VIDEO: Senior Canadian cops proud of Jamaican heritage

VIDEO: Senior Canadian cops proud of Jamaican heritage

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Print this page Email A Friend!

IT'S not difficult to conclude that Devon Clunis, Sonia Thomas, Andrew Crawford and Keith Merith are proud of their Jamaican roots.

After all, the four senior officers in the Canadian Police Service wear their heritage like a badge of honour, and will quickly tell you that the values instilled in them by their parents are responsible for the successes they have achieved in their lives so far.

"My Jamaican roots impacted my life significantly, it's been foundational," Clunis, Winnipeg's first black police chief, told this week's Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange.

"As I said, very early on as a young boy I can remember very firmly knowing where I'm coming from [and] the opportunity that was provided in Canada that I had to do something with it; and so it's been the driving force," he added.

Clunis and his colleagues are in the island with 36 other Canadian cops providing humanitarian assistance to Jessie Ripoll Primary School and Missionaries of the Poor's Mt Tabor Apostolate.

He said that he was motivated to come to Jamaica and help, having grown up in Harmony Vale without electricity and running water, then emigrating to Canada where he was able to succeed due to his own drive and the commitment of other people who helped him.

"I was saying recently to my wife, 'why can't I just relax?'... my mind's already on next year and what are we going to do and how can we do it," Clunis said of his humanitarian aid mission, which he described as "a dream being fulfilled" because, from his early adult years he had wanted to come back to Jamaica to contribute.

Thomas, who was born in Canada to Jamaican parents, is an inspector in the Toronto Police Service and is the highest-ranked woman cop in Canada.

"I joined the police service in 1986, and I was the second black female officer in the service at that time," she said.

"What I learnt from my mother, with her strength, really carried me through my years in the police service and really allowed me to navigate through the system and be able to move up through the ranks to the rank that I'm at now," Thomas added.

Merith, an inspector with York Regional Police Service, said that although he was born in England his Jamaican heritage was so strong that he defended it at every opportunity he got.

That, he said, was difficult at the time he got to Canada because the country was primarily white populated, mostly by English, Irish, Scottish, Italians and a small Jewish contingent.

"But there were not a lot of people who looked like me, but I never, ever, ever, felt uncomfortable with my skin, and that's because of my roots," he said.

"I mean, Jamaica for me -- ackee, saltfish, yam, breadfruit, that was my life; reggae music, I can tell you everything from blue beat right up to ska, that was always me, so that root was so powerful and it actually brought me to this table here today," Merith said.

Crawford, the deputy chief of York Regional Police Service, said his experience was similar to Merith's.

"When I moved to Canada in 1972 I could have easily, easily have strayed and been on the other side of the fence and not be where I'm sitting today because of the different culture and the way the culture treated people from different places at that time," he said.

"But it didn't happen that way because of that family of Jamaicans who were there to prop me up every time and take care of me when my parents weren't there; when they were working very hard to make ends meet others were there to make sure that I was okay.

"It was that mentality that we continued to carry with us that makes us strong. And I have to say I am so proud that we have the first black chief in Canada with Jamaican roots," Crawford added.

Declaring his pride at being Jamaican, Deputy Chief Crawford said: "This little country has done so much, and I look at the community of this country because that's where I learned who I was going to be because of this village mentality wherein it takes a village to raise a child and that's how I was raised."

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at




1. We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper � email addresses will not be published.

2. Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.

3. We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.

4. Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.

5. Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed:

6. If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email:

7. Lastly, read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy

comments powered by Disqus



Today's Cartoon

Click image to view full size editorial cartoon