The four-week event highlights Caribbean island culture, with plenty of food, songs and hip-shaking. But none of it more abundant than at the Grande Parade.
Caneisha Edwards is wearing a ‘big costume’ for the 14th year and says participating in the parade gets better every time.
“This is the portrayal of the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland,” said Edwards. “It took about two weeks to make.”
Edwards is one of many people of Caribbean descent who have dressed up for the walk/march/dance down Lake Shore Boulevard during the parade, which lasted from noon until 6 p.m.
According to the City of Toronto, more than a million tourists from across North America also visit the city to take part in the island-themed celebrations.
People are here from all over North America,” said Mayor John Tory while welcoming the crowd ahead of the parade. “I welcome here those who are visitors to Toronto. Please spend lots of money, we need the help.”
The chair of Toronto’s Economic Development Committee, Councillor Michael Thompson, says the event brings in about $400 million to the city.
“It brings a lot of tourism to Toronto,” said Thompson. “We have a lot of Americans that are here, they’ll tell their friends and they’ll come back again.”
Thompson adds the city will be gifting another million to the Caribbean Carnival because of the event’s economic impact.
“That’s great because there’s not enough to keep doing what we do here so we have to cut corners,” said Caribbean Carnival’s chief administrative officer Chris Alexander. “So if we can get more funding from different levels of government… that’s a great thing that’s going to happen.”
Meanwhile, Ontario premier Doug Ford was also in attendance.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re from the Caribbean or not from the Caribbean,” said Ford. “No matter what your background, come down and enjoy it. It’s for the whole city, the world is here to celebrate with Toronto.”
Security was also front of mind for many at the parade after a surge in gun violence in the city this year.
“The resources are here,” said Toronto police chief Mark Saunders.
Saunders wouldn’t elaborate on the number of resources or types of strategy in play during the event, but said they have not deviated from their plan in previous years, despite an increase in gun violence.
“Based on our threat assessments, especially when we have events that are celebratory, we try not to make it a police event, we make it fun event,” said Saunders.