alexander as CAO.

A naming dispute arose over the use of "Caribana." The Caribbean Cultural Committee claimed that it legally held the trademark for "Caribana". In April 2010, a panel for the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) ruled that Scotiabank, as the sponsors of the Caribana festival, did not have grounds for being awarded the domain name from its current owners the Working Word Co-operative.[19]

In 2011, the Ontario Superior Court Of Justice ruled that the Caribana Arts Group (CAG), the successors of Caribbean Cultural Committee (CCC), has legal rights to the name Caribana. On May 25, 2011, the festival released its new logo and new name, "Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival Toronto".[20] In October 2015, Scotiabank announced it would end its sponsorship with Toronto's Caribbean Carnival parade after six years.[21] The festival continues without a naming sponsor.


Violent incidents have sometimes occurred at the festival, though organizers have long disassociated themselves from the violence. Said Lennox Farrell in 1992: "We as a board abhor any kind of violence whatsoever. If violence occurs outside a Blue Jays game, it is not ever associated with the Blue Jays game. We wonder why in the mind of the press... that shooting has become associated with Caribana."[22]

  • 1971: A car accident caused parade route deaths and injuries,[23] and public transit fumbles which led to fighting.[24]
  • 1993: On July 28, a 29-year-old jumped off a Caribana cruise boat at 11 pm, telling friends that he would meet them on shore at Ontario Place. The Trillium, the boat they were on, was about 300 feet (100 metres) from shore. Police recovered his body on the 30th.[25] The victim's mother was hurt by speculation about his sobriety.[26] Another man was stabbed in the finger.[15] A barrier fell at one point, the crowd assisted in bringing them back up.[16]
  • 1996: August 3, 1996: Elrick Christian, 23, was shot and killed and three others, including a nurse visiting from Britain, were wounded during the Caribana parade. Three men were arrested on weapons-related charges after a volley of shots are fired in Marilyn Bell Park beside the parade route.
  • 2011: A man died in a 2011 shooting, while the woman he was with suffered multiple gunshot wounds. putting her in critical condition. Another man was hospitalized after the bullet grazed his eyebrow.[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Toronto Caribbean Festival". Toronto Caribbean Carnival. 
  2. ^ "The Caribana success story". Toronto Star. May 3, 2010. Retrieved June 1, 2010. 
  3. ^ "Caribana now Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival". CTV News, May 25, 2011.
  4. ^ "Old-Time Carnival Characters (ARCHIVE)". Trinidad Investment and Development Co. (TIDCO). Archived from the original on September 7, 2004. Retrieved July 31, 2009. 
  5. ^ "Trinidad & Tobago's Folklore and Legends The Mayaro Soucouyant (ARCHIVE)". Paria Publishing. Archived from the original on March 13, 2002. Retrieved July 31, 2009. 
  6. ^ "Of Myths Folklore and Legends – The Story of Lougarous and Soukouyants". TheDominican.Net. Retrieved July 31, 2009. 
  7. ^ "Artiste: 3 Canal, Song: Mud Madness". YouTube. Retrieved July 31, 2009. 
  8. ^ "Photo of some "Blue Devils" during the 2007 Cricket World Cup-In the Caribbean". Flickr. Retrieved July 31, 2009. 
  9. ^ "Artiste: 3 Canal, Song: Blue, 1997". YouTube. Retrieved July 31, 2009. 
  10. ^ Small, Peter; Jane Armstrong (August 11, 1992). "Caribana expecting bigger profit". Toronto Star. Toronto ON. p. A06. 
  11. ^ Henton, Darcy (May 1, 1993). "Tourism faces new economy". Toronto Star. Toronto ON. p. A2. 
  12. ^ "Caribana fires operating chief". Toronto Star. Toronto ON. May 21, 1993. p. A07. 
  13. ^ Wright, Lisa (July 20, 1993). "Caribana bumps and grinds". Toronto Star. Toronto ON. p. A06. 
  14. ^ Turnbull, Barbara (July 30, 1993). "Party time!". Toronto Star. Toronto ON. p. A06. 
  15. ^ a b "A million revellers soak up Caribbean beat". Toronto Star. Toronto ON. August 1, 1993. p. A01. 
  16. ^ a b MacKinnon, Donna Jean (August 5, 1993). "Caribana draws grumbles and rave reviews". Toronto Star. Toronto ON. p. A06. 
  17. ^ The Trinidad Guardian -Online Edition Ver 2.0
  18. ^ Centennial College (July 27, 2010). "Centennial College students getting into the Caribana spirit". Retrieved October 3, 2016. 
  19. ^ El Akkad, Omar (April 26, 2010). "Scotiabank fails in bid to snag Caribana domain name". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved May 9, 2010. Scotiabank’s unsuccessful attempt to gain control of the potentially lucrative website name became the basis for a case before the global tribunal that resolves such domain name disputes – a case that lawyers say could have set a wide-ranging and controversial precedent. 
  20. ^ [1][dead link]
  21. ^ "Scotiabank won't renew sponsorship of Caribbean Carnival". CTV News. October 2015. 
  22. ^ Brent, Bob (August 4, 1992). "Organizers fear violence might thwart '93 Caribana". Toronto Star. Toronto ON. p. A6. Retrieved July 31, 2011. 
  23. ^ "Car kills two children watching parade". Toronto Star. Toronto ON. 2 August 1971. p. 1. 
  24. ^ "Free-for-all erupts on jammed TTC bus". Toronto Star. Toronto ON. 31 July 1971. p. 1. ; correction issued August 2 issue, page 2.
  25. ^ "Body of man, 29, found on bottom of lake". Toronto Star. Toronto ON. July 31, 1993. p. A04. 
  26. ^ Wright, Lisa (August 1, 1993). "Police find body of man who leapt from ferry boat". Toronto Star. Toronto ON. p. A13. 
  27. ^ Hannay, Chris (July 30, 2011). "One dead, two injured in shooting along Caribbean parade route in Toronto". The Globe and Mail. Toronto ON. Retrieved July 31, 2011. 

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