Prime Minister Justin Trudeau helped kick off a large parade of costumed youngsters on Saturday as part of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival.
Trudeau greeted the crowds at the opening ceremony of the Kiddies for Mas: Junior Carnival parade. About 2,000 young people, aged two to 16, took part in the event, which began at the Malvern Community Centre.
The parade included 12 Mas bands. Toronto Mayor John Tory and Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson were there. The children, wearing vibrant costumes, paraded through Scarborough streets.
There was an array of bright colours, big feathers, shiny beads and lots of sequins. Some of the costumes, depicting scenes of the Caribbean diaspora, were majestic in scope.
Trudeau told the crowd that the event is a celebration of Canada's Caribbean community and he said the young people dressed in costume on Saturday stepped up to the occasion.
"Thank you to the young people who are out celebrating, demonstrating how happy we are all to be gathering in person once again," Trudeau said.
"Today is about them, getting out, celebrating this extraordinary community."
Trudeau noted that it's the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Toronto that the parade has been held.
"It has been a tough time these past two years," Trudeau said.
"We have seen a rise in anti-Black racism and in intolerance that is associated with so many of the challenges people face, and on a day like this, we get to remind ourselves what it is to be Canadian."
Laverne Garcia, executive chair of the festival management committee, said the day was a celebration of Caribbean history and culture. The committee produces the Toronto Caribbean Carnival and Kiddies for Mas.
"What we're doing is we're celebrating the next generation of masqueraders that are going to be leading the carnival into the future," she said.
"The roots are in emancipation. It's about freedom and diversity. Especially for the children, it's an opportunity to celebrate who they are and where they came from. Also, it also shows them a way to integrate and learn about their history and culture."
Earlier, she said the committee was "so excited" to be able to organize the parade this year.
Mayor says parade is all about the children
Tory, for this part, said the event is all about the children and it is a way to help them build confidence.
"This is about making sure everybody is included, feels included, and that we are included as well in this great celebration," Tory said. "Congratulations to the kids. They look fantastic. They're excited. It's all about them. Let's get on with that parade. Let's jump up and have a great kids' carnival."
Thompson, who represents Scarborough Centre, said more opportunities are needed for the children masquerading on Saturday.
"We must ensure that we prepare a bright future for our next generation," he said on Twitter.
After the speeches, the masqueraders made their way west on McLevin Avenue and north on Neilson Road to Neilson Park. This year, the 12 junior bands will compete for the junior "Band of the Year" title.
The parade is a lead up to the Toronto Caribbean Carnival's Grand Parade on July 30.
On its website, the Toronto Caribbean Carnival says: "This Caribbean tradition of parading through the street was founded in celebration of freedom and emancipation from slavery and is appropriately celebrated on what has been recognized by the Canadian government as Emancipation Day weekend."