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History of the Multicultural Council of Windsor and Essex County

Most ethnic communities in Windsor and Essex County had already built their own churches and set up ethnic clubs and/or organizations prior to the Second World War to meet their religious, social and cultural needs. At that time, IODE and the YMCA were the only organizations that worked with these cultural groups in the area of citizenship.

Following the war, other civic organizations came forward to meet the needs of immigrants in the area of reception, integration and adult education. Organizations such as the Catholic immigration Centre on Cadillac Street, the Lutheran Immigration Centre on Parent Avenue, the Inter Church Council and the Citizenship Council of Greater Windsor assisted. Early Pioneer associations, such as the Essex County New Citizens Association, established in 1949, The Windsor Ethnic Council, established in 1954 (due mainly to the efforts of Ivor Chandler), the Canadian All Nations Cultural Association (referred to as CANCA) in the late 1960s, established from the Windsor Ethnic Council (under Nick Penzare), and the Essex County All Nations Association, were all forerunners of the MCC and concerned themselves mainly with folkloric activities.

In October of 1971, multiculturalism was instituted as a federal policy by the Government of Canada. In Windsor, the response was immediate. Members from over 30 local ethnocultural groups began meeting weekly at St. Clair College to discuss and exchange ideas on forming a local multicultural council. With a grant from the Ministry of Community and Social Services, Citizenship Branch, under the leadership of Milan Sam Meleg, a workshop was sponsored at St. Clair College with leaders of approximately 100 ethnocultural clubs and service agencies in Windsor, including the YMCA, St. Clair College, University of Windsor, Metropolitan Hospital and CANCA. Here it was agreed that Windsor wanted to form a multicultural council and with nominations from the floor, formed a steering committee which eventually gave birth to our present-day organization. On April 8, 1973, the Multicultural Council of Windsor and Essex County was formally established and the steering committee with the newly elected directors formed the first Board. The late Dr. Rudolph Helling was elected as the first President of the MCC.

The Board held regular meetings to deal with the various concerns of the ethnocultural communities. Assistance was primarily directed towards newcomers who needed guidance and counseling through the period of adjustment and volunteers provided translation and interpretation services.

In order to coordinate their activities and services and to meet the needs of its various ethnocultural member groups, the Multicultural Council officially opened its first office in 1975 at 737 Ouellette Avenue. In January 1978, the Council moved to 1100 University Avenue West; in 1983 to 127 Tecumseh Road West; in 1992 to 370 Victoria Avenue and in the spring of 2000 to our present location, in our own premises, at 245 Janette Avenue.

In June of 1974, the Arts Committee, with the help of a $3500 grant from the Ministry of Culture and Recreation, presented Windsor´s first multicultural festival at St. Clair College´s Patterson Campus with a concert at the Cleary as the weekend´s finale. In 1975, with the cooperation of the International Freedom Festival, the first downtown bazaar was held at the Cleary Auditorium with ethnic food booths and displays of cultural artifacts in the Skyline Room. In 1976 the government announced a cultural grants program and the MCC Board submitted a proposal. Carrousel, as it was later called, began to take shape. Formal planning began in February 1976 with the date set for the June 18th weekend and the concept of separate villages was confirmed.

For many years, folk arts continued to remain the most visible force in the Multicultural Council. The Ontario Folk Arts Council was a major source of funding in the early years. It matched contributions dollar for dollar, to the Multicultural Council and made participation possible in such events as the Expo Cultural Exchange, Canada Day Celebrations, Freedom Festival concerts, displays, performances, food booths, participation in the ´76 Olympics in Montreal and performances in Nova Scotia, Kingston and Toronto, just to name a few. The 1970s were really the heyday of folkloric activity.

During these early years, government grants provided relative financial security and the MCC was not forced to diversify. However 20 years later, the tide had turned. Due to government restraints and cutbacks, we no longer have core funding from the government and must rely on program funding and fundraising projects to sustain the organization. As a matter of fact, in the early 1990s the MCC seriously considered closing its doors due to a shortage of funds. As a result, the focus of the Multicultural Council has changed over the years. We have gone from being basically a cultural organization to one which provides many services to our community and in 1998, we were very proud to be accepted as a new member agency of the United Way. In 1999, we were the recipients of the Government of Ontario Award for Outstanding Achievement in Human Rights (only organization in Ontario); in 2000 we were the recipients of the City of Windsor Mayor´s Award of Excellence in the Arts for Outstanding Arts Organization; in 2001 received United Nations Accreditation; in 2001 received the United Way Faces of Generosity Award; and in 2002 MCC was the recipient of the proceeds from the community event to honour the Rt. Hon. Herb Gray. In 2000, the MCC also added a new dimension to Carrousel in offering Expo at the riverfront in conjunction with the Organization of American States Conference. In an effort to broaden their horizons, the MCC has partnered with many community groups and organizations over the years:

  • In May of 1999, we worked with the Windsor Symphony, under the direction of Susan Haig, to present Carrousel of Dance at the Cleary Auditorium.
  • Worked with the Actifest 98 Committee in presenting a Multicultural Evening to delegates and guests of the Ontario Senior Games.

  • Worked with the Windsor Board of Education during Heritage Week, presenting displays, programs, performances and workshops to children from both city and county schools; and concerts with Ernie Gerenda and the Windsor Community Concert Band.
  • Worked with St. Clair College on their Heritage Days presentations at the College.
  • Helped organize a Multicultural Evening for the Police Chiefs Association during their Convention in Windsor.
  • Conducted dance workshops under the auspices of the Ontario Folk Arts Council.