A Story from our Chair, Ryan Singh
Written by Ryan Singh
Sunday January 1, 2023
Thank you for reading Story, a new space made to amplify the voices of Canada’s Indo-Caribbean community through the Indo-Caribbean Canadian Association (ICCA). As Chair of ICCA, I am so proud of the team that has worked diligently to launch this new online newsletter. This project is just one of many examples of our dedicated and talented volunteers that ensure the ongoing success of our organization.
ICCA was founded on the principles of sharing Indo-Caribbean culture, demonstrating our footprint in Canada, and bringing the community together in meaningful ways. And 2022, truly saw us achieve all of this. I am proud to be a part of a team that is not afraid to speak up so that Indo-Caribbean Canadians are seen and heard. Join me as I look back on some of our shining moments.
Books for Back Home Book Drive
“They Can’t Tek Yuh Education” – a common phrase heard in many Indo-Caribbean households, and one that sparked us to start an initiative to secure access to reading materials for children and youth in the Caribbean. With that in mind, ICCA launched the “Books for Back Home” book drive. Thanks to Indo-Caribbean-led and/or serving businesses and organizations, we hosted several drop-off locations across the Greater Toronto Area. In total, the campaign raised enough books to fill six barrels. Three were shipped to Guyana and another three to Trinidad and Tobago. Today, these books are now accessible to children in small villages in both these countries.
In May 2022, we launched EPIC (Equality and Pride for Indo-Caribbeans). Understanding that homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia are still rampant in our communities and beyond; EPIC was our way of forging our own path to combat these while also bringing the community together. This past Pride Month (June) we held our first Pride Social, and in December we hosted a “Chosen Family” holiday drag brunch, all in an effort to create more safe spaces for LGBTQ+ members of the community with allies who support them. I am really looking forward to what EPIC will deliver in 2023.
Volunteers of ICCA noticed the alarming gap in services and attention available to mentor boys and young men in our community, so we decided to create a mentorship program of our own – Star Bhai. Tapping into the talent of Indo-Caribbean men who were generous enough to lead sessions, we were able to launch two phases of this program. The first was hosted virtually and connected our mentees with a number of professionals on a range of topics. Now, the program offers a monthly session open to all boys and young men in the community who want to explore career and social topics whilst meeting like-minded peers.
Soca vs. Chutney Boat Cruise
In August, we were proud to host the first Soca vs. Chutney Boat Cruise. The goal of this event was to provide a unique space for entertainment in our community. The evening included Soca, Chutney, and Bollywood faves, a performance by STCC Dance Academy, and several Indo-Caribbean culinary favourites.
Finally, I wanted to point out the efforts of our volunteers for the “Respect Diwali” campaign. This one was especially important to me. As a person who has worked in politics for close to two decades, including leading several political campaigns, I recognized the importance of voting for all Canadians, and I’ve constantly advocated for the need to limit obstacles and allow every person an equal opportunity to vote.
With that said, allowing our municipal election day to be the same day as Diwali was a major oversight by the provincial government and we wanted to make sure they were aware of that, while also understanding how to avoid this conflict immediately and in the future. On behalf of ICCA, we made two submissions to Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs citing the concern, along with recommendations with precedent on this topic.
There was a lot of interest in this issue and our message was covered in the media by outlets including CTV News, CP24, CBC News, The Canadian Press, Global TV News, and the Brampton Guardian.
Unfortunately, we did not receive a response in a timely manner, and to ensure that our community took the opportunity to vote in advance we pivoted to launch the “Vote Early” campaign. Here, we provided the dates and times for advanced voting in municipalities across the Greater Toronto Area.
Civic education is a fundamental right for all Canadians, and VOICE (Voter Organization for Indo-Caribbean Engagement) will continue to champion more access to government and elections for our community, while ensuring that the community is informed on their democratic rights and government services available.
The past year was a busy one for ICCA. This was a mere snapshot of what our team has accomplished. As we look ahead, we’re already envisioning where we will go in 2023. I remain so proud of our team, and constantly grateful for the incredible talent and dedication of each volunteer who is committed to uplifting our community and providing insight into both serious and meaningful topics. We will continue to be an purpose-driven and action-oriented organization. Thank you to the community, including supporters like yourself, who have given cause to our work.
About the Author
Ryan Singh is a government relations and public affairs professional. Founder and chair of the Indo-Caribbean Canadian Association, Ryan's goal was to amplify, connect and serve the Indo-Caribbean community in Canada. His leadership has guided the organization through many successful initiatives, we look forward to seeing where his vision takes us next.