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We are not only Black in February

Canadian Caribbean Association of Halton’s President Andrew Tyrrell shares how the CCAH, a Registered Charity, uplifts our entire community all year.

February is Black History Month, and our local Canadian Caribbean Association of Halton’s theme for 2023 is "Connecting Communities," which the CCAH does every single month of the year. 

On February 6th, we held our annual Black History Month 2023 Kick-off Celebration at the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts. We're so grateful for the tremendous turnout of over 400 attendees. The CCAH would like to thank everyone who came to watch the incredible performances by Miriam Lee and the Oakville Choral Society, along with the Mozart Players.

Local black artisans displayed their works for guests while they mingled and enjoyed Caribbean cuisine & steelpan music. The night also featured a performance by the highly talented and famous Arlene Duncan, who was born and raised here in Oakville and had strong ties to the CCAH. 

Forty-five years ago, in 1977, Arlene Duncan’s mother, Icilda Bailey, founded the Canadian Caribbean Association of Halton. The idea was to provide Black Oakville residents and newcomers from the Caribbean with a sense of belonging by organizing meetings where they could get together with people who looked like them. Today, Icilda’s daughter Arlene continues to contribute to our community. 

My mother, Veronica Tyrrell, took on the role of CCAH leader for over 30 years. I (Andrew Tyrrell) became CCAH President in 2019 and continue to build on its established foundation.  

In the summer of 2020, discussions began around building a community-led report to figure out what can be done to better provide Black, Indigenous and People of Colour community members with a greater sense of inclusion and belonging. 

Together, the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, the Canadian Caribbean Association of Halton, Mending the Chasm and the Oakville Community Foundation partnered with Sheridan College to complete the research. The results were published recently: Belonging Report - Canadian Caribbean Association of Halton (

Survey respondents highlights: 

  • The traditional school system needs to be overhauled to reflect Canada’s true history and include more diverse voices.
  • Most respondents felt a great need for better responses to mental health and better relationships between the police and the community.
  • Respondents called out golf courses, libraries, social service agencies, driving centres, hospital emergency rooms and school registration offices as being places that were NOT inclusive.  
  • They called for renaming public spaces to recognize racialized figures.
Community, Culture, Education, and Harmony

For me, here’s what success looks like: 

  • Police have acknowledged that racism exists and instituted structured and extensive practices to address it.
  • Both publicly funded school Boards have brought on or are bringing on Black Student Success Coaches.
  • Roots Community Service in both Peel and Halton with CCAH have a Student and Family Advocate program. A Black social worker and a Black Child and Youth worker help students and their families navigate the school system for better outcomes. 
  • Public spaces are beginning to recognize racialized figures. On the initiative of Oakville Town Council led by Mayor Burton in August this year, Buttonbush Trail Park in Oakville was renamed Veronica Tyrrell Park, and the Mayor proclaimed August 27 as Veronica Tyrrell Day in Oakville.

Here's what a lot of people outside of CCAH don’t know. While there’s no question that CCAH is a Black-led organization, it works to uplift the whole community. Everyone. 100%.

And by doing so, 43% of racialized and Indigenous people will do better, and in turn, the 3% of that group who are Black will also do better (2021 Census). 

At CCAH, we help people who are struggling and give EVERYONE a sense of belonging. 

Here’s what CCAH did in 2022 on a grassroots level to put ACTION behind those four pillars – all provided at ZERO COST to participants: 

  • CCAH Reading Corner, where Black authors read their books to children. 
  • Our 16th consecutive year presenting the CCAH Summer youth leadership program with the Halton Regional Police Service, Oakville Hospital frontline workers, and the Department of National Defence to give students leadership skills and career information. Students get volunteer hours for participating.
  • 4-part Financial Literacy series where students from 18 high schools learned basic financial skills that will last them a lifetime
  • Black History Bike and Walking Tours chaperoned by Halton Regional Police Service for safety. 
Enjoying Emancipation Day in Oakville | Courtesy of CCAH
Enjoying Emancipation Day in Oakville | Courtesy of CCAH
  • Celebration of our National Day, Emancipation Day, on August 1, with over 300 hundred people in attendance in Milton and Oakville to enjoy live entertainment and Chefs’ cultural creations
  • Over 20 musical performances at long-term care, retirement residences and public venues throughout the region with a combined audience of over 2,000 
  • Distributed over 400 Chef prepared meals to frontline long-term care workers.  
  • CCAH’s Black Indigenous and people of colour day camp: 40 kids each day for eight weeks, where all the camp counsellors and volunteers were Black, Indigenous or People of Colour. Each week the kids went swimming, learned to play steelpan, made crafts, had Afro-centric dance classes, and learned how to grow and cook vegetables. Every week they went on a bus field trip to a conservation area or provincial park, and there were workshops with Indigenous elders and Black historians. Every Thursday, we had bins of free groceries for parents to take home courtesy of Food For Life. What was the cost to the parents? We are proud that all of this was also 100% free

Additionally, CCAH programs are now embedded in both school Boards' programming and presented to thousands of high school students in the Public and Catholic Boards and are used as a bridge between communities and cultures. The CCAH also tutors 120 Halton Public Board students in Grades 1-12 in math, French, Physics, English, reading, and science. This is also provided at no cost to the families.  

The CCAH takes pride in giving back to community partners like the Oakville Hospital Foundation. Our partnership began when Veronica Tyrrell launched a campaign and successfully raised $25,000 for the Maternity Child Unit in the Oakville Hospital.

We have currently raised over $14,000 towards a $25,000 donation campaign for the Diabetes Compassionate Care program to help those who need assistance to afford diabetes diagnostic and monitoring equipment. 

As the CCAH President, I’ll always fulfill three commitments to you: 

  1. CCAH will continue to grow and build up ongoing programs to celebrate that we aren't just Black in February.
  2. CCAH will have programming all year long to support the entire community, the lives of our seniors and those who care for them, and support elementary, high schools and Sheridan. Most importantly, to help those in the community who struggle.
  3. We will be a natural part of the lives of ALL Halton Residents so that each and every one of us in the community is given a chance to reflect, reconcile and be part of the solution as we look toward a brighter future.

We are grateful to have federal, provincial, regional and municipal government financial support, together with the community's financial support through the Oakville Community Foundation and the Community Foundation of Halton North.

CCAH is a grassroots registered charity that would be nowhere without the generous support from individual donors. Even $5 goes toward making a difference in people’s lives through CCAH’s supportive programming, which is largely funded by contributions from people like you.  

This month alone, CCAH is hosting and collaborating on over 60 events for Black History Month, touching the lives of over 100,000 Halton residents. You can find them listed online at BHM2023 - Canadian Caribbean Association of Halton (, where you can also sign up for your free CCAH membership. 

Connecting communities is what it’s all about.

CCAH sharing music with seniors | Courtesy of CCAH
CCAH sharing music with seniors | Courtesy of CCAH