Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival Toronto: Celebrating Culture and Tradition
By: Meirav Even-Har, Toronto
In most of Canada, the first Monday in August is a holiday - Civic Holiday. Each year, many take the opportunity to leave the city for the cottage, or camping. At the same time, as many as a million people take part in North America's largest festival of Caribbean culture, here in Toronto. The Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival Toronto is in its 45th year, and runs for three weeks. For the second time in my 20 years of living in Toronto, I joined a friend for the August 4th parade, the pinnacle event that drew over 400,000 people by mid-day. Scotiabank has been the Carnival's lead partner since 2008. The red t-shirts for the Bank's employees, friends and family were easily spotted jumping along the parade route. But the annual event is much deeper than dancing along to Calypso, Soca and Reggae. It's a symbol of the city's multicultural fabric.
Celebrating Caribbean heritage in Canada
Canadian immigrants introduced the Caribbean Carnival - widely referred to by its former name Caribana - in 1967. A reflection of Carnival events in places such as Trinidad and Tobago, it is a celebration of music and culture, now rooted in Toronto's own tradition as a city. The three-week celebration typically draws over a million people and has therefore become a significant source of tourism dollars. The official website reads: "Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival Toronto is an expression of Toronto's multicultural and multiracial society. An increasing number of attendees and participants come from the US and overseas." 
Corporate name on cultural festival
Because of its long tradition and presence in the City, when the Scotiabank name was added to the event title there were mixed reviews by the public and media. It is the similar reaction received when many exhibition buildings in Toronto's CNE grounds began carrying corporate banners. As funding is reduced, many cultural events and institutional buildings have come to rely on corporate funding. In its fourth year as title sponsor, the Scotiabank name doesn't seem to counter as much concern. While the bank is the primary event partner, the Festival Management Committee is responsible with overseeing the running of the festival. Nothing has been removed from what makes the Caribbean Carnival a unique event.
In a press release, Jacqueline Ryan, Scotiabank Vice-President of Sponsorship and Partnership Programs said, "Coming together to mark celebrations like this is what makes our country unique and we're excited to help bring the sites, sounds and flavours of the Caribbean to Toronto through our sponsorship of the festival." 
Scotiabank welcomes friends and family
With Scotiabank's large presence in the Caribbean, sponsoring the Toronto festival makes strategic sense. It is also a way for the bank to engage its employees - those with Caribbean heritage and others who just want to join the fun. A Scotiabank float was the first to be out on the road. While it was on time, the rest of the parade was close to over an hour behind schedule. That did little to deter the fun of those from the Scotiabank team to trickle in and continue to enjoy themselves. Whatever time it begins or ends, for many of the participants and onlookers the festival is about the music, the food and a celebration of culture. Scotiabank's sponsorship dollars, along with other major sponsors, help the event grow each year.
 Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival Toronto, official website - click HERE
 Scotiabank Sponsorships & Donations News Releases: Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival Kicks Off at City Hall, July 17, 2012 - click HERE
Image: 2012 Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival Toronto Parade, by Meirav Even-Har