A Toronto based TV/film and digital media company MBI Productions headed by two former Montrealers is tasked with capturing and packaging the extraordinary story of the Caribbean Pioneer Women of Canada into a full length documentary, told through the life of the organization’s founder Ms. Thelma Johnson.
Ms. Johnson is one of an estimated 3000 women from the Caribbean who came to Canada between 1955 and 1967 as part of the West Indian Domestic Scheme.
Like so many of those women Ms. Johnson went on to forge an remarkable life here as an entrepreneur and a community builder, who continues to impact on the lives of others.
Transferring her story and that of the CPWC to the screen has been placed in the hands of the highly capable team at MBI was founded by Patricia Scarlett, an industry heavyweight whose documentary Rasta: A Soul Journey is among a laundry list of her work that have earned international acclaim.
She grew up in Montreal adulating the work of Ms. Johnson.
Also at MBI is Diane De La Haye who lived in Montreal between 2008 and 2012 before moving to Toronto and was recently made a partner at the production company.
She holds an Executive MBA in Finance from the University of the West Indies and recently earned a diploma in Writing for Film and TV at Vancouver Film School also brings to the project more than 25 years of operational management experience.
Ms. Thelma Johnson’s reputation as a tour-de-force in our community and across Montreal was built on her proclivity for service.
Those who know her, know of her tireless dedication to helping others from deserving students, to the elderly and the infirm as well as any individual or organization in the community looking for support.
Much of her work and contributions were made under aegis of the Caribbean Pioneer Women of Canada, the organization she founded in 1985.
As leader Ms. Johnson, molded the CPWC in her likeness promoting sisterhood and support for each other and giving to those in need.
Students and institutions in our community and in Jamaica benefitted from the more than the $100,000 they have handed out in bursaries, scholarships and donations over the years.
As well, seniors and those in failing health have been able to count on Ms. Johnson and her team for visits, supports and whatever form of assistance needed.
Thelma’s sister Faye Johnson, who has been an observer and chronicler of the efforts of her sibling and the organization from Day One, says all that they have achieved and contributed over the decades is a result of the members care for each other and their determination to build our community.
“I always know that they were destined to do great things. So it’s surprising how important they have become in our community.”
That’s why Faye, who has archived reams of articles, photographs and other documents tracing her sister and the Pioneer Women’s work and impact on our community as well as on Canada, over the years is one of the driving forces behind the making of this full-length documentary.
Scarlett who describes Ms. Johnson, as one of her early “sheroes” for her entrepreneurship and community commitment.is also looking forward to capturing the many stories that revolve around the lives of these extraordinary women.
Scarlett says the Ms. Johnson and other members of the Pioneer Women are a significant part of Montreal and Canada’s history.
Production of the film will start in September. It will document Thelma Johnson’s journey from August Town, Jamaica to Montreal and tell the story of the lived experiences of the women who were members of the Caribbean Pioneer Women of Canada and their impact on Montreal’s Black community. It will be a combination of original, archival footage and stills. It’s due to be released in the fall of 2021.