About Founder

GEMMA RAEBURN-BAYNES PRESIDENT – As cited by the YWCA Woman of Distinction Selection Committee, Gemma Raeburn-Baynes, a 1997 recipient of the YWCA Woman of Distinction Award is a woman who, by her daily actions, strength of character and professional path, enriches the community and contributes to the advancement of all women. This exceptional woman is a role model for young people, inspiring others to excel. Gemma, who is also the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, and many other Awards, is a graduate of McGill University. She is a native of Grenada and migrated to Canada in 1964. Gemma is the founder and President of Playmas Montreal Cultural Association and has launched Gem*s Tea, a fundraising scholarship program for youth, and a means of bringing comfort to the community. She is also a founding member of the Spice Island Cultural Day Association of Quebec and holds the position of Vice-President and Coordinator of the Spice Island Cultural Festival. A retired Senior Auditor at BMO Bank of Montreal where she has worked for over 35 years, Gemma has been active in business, community development and charitable initiatives.

Gemma Raeburn-Baynes
Founder, GemStar Scholarship Fund

Gemma Raeburn-Baynes steps down as
Vice-President and Coordinator of Spice
Island Cultural Festival, Launches
GemStar Scholarship Fund

After five years of steering the Spice Island Cultural Festival, and many other
Caribbean community activities for nearly 60 years, Gemma Raeburn-Baynes has
decided to take a step back, focusing on a new fund to help Black youth in Quebec
reach their full potential, an advocacy she started at 9 years old in her native

“When I reached the golden age of 70, I decided to start my ‘70’s Project’ and give
back to Black youth in my community and in my native Grenada where I was
born,” said Raeburn-Baynes, the founder and former organizer of the Taste of the
Caribbean festivals and in recent years, vice-president and organizer of the Spice
Island Cultural Festival events, sponsored by the Grenada Tourism Authority. “I
created the GemStar Scholarship Fund for this sole purpose of helping students
learn, develop and succeed.”

In association with BMO Bank of Montreal Black Entrepreneur Program, and
under the auspices of the Playmas Montreal Cultural Association, GemStar
Scholarship Fund, will award three scholarships of $1,500 each to three Black
Grade 11 High School Students in the province of Quebec for their future studies
at CEGEP or University. Successful applicants will be notified at the end of
September at a reception and will be expected to be mentored by role models in

the Black community, as well as participate in Playmas’ Intergenerational
Dialogue program with community seniors.

Applications are now being accepted at playmasmontreal@gmail.com.
“This is not the first time BMO has been involved with educating visible minority
youth. Gemma’s successful national Internship Youth Program in early 2000 at
BMO called “Possibilities” gave $1,000 scholarships to over 100 minority youth
across Canada, which gave them an opportunity to see how their area of study
might be applied to a career in banking. Gemma has worked with BMO for over
35 years as an exemplary employee and BMO is proud and excited to partner with
her in her Legacy Program”, said BMO National Director Industry Programs, Fatiha

Gemma is also involved with the Grenada Culinary Network (GCN) as Vice-
President and Playmas Montreal is poised to also award a scholarship to a
culinary student in Grenada who would be accepted to participate in the GCN
Culinary Exchange Program in Canada, starting in the spring of 2023.

Disenfranchised students who have shown community spirit, who exemplify
excellence in education and who can be future ambassadors for our community.

Principals and Guidance Counsellors from High Schools on the island of
Montreal can nominate Grade 11 Black High School students for the 2022-23
scholarships. Nominations will begin immediately and end by September 22.
After the selection process, Scholarship recipients will be announced at the end
of September.