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'Bob Marley Day' in Toronto marks reggae icon's birthday

TORONTO – Rapper and hip-hop artist Drake was among eight Torontonians who received humanitarian awards Wednesday, as the city celebrated Bob Marley Day.

Live reggae music played in council chambers at city hall as the ceremony got underway. The 26-year-old Toronto rapper did not attend the event.

One of the event organizers said the theme of this year’s event was “unity through diversity.”

“Our community in this city is diverse,” said Kara Lambie. “Marley was an international icon, so even though he came from the island culture, he really represents the world, just like we do.”

The city said the award winners promoted humanitarianism in various ethnic and social groups in Toronto.

Rowan Barrett, the executive vice-president of Canada Basketball, won the Bob Marley award for encouraging diversity in sports.

“Our organization has been working tirelessly to open the doors for all Canadians,” said Barrett. “We now have athletes from India, from Eastern Europe and from South America over a range of age groups.”

Barrett, the captain of the Canadian men’s Olympic basketball team in 2000, was in Jamaica when Marley died from cancer in 1981.

“It was total despair,” said Barrett. “But decades later, his message of peace, equality and love stays with us today.”

Retired judge Pamela Appelt, the first female judge of colour to be appointed to the Court of Canadian Citizenship, also won an award.

“Through this city I see the face of Canada,” said Appelt. “If Bob Marley were around today I know he would applaud us for our diversity.”

Other award winners were Scott Crowley, Ben Hum, Manuel Rodriguez, Marlon Reid and Pradeep Sood.

In the future, Lambie said the city will try to engage more young people by turning the day-long celebration into a three-day festival with concerts, plays and other entertainment.

“There’s really no person on this Earth, except for maybe Mother Teresa, who better embodies the spirit of giving from the heart,” said Lambie.

“The only way to teach them (youth) about the legacy of Bob Marley is to find ways to reach them.”