ACSA hosts High Commissioner of Jamaica

“Moving Beyond Boundaries” speaker mindful of Black History Month 

High Commissioner of Jamaica to Canada, Janice Miller.  

This past weekend, the High Commissioner of Jamaica to Canada paid a visit to Queen’s campus.

On Feb. 9, the African Caribbean Student’s Association (ACSA) hosted the High Commissioner, Janice Miller, at the University Club as part of Black History Month.

“I consider it a rare privilege to be able to share some perspectives with you during this auspicious month of February,” Miller said to the audience. “A time dedicated to celebrating and commemorating the long, rich, and distinguished contributions of persons of African descent to the building and shaping of Canada.”

In her talk, Miller noted Queen’s own history supporting its first Black graduate, Robert Sutherland, as inspiration for continued inclusion efforts. She wants to encourage the welcoming attitudes towards Sutherland to continue and increase.

“I also encourage the African Caribbean Students’ Association, in spite of your own constraints, to continue your valuable work in promoting Africa and the Caribbean in Queen’s and beyond its confines,” Miller said. “Your work as an association is important to the students of this university.”

Miller’s presentation was themed “Moving Beyond Boundaries” and shared her perspective on Jamaican diplomacy with Canada. She recognized the country as an important and long-standing partner of Jamaica with over 56 years of diplomatic relations.

According to Miller, 380,000 Canadians travel to Jamaica each year, making Canada the country’s second largest touring body. She also pointed to the cultural exchange occurring in both nations—Jamaicans have made a significant impact on Canadian society and there are currently over 340,000 Jamaicans in Canada.

Miller said the “people-to-people” contact between Jamaica and Canada was the most important aspect of the countries’ relationship.

She also sees the partnership between Jamaica and its diaspora as one of the examples of a borderless Jamaica, a value that’s embodied in its national motto: out of many, one people.

“One of the strengths of modern-day Jamaica is the very robust expression of self, held by a majority of, if not all, Jamaicans,” Miller said. “By this, I mean the sense of pride and patriotism that comes of being part of a national identity that’s been forged on an understanding of our unique roots, in particular, those of African ancestors.”

Miller further called the audience’s attention to the theme of the Canadian government’s Black History Month campaign—Black Canadian Youth: Boundless, Rooted, and Proud.

She said this theme encourages youth to transcend the barriers that face Black Canadians and speaks to an appreciation of a person’s origin—or “grounding.”

According to Miller, part of the grounding process involves the recording and teaching of diverse histories. She said doing so encourages respect and an appreciation for diversity.

Miller’s speech was followed by a question and answer period. ACSA President Nirosha Balakumar, ArtSci ’19, asked Miller what value exists in creating spaces for students to celebrate their identities and cultures at university.

Miller said students need to feel accepted in their academic environments and need the ability to say “we can identify,” She added that as a student she was told university was a microcosm of the outside world.

“If you’re at university and you can’t make your voice heard, at this stage of your life, when will you make it heard?” Miller asked. “You have to be able to effect change now, because that’s the world outside that you are going to have to interact with.”

Balakumar said the association was honoured to have hosted Miller.

“This is a very powerful woman of colour in politics and I think it’s beautiful that we’re celebrating her during Black History Month,” Balakumar told The Journal in an interview.

“Her presence shows a lot of other students we do make it to these places, we can make it to these places, and things are being done to ensure that our culture and diaspora is being celebrated.”

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