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Diaspora outreach yet to zoom in on Winnipeg police chief

Published:Friday | May 8, 2015 | 12:00 AMDaraine Luton

Despite being a Jamaican and the first black man to be appointed a police chief in Canada, the Government's efforts at diaspora engagement are yet to include a direct outreach to Devon Clunis, head of the Winnipeg Police Service.

A son of Harmony Vale in St Ann, Clunis is making only his third visit to the island since migrating in 1975 at the age of 11 years old. His first time back was 1989, and then last year the Canadian High Commission brought him back to the island.

Asked if there were efforts made by the Jamaican authorities to reach out to him and others to return and contribute to their country, Clunis said "not directly".

The Jamaica-born chief of police in Winnipeg, along with a delegation from the North American country, is in the island on a humanitarian mission offering assistance to Missionaries of the Poor and the Jessie Ripoll Primary School in Kingston.


joint effort


"This initiative is something that we organise with the Canadian High Commission. There is a huge passion for the country. There are many Jamaicans in my city. There is a passion to come back and help the country," Clunis said.

Arnaldo Brown, the minister of state in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, has said that Jamaica values its diaspora and has been moving to include them in its affairs.

Last year, Jamaica launched a diaspora mapping project, the objective of which is to determine the location, interest and skills of members of the diaspora while building the Jamaican Government's capacity to more effectively and strategically engage its diaspora.

Brown said the project would allow the Government to be in a better position to engage Jamaicans in the diaspora and to utilise their skills in areas that are critical to the development of the country.

However, it appears that many Jamaicans of standing are still falling under on the radar of the Jamaican authorities.

Inspector Sonia Thomas from the Toronto Police was born in Canada, but both of her parents are from Montego Bay, St James.

Thomas has made frequent trips to the island and says what she admires most about Jamaicans is "the strength and tenacity of the Jamaican people".

"The strength of my mother is what brings me back to Jamaica every year," Thomas said.

Clunis said that when he applied to be a Winnipeg cop in 1987, his main aim was to crack the stereotype that police cruisers' back seats are reserved for blacks. Two years later, he visited Jamaica to visit his grandparents, but has always had it in his intentions to "come back to my homeland, but I would like to have something to contribute".

However, his career overtook him.

"In 2012, I was appointed chief of police and really didn't understand the significance of that appointment, of being the first black chief of police in the history of police. Last year in February, the high commission invited me to come and speak and took me back to my home community of Harmony Vale. The entire community came out.

"I just saw in those little boys' faces, I could see myself at their age. It was like coming full circle and seeing the dream that I had of being able to come back to my home country and being able to contribute something. That opportunity is there now. It really just rekindled that fire that I had and I came back to Canada with that burning desire that I wanted to come back and do something," said Clunis, who attended Bensenton All-Age School, rode donkeys in his community, and walked to school as a lad.