Monday, April 22, 2024

TONY BEST: Canada’s Bajan connection

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IT WILL BE a moment of immense Bajan pride in Ottawa soon.

During a part of the ceremonial opening of Canada’s parliament in Ottawa, a son and a daughter of the Barbadian soil will be sitting in the country’s two major law-making bodies.

One will be a freshman in the House of Commons and the other, a veteran lawmaker, in the Senate.

A new parliamentarian is Frank Baylis, the son of Gloria Baylis, the former Gloria Clarke, a retired Bajan registered nurse and a successful businesswoman.

His mother grew up in Bridgetown and emigrated to Canada in the 1950s.

Baylis, who was born and raised in Canada, captured the Pierrefonds-Dollard riding in Montreal in last Monday’s general election, which saw the Liberal Party under Justin Trudeau, the son of the late Pierre Elliot Trudeau, a former Canadian prime minister, return to office with an overwhelming majority.

“It’s truly an honour to be able to gain the support of so many people in Montreal who voted to send me to the House of Commons,” said Baylis. “I look forward to serving in the Commons under Justin Trudeau and doing the things the voters expect of me.”

Sitting among the lawmakers at the official opening will be Baylis’ cousin, Senator Anne Cools, a Bajan who is now the longest serving member of Canada’s upper chamber. She was first appointed to the Senate in the 1980s by Pierre Elliot Trudeau.

“It’s going to be a pleasure to welcome him and sit with him so we can talk about the practices of parliament,” said Cools, the first black woman appointed to the Senate.

“Imagine two members of the same Barbadian family serving in Canada’s parliament. Barbados is a small country and yet it will have two if its offspring in the Commons and the Senate. That’s quite an achievement.”

Baylis, who heads Baylis Medical Company, a leading developer and manufacturer of high-tech medical products in cardiology, pain management and radiology is the nephew of Bobby Clarke, prominent attorney and political activist in Barbados, and June Clarke, a former Barbados high commissioner in Canada.

He is also a cousin of Dame Biller Miller, a former Barbados deputy prime minister, and Peter Miller, a government backbencher in the House of Assembly in the 1980s. Two great- uncles, the late Freddie Miller and Tommy Miller, also served in the House of Assembly.

“Mr Baylis comes out of a family tradition of public service and therefore we are not surprised to see him run successfully for a seat in the Commons,” said Dame Billie.

Richard “Dick” Baylis, father of the new Liberal parliamentarian, described his son as “an entrepreneur” and a person interested “in public service.”

That bit of family history explains why he is hoping for a family reunion of the Clarke and Miller clan.

“It’s something I am thinking about,” the father of three said.

“I was in Barbados last year for the Clarke family reunion. It was a wonderful occasion. I learned quite a lot about the value of education and hard work about the importance of discipline and respect for others from that Barbadian upbringing.”

Evelyn Greaves, a former Barbados

 high commissioner in Ottawa, said while the new parliamentarian’s first obligation would be to Canada and to the voters in Montreal, he said “one would hope he would able to help champion the cause of Barbados which would arise from time to time.”

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