Opposition Leader, Dr. Godwin Friday, left, interact with persons at the picnic. (Photo: Facebook)

A Vincentian activist in Canada has accused the organisers of the Vincy Unity Picnic of being “political” when they decided not to allow Leader of the Opposition in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), Godwin Friday, to address the event at Thousand Islands on Saturday.

Elma Gabriel, who has been involved in Vincentian associations in Canada for more than 50 years, told iWitness News on Sunday that she has never heard of a situation where a prominent member of the opposition attended the event and was not allowed to greet citizens there.

She said she spoke on Sunday to two long-time members and they also cannot remember that any Member of Parliament in SVG, especially at the level of the Leader of the Opposition, was ever turned away from bringing greetings to persons at the picnic.

“Our organisation, of which I am very versed with the constitution, clearly stated that it’s non-political. What we have to remember is that even though we are the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Association, we actually fall under the Canadian law and basically when we register these organizations, we have a constitution that we abide by and objectives and I know for sure that the one for the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Association states clearly that we are non-political,” Gabriel told iWitness News.

“And because we are non-political, the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, no matter who is in power, have no control over what we do. What controls what we do is the policies of Canada. That is where we are registered,” she said.

Gabriel said she strongly supported Friday, who is also leader of the SVG’s New Democratic Party (NDP), being allowed to bring greetings at the picnic.

“I have been accused over and over and over for being [a supporter of the] ULP (Unity Labour Party) and things like that. I am not ULP, I am not NDP; I am for my people; I am for St. Vincent… And that is why it really affects me very much to know that one of our brothers — he is not only an opposition [leader], we are all brothers and sisters — and basically to know that he travelled all the way up here and was not even allowed to even bring greetings.”

Friday, who became opposition leader last November, travelled to Canada just to attend the picnic.

Canada-based Vincentian activist. Elma Gabriel. (Photo: Facebook)

Gabriel said:

“The reason it’s called Unity Picnic is because what it did is unite us, Vincentians, from Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. Once a year, we get together and meet and hang out and that is why it’s Unity Picnic. If this was really Unity Picnic, why wasn’t Dr. Friday allowed to speak? It’s about unity.”

Gabriel told iWitness News that she believes that Friday was not allowed to speak because of political reasons.

“There is a group here called the SVG Toronto group and I openly stated on Facebook that they are the only political group I know of in Toronto. It’s basically comprised of a lot of the people from the ULP. I am deeming them political.

“… People are going to be surprised because I have been accused of being a supporter of the ULP. I do not support any party. I support my people but what I do I stand for what I believe is right and what I believe is fair.”

“It is sad and I can tell you that they are giving Dr. Friday sympathy votes. There are a lot of people who sympathise with him coming this far and not being able to speak,” she said.

Friday, who has been a Member of Parliament since 2001, said he was disappointed that he was not allowed to bring greetings at the event, but said he interacted with a large number of persons.

Organisers of the picnic said they did not receive a formal request from Friday to address the gathering.

But Daniel Exeter, president of one of the Vincentian associations in Canada, said he submitted to the picnic committee on Friday’s behalf what he considers a formal request to have Friday speak at the meeting.

The organisers of the picnic have said that they have a policy of inviting a representative of the government in Kingstown to address the gathering.

Minister of Health, Luke Browne, a government senator, represented the Ralph Gonsalves government at the event.

16 replies on “Snubbing Friday at Canada picnic won him ‘sympathy votes’ — activist”

  1. CarnivalVincy says:

    If prior consent was not given, why should anyone be allowed to be given time on stage to address thousands at an event? I am sure the people in charge had a set (pre-set) program and list of speakers.

    1. Lennox A. Fraser says:

      It is so sad that we are still thinking in terms of “prior consent” and “why should anyone be allowed”. What year is this?
      First of all, Mr. Friday is not anyone….he is the leader of the parliamentary opposition in SVG and his party commands 7 of the 15 seats in the country’s unicameral legislature. Second, as I said before but it was “moderated out”…the 1000’s at an event are not subject to the control of a Committee. We are neither in Cuba nor the new Russian, nor China! We have been informed that at least one of the entertainers was not on the program. If Friday wanted to introduce himself to the thousands of Vincentians he should have been given a few minutes…if he overstepped his time and said divisive, partisan words he would have lost respect and no one would have blamed the Committee or the Consulate.
      Come on folks: let us try to engage in reasonable discussions.

      Anthony

      1. C. ben-David says:

        Anthony, do you deny that Friday was there for reasons other than to score political points?

      1. He was never invited to speak he came like all the others please what the hell he was going to say.

  2. It is a very disorganized picnic. I have seen them make space for ALL sorts of shenanigans – the snub was definitely political. That’s fine. Just another obvious reminder of how much the word “unity” means to a lot of Vincentians – not a damn thing.

    PS: It’s just a picnic (no matter how they promote it), not that deep. An ass could go up & bray it wouldn’t make a difference… half the crowd pays no attention.

  3. When the organizers decided not to let Friday speak and used “anti-politics” as the reason, they then turned this year’s picnic into a ULP political event whether the ULP themselves wanted it or not.

  4. I hate it when they bring this Vincy shit to Canada. We in Canada have to unite because as black people we see, experience, know and hear of racism. We can’t allow our children to grow up in such a society. We have to unite and fight discrimination on all fronts. That’s why what’s happening in SVG should not be introduced here. The folks who stopped the leader of the opposition of SVG from speaking should be removed from the picnic group and from any position in the 3 associations.
    One year SVGAT increased the price of tickets to the picnic and I refused to pay the $2 that was to support AIA. I don’t think the organization should get involved when many people were openly against how the entire AIA episode was being handled. We still don’t know how much is cost and is costing Vincentians to operate AIA. I have no problem with folks who want to support AIA verbally and financially, but don’t force your idea on others.
    Politics in SVG is 24/7 365 days a year. Families, friends, neighbours are all divided and will remain divided until they find a leader to unite the nation. The recent police issue shows what happens to people who ask for equal treatment and justice. Crime is rampant because people view the leader and the government as the biggest criminals on the island. Respect for the laws and for older folks is out the window and children use the mother&*^%%$ word in the open, even around the police station. I often heard the police using those words while visiting recently.
    We don’t need that environment here in Canada. We need to unite and welcome persons with relevant information to speak to us if and when they visit. Those folks who wan to divide us here in Canada and bring their Vincy vindictive, dictatorial and bigoted behaviour should be removed from the organizations that represent Vincentians living in Canada.
    .

  5. This entire episode has nothing to do with sympathy, especially since many people who speak-out don’t or can’t vote in SVG. It has more to do with respect and Friday has earned it. He carries no baggage before and since he has become the opposition leader. I can’t say the same for the present leader and prime minister of SVG. So let’s don’t go there!

  6. I was listening to Star FM a few minutes ago and heard the SVG PM’s comment on his opinion of the picnic. Yes; I agree with him that when he visited MANY YEARS AGO, the organizing committee’s focus were still in line with the original purpose of its formation which was about LOVE FOR OUR PEOPLE & UNITY. The PM has not visited the Vincentian Canadian Community for many years and therefore is still in a-reality of what was. For your information Sir, I believe in speaking the truth and even though I have high regards for your capability and leadership, by no means it limits my ability to let you know that you are so wrong this time in your assertion that it is not a political reason that Dr. Friday was not allowed a few minutes to speak at the picnic. Please Know that I do have INSIDE info as to the process in ensuring that Dr. Friday was kept off the stage. I have no doubt that if your were there IN THE SPIRITOF WHAT IT WAS WHEN YOU VISITED, you would have advocated for Dr. Friday to be given the opportunity to speak…….

  7. If Elma is referring to Ralph the guy knows nothing about Canada. He should pay a visit and he will have an audience. Folks want to hear his version of the rape charges. So Ralph, come on down!

    1. Let us rise above the petty slandering as everyone has demons in their closet if we wish to be true to ourselves, I am sure that Scheck Palmer is No exception. The SVG Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves deserve equal respect as Dr. Friday of which I am endeavour to give them as Leaders of our Lovely SVG. It is the option of Dr. Gonsalves to visit Canada on his terms, not mine or any one else. Please, the topic of this interview is the Vincy Picnic!

  8. Ok Elma! Do you think the policewoman was lying? Ralph should have taken her before a judge to prove he is innocent, but he didn’t. So where is the slandering? I have lots in my closet , but not as much as Ralph. What about you?

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