The Jamaican community in Ottawa goes back to at least the early 1940s. Jamaicans remained few and scattered until after 1955 when on the
basis of an arrangement between Canada on the one hand, and Jamaica and Barbados on the other, a large group of young women was admitted
to work in Canadian homes as domestic helpers. Resisted by bureaucrats but embraced by politicians, the Domestic Scheme, as it was called, had
the effect of inching open the previously tightly closed doors of Canada to Black people.
They have been active in the political and civic arenas, playing advisory and supporting roles in harmonizing police-community relations, and in the
amalgamation of the region's cities and their
The spirit of Jamaican organisational co-operation in Ottawa goes back to the formation of the West Indian Association of Ottawa (WIAO) in 1964,
just about a decade after the start of the domestic scheme.
The WIAO brought together West Indian students from disparate islands and cultures in the Caribbean who soon saw the need to expand into an
organization that embraced the off-campus Jamaican community, Jamaicans being by far the largest group in the city. Students from Jamaica have
always been an important part of the Jamaican Community in Ottawa, as in the other university centers across Canada. At that time, this
community was largely women who had come up on the domestic scheme who had neither organizational support nor access to labour union
It was felt that an organization could assist these women and the men that eventually joined them here with information and social integration into
the Canadian Society. Additionally, this group provided the continuance of the Jamaican culture that they were accustomed to while integrating
themselves into the Canadian culture. In 1968 The WIAO formed itself into the Jamaica Canadian Association Ottawa Chapter (JCAO) at a
meeting at the National Library in Ottawa. The founding members of this new group were: Eric Samuels, Paul Dobson, Carl Nicholson, Edith
Campbell (Allen), Barry Myers (then president of WIAO) Inelin Miles-Dobson, Claude Robinson, and Ewart Walters. The group also consisted of
others and was supported by several of the women on the scheme.
In September of 1969, Mr. Clyde Shaw organized the first domino tournament which was held in Ottawa. It was such a resounding success that an
idea began to take shape in the head of Mr. Gil Scott. Discussions were had and a joint collaboration was formed.
In February 1970 a meeting was called, draft constitution provided and elections were held. The newly formed group was led by Gilbert Scott
Herbert "Brutus" Chambers, Michael Murphy, and Owen (Bill) Stewart among others.
This group was named The Jamaican Ottawa Community Association. After some time, and much conversation, the two groups merged into one
and called itself The Jamaican (Ottawa) Community Association J(O)CA. The organization soon needed assistance to become sustainable once
again; at this time Mr. Shaw requested the assistance of Mr. Chris Harris to revive the association. The organization was then registered as a
charity under the leadership of Mr. Clyde Shaw, Chris Harris, Florence Cranstan, Robert Kirlew and Hustan Lawrence.
Although the name changed over the course of time, the ideas and principles remain the same as were set out from the days of the WIAO and the
J(O)CA has been instrumental in creating and sustaining an organizational structure that not only benefits the Jamaicans in Ottawa, but the wider
community including other groups as well. It has remained
true to serving the needs of its community in a myriad ways and is well known and respected in the halls of civic and provincial power in Ottawa.
Even though this document does not name all the names, we are truly grateful for the assistance that was given in the creation of the association
and this document.
For further information on the association, please visit our website at: www.jamaicanottawaassn.org
The Jamaican (Ottawa) Community Association Inc.
|The Jamaican (Ottawa) Community Association...50 Years in the Making
Over the course of the past half century, members of the Jamaican community have contributed in endless ways to creating the cosmopolitan,
peaceful and progressive city that Ottawa has become.
They have entered the work-force at all levels, from a to z with:
architects, airline clerks, bankers, builders, bus boys, chefs, dentists, drivers, engineers, financial consultants, garbage collectors, horticulturists,
investigators, janitors, kinesiologists, lawyers, mechanics, nurses, opticians, orderlies, pastors, police, public servants, restaurateurs, social
workers, scientists, store-keepers, soldiers, sportspersons, technologists, university professors, urologists, undertakers, veterans, watchmen,
social welfare workers, x-ray technicians, youth counsellors,
Through their associations, drama, theatrical, sporting and singing groups, they have created and sustained organizations that have created
easy doors of entry for newcomers into Ottawa and thus minimizing