Toronto

Caribana group vows legal fight

The group formerly responsible for running Caribana has vowed to fight a recent renaming of the festival, which it says amounts to an unfair "appropriation" of the event.

The group formerly responsible for running Caribana has vowed to fight a recent renaming of the festival, which it says amounts to an unfair "appropriation" of the event.

Board members of the Caribbean Arts Group (CAG) met Thursday and told CBC News they would contest the decision, announced on May 26, to rename Caribana the Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival Toronto.

The dispute is part of a larger fight over control of the immensely popular Caribbean festival that now attracts more than one million people to Toronto every summer.

In 2006, control of the festival was shifted from CAG to the city-run Festival Management Committee (FMC) in the wake of longstanding accounting problems.

As the group that founded the festival in 1967, CAG is the legal owner of the Caribana name. A court injunction earlier this year forced the FMC to come up with a new name for the two-week festival that culminates in a massive street parade on the Simcoe Day long weekend in August.

Caribbean Arts Group chair Henry Gomez said the festival has been stolen from those responsible for creating it: "It's as if we've been jacked, we've been punked," he said. ((CBC))

CAG board members say the transfer to FMC control in 2006 was meant to be a temporary move while CAG worked to fix its accounting problems. CAG board members say FMC is like a construction crew that refuses to leave the house is renovated.

'We've been mugged, we've been punked'

CAG chair Henry Gomez said the festival has been stolen from those responsible for creating it: "It's as if we've been mugged, we've been punked," he told CBC.

Gomez also said there should be "no separation between the Caribana name and the festival."

Chris Alexander of the FMC said the festival will go on in spite of the dispute.

"They've said many times they'll do whatever they can to bring the festival down," Alexander told CBC. "I don't think that's the right thing to do. We bring a lot to this city."

CAG has enlisted help from the African Canadian Legal Clinic in their fight to regain control of the festival.

"We could no longer sit back and watch the blatant appropriation of the Caribana festival from its rightful owners, the Caribana Arts Group," said Margaret Parsons, executive director of the African Canadian Legal Clinic.

"The FMC needs to be dissolved," Parsons told CBC News on Thursday. "Caribana needs to be staged by CAG, its rightful owner."

When asked how far CAG would pursue its legal fight, Parsons responded: "An injunction is not off the table. An appeal right up to the Supreme Court of Canada is not off the table. We will do whatever it takes to ... get our festival back into the hands of CAG."

With files from CBC Steven D'Souza

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