Commentary by: Rodel J Ramos in Mississauga
It seems our Filipino leaders have no vision and no ambition except to lead their small ethnic tribes and followers to socials, beauty contest, religious, sports and yearly traditions that lead to nowhere and no future for our people. While some are involved in politics, we do not seem to know how to play the game and benefit from it. Some of us are already proud to know well known politicians and kiss their ass.
We can’t blame anyone else but ourselves. When you do nothing and just watch your people being abused by the system and politicians, you are to blame. Most of us do not go out and vote and therefore are irrelevant to the system. Yet it is our taxes that make the government work and it is our efforts that make Canada grow. We need good leaders but we are good at doubting, maligning and shooting our leaders who rise above us specially when it comes to money. We do not know how to encourage and reward good leaders who have the our concern and have the expertise to lead and manage. We always doubt their intentions. And then we go to court, spend hundreds of thousands of our money just to prove that we are right.
While other ethnic groups get millions of grants from the Government, we are getting peanuts and our concerns are not being addressed. Our community gets ignored. They approach us only during election time to get our votes. Our community is only good at fiestas and small parties every weekend which only drains the pockets of our people. No wonder we all retire poor. After more than 40 years we can only see a few significant accomplishments and legacies. Yet we claim to be a great people.
We are more than 350,000 Filipino Canadians in Ontario and less than a million in the whole of Canada in a country with less than 35 million population. And we are acting as if we are powerless and being played around by politicians.
We are the most active community with more than 350 organizations in Metro Toronto alone. We have chapters in most of the Churches specially Couples for Christ and Bukas Loob sa Diyos. We even have an organization of Filipino priests. Our Filipino Freemasons, Knights of Columbus, Knights of Rizal, Jaycees, and Rotarians have wide influence in our society. Even our caregivers who work for the rich specially the political leaders have connection and influence. We rejuvenated the Catholic Churches and other religious churches. Our talents and taxes have contributed much to the progress of this country.
Most of us are well educated but our foreign education is not recognized.
It is time we show that we have the power to bring down a government that is not responsive to our needs and concerns and just flatter us during elections. It is also to show that we can make an unknown leader take over the government with our help. The Liberals in power have no room for Filipinos to rise because all their positions are filled. And they show no desire to even appoint our best in any position in the government. They talk about diversity but only appoint the whites.
The Progressive Conservatives under Patrick Brown have accepted Atty. Angely Pacis as their official candidate in Mississauga Centre. She is a lawyer, a journalist and a graduate of Harvard, the daughter of the late Doctor Lydia and Antonio Pacis. She is most qualified to be a Member of the Provincial Parliament and a pride for our people. I am sure with her qualifications, Patrick Brown will give her a portfolio as a Minister when they win.
The Liberals in spite of our years of loyalty to them has never done much for our people. They never appointed any of our people to high positions in government. The Conservatives under former Prime Minister Harper appointed Senator Tobias (Jun) Enverga, and Ontario Supreme Court Judge Steve Corroza and helped the caregivers with cancer who were about to be deported stay in Canada and brought their families here. He brought about the Juana Tejada Law.
The smaller communities have better strategies than us. They can elect their own people into high offices by mere show of strength and manipulations. Look at what happened to Atty. Antonio Villarin in a nomination in Scarborough where he was defeated by a Sri Lankan, a Tamil, a small ethnic community. Shame on us all. We can also have our own representative but we have to know the game, work harder and stand together, otherwise we are powerless and hopeless as a people. We have to cultivate and train potential politicians in our community. It takes years to learn the game. And it needs the whole community to raise a candidate. We have to contribute to the funds and promote them. We have to be there to vote during the nomination and election. We can’t just brag about our greatness but show nothing.
Patrick Brown is our chance to shine. He is close to the Filipino community. He choose to take not just one but three vacations in the Philippines instead of other places. Patrick loves halo halo and even had a Halo Halo Party at Queens Park. He was even inducted by Sir Joe Damasco as member of the Knights of Rizal. He recognizes the talents and strength of the Filipino community.
There is no room for us to grow in the Liberal Party. I understand the loyalty of the Filipinos to the Liberals. Some say because of Pierre Trudeau who opened up Canada to the Filipinos during his time. Did he open Canada to us because of his love for Filipinos or that Canada needed the talents and industry of the Filipinos? We worked hard and paid our taxes for many years. We are not free loaders. It was this contribution that enriched Canada. Even if we owe our gratitude, does it mean we have to serve all our lives with gratitude or servitude?
The Provincial Liberals under Kathleen Wynne wasted millions of dollars with their bad decisions of cancelling the two energy power plants in Mississauga in their incompetence. They sold the Hydro shares and made our electricity so expensive, yet we subsidize electricity in the U.S.
They are not doing anything to bring the cost of housing down. Let’s make this housing crises into job opportunities for Ontarians specially the poor. We are attracting a million immigrants every 3 years and 40% of that goes to Ontario. They should open up lands in farming communities close to Toronto for housing. We should built houses for these people at an affordable rate. Our children will not be able to afford the present real estate prices.
Republished under arrangement with The Philippine Reporter.
by Ted Alcuitas (@Ted_Alcuitas) in Vancouver
After a whirlwind of quick stops that took him first to Chicago and then to Ottawa and Toronto, President Benigno Aquino III ended his first North American visit in Vancouver Saturday.
But the small audiences that came to see him on the west coast marred whatever political mileage his host, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, was clearly aiming for.
Even more disconcerting were the dogged persistence of a small, but militant, advocacy group, Migrante Canada, which describes itself as "an active defender of the rights and welfare of overseas Filipino migrants" and in some ways was able to distract attention from Aquino during the Toronto and Vancouver visits.
According to a pamphlet the organization gave out during the protest, Migrante B.C. is deploring the President's visit as a, “ploy to create a fictitious image of the Harper government’s harmonious relationship with our community in Canada, which at this very moment is reeling from the recent changes to the Temporary Foreign Workers’ Program and the overhaul of the former Live-in Caregiver Program.”
Immigration Minister Chris Alexander announced the changes to the program last year affecting temporary workers and caregivers under the ‘four in and four out’ rule. A worker must work in Canada for fours years and return to the country of origin for fours years before applying again. Those affected by the rule were deported starting April 1 this year.
Vancouver protesters were actually duped by the visit organizers, as they were under the false impression the event would be held at the Pan Pacific Hotel – just a block away from the Vancouver Convention Centre.
When the protesters arrived at the hotel they had to regroup in front of the Vancouver Convention Centre.
Police told them to move their demonstration to a nearby street but they refused, moving just a few metres from the front of the convention centre.
By this time almost all of the people attending were already inside the building and did not notice the demonstration.
Most of the people who stopped to listen to the speeches of the protesters were tourists who were walking around the Coal Harbour seawall, as two cruise ships were at the dock.
Except for the CBC, all of the mainstream media and local Filipino media were inside covering the reception. It is doubtful if Aquino himself knew about the protest, although a couple of TV camera men with the presidential entourage quickly passed the demonstrators and hurried back inside the centre.
Not the Media Frenzy of Modi
To be fair to Aquino, his ‘kababayans’ (countrymen) across Canada were more than eager to meet him – the legacy of his mother and father’s assassination still lingering in their minds.
The Philippine Inquirer put the crowd at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall at 2,000, while Luisa Marshall of Vancouver’s Simply the Best television show estimated that “about 300 to 400 people” were in the Vancouver Convention Centre.
Attendance was far lower than the 10,000 earlier media reports said the Toronto Consulate was initially aiming for. The crowds did not have the same intensity or the media frenzy that greeted India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi a few weeks before the Philippine leader's arrival.
It was the Philippine Embassy officials’ failure to prepare adequately for a state visit that followed such a ‘celebrity visitor’ (Modi).
Perhaps the Philippine planners were tired and weary after the defeat of their icon Manny Pacquaio at the hands of Floyd Mayweather a week before, which resulted in the confusion.
Nonetheless for those who did show up, Aquino tried his best to entertain.
According to The Inquirer, the President began his speech in English, but shifted to Tagalog a couple of sentences after.
Aquino talks in ‘Taglish’ (a combination of English and Tagalog), or in straight Tagalog depending on his audience – the first and only Filipino president to do so.
The Inquirer reported that in Toronto Aquino apologized to the non-Filipino speakers for the shift, saying that there are nuances in the language that get across concepts better to a Filipino than a foreign language can.
“He then launched full tilt into a very smooth and polished delivery of a progress report on the Philippine economy, peppered here and there with jokes that brought down the house,” stated Inquirer writer Marisa Roque.
If there were kababayans disappointed about this historic visit, it was the Filipinos in Winnipeg who felt betrayed by their city being skipped in the itinerary.
Harper’s strategists underestimated the political strength of the Winnipeg community, which continues to put Filipinos on the political map.
Winnipeg elected the first Filipino Member of Parliament – Dr. Rey Pagtakhan – who was elected in 1988. Dr. Conrad Santos, the first Filipino member of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly, was elected in 1981 and served non-consecutive terms up until 2007.
There are now two Filipino members of the legislative assembly – Flor Marcelino and Ted Marcelino – as well as City Councillor Mike Pagtakhan. Several Filipinos are also elected school board trustees.
British Columbia is the only other province to elect a Filipino member of the legislative assembly with Mable Elmore of the New Democratic Party first being elected in 2009.
Ted Alcuitas is former senior editor of the Philippine Asian News Today and currently publisher and editor of philippinecanadiannews.com.
by Veronica C. Silva (@VSilvaCusi) in Toronto
From Ottawa to Toronto to Vancouver, protest actions met Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III wherever he went on his three-day state visit to Canada.
In Toronto, protesters gathered earlier than the scheduled opening of doors at 3 p.m. At around the same time, some Filipino guests invited to the ‘by-invitation-only’ event also started to line up to enter the venue.
Groups of Filipino-Canadian protestors, joined by their Canadian supporters, numbered at about 200 by their estimate, turned up to advocate against some policies of both Aquino and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Among the issues that the protesters brought to the fore were Aquino’s alleged human rights violations, the Mamasapano deadly encounter, Mary Jane Veloso’s death row case in Indonesia and the plight of other Filipinos overseas on death row and the policies affecting Filipino temporary foreign workers (TFWs) in Canada, including live-in caregivers.
“Migrant rights, human rights under attack, what do you do? Stand up! Fight back!” chanted the protesters.
Dan Harris, New Democratic Party (NDP) Member of Parliament in Scarborough Southwest, joined protesters outside the venue as he reiterated the NDP’s opposition to the Conservatives’ immigration policies and the C-51 anti-terrorism bill.
“Good enough to work, good enough to stay!” Harris said, joining in the chant.
“Just this week, both the Liberals and the Conservatives voted in favour of C-51, the anti-terrorism legislation that allows them to infringe on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and that’s a disgrace,” said Harris, as the crowd answered with, “Shame!”
Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne also met with Aquino as shown in the picture to the right. (Photo Credit: Wynne's official Twitter account.)
Migrante Canada, one of the groups protesting, said it was reaching out to the Kababayans (Filipino countrymen) who attended the Toronto event also.
“We urge you to look deeper in the root causes of our community’s issues,” said Jesson Reyes, regional coordinator for Migrante Canada in Ontario. “It is poverty, lack of decent jobs and landlessness in the countryside in the Philippines that continue to hold us back as a nation.”
He also noted that the two state leaders talked about nothing new in their speeches, and he took aim at the objective behind the state visit.
“It is without a doubt that certainly one of the few agendas of PNoy’s visit to Canada is for the Conservatives to secure the votes of Filipino-Canadian voters in the upcoming federal elections,” said Reyes. “By listening to the tone of the Prime Minister, he ensured people yesterday that his government’s ‘promises’ will be kept for so long as he is seated in Ottawa.”
In a press conference in Ottawa, earlier in the day, Harper defended the controversial TFW program, which affects thousands of Filipinos.
“This government is not going to have a policy – for as long as I’m Prime Minister – where we will have a permanent underclass of temporary people who are here forever with no rights of citizenship and no rights of mobility,” said Harper in Ottawa.
And Aquino responded: “I think that policy should be held proud, not criticized.”
Reacting to this, Reyes said: “It shows that PNoy and his government do not have a clear understanding of the plight of TFWs in Canada and the abuses many of our Kababayans face by not having a permanent status.”
Migrante Canada joins other migrant groups in calling for landed status for foreign workers. The organization also deplores the Philippines’ labour export policy, which is driving many Filipinos to seek employment elsewhere.
The Conservative Campaign
In the weeks leading up to Aquino’s visit media reports reiterated Reyes’ sentiment that the state visit could be a strategy of the Conservatives to try to win over the Filipino community in Canada – estimated to number from half a million to 700,000 – in time for federal elections scheduled in fall. In recent years, the Philippines has been one of the top source countries for immigrants to Canada, next to China and India.
In Toronto, the state leaders spoke to a crowd of some thousands of members of the Filipino-Canadian community at Roy Thomson Hall. While Aquino’s speech was the highlight of the community gathering, Harper brought in his campaign team to cheer for him.
National Defence and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney (MP, Calgary Southeast), who was formerly Citizenship and Immigration Minister, wore a Barong Tagalog and gamely posed for photographs with some Filipinos in the lobby after the event.
Kenney has been credited for winning the so-called ethnic votes for the Tories in the 2011 elections.
Not to be outdone, federal Finance Minister and Torontonian Joe Oliver told the crowd: “Jason Kenney may be wearing a barong, but I’ve reached the third level in the Knights of Rizal,” something which drew applause from the crowd.
But it was Harper who got the loudest applause for revealing: “I’m also going to note – with some pride – that on my wife’s side, I now also personally have some Filipino relatives.” He didn’t elaborate though.
The event, at times, sounded more like an election campaign, with each leader taking turns speaking of each other’s accomplishments while highlighting bilateral ties and trumpeting the Pinoys’ good qualities.
Filipinos Integral Part of Canada: Harper
“The President’s visit gives our government, gives Canadians, the chance to recognize and celebrate the success and contributions of Canada’s Filipino community,” said Harper.
As an example of this Filipino success, the Prime Minister proudly recognized the Filipino-Canadian designer who created the logo of the 150th anniversary of Confederation, which will be in 2017, Ariana Mari Cuvin of Toronto.
Harper went on to enumerate Filipino qualities that have become world famous – work ethic, loyalty, and deep faith: “Filipino-Canadians have now become an integral part of every single aspect of Canadian society.”
Then, there was the reminder of Canada’s multi-million dollar aid to the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan struck in late 2013.
“During those dark days, Canada was there for our friends in the Philippines,” said Harper. “Canada was, in fact, the third largest humanitarian donor in the world to the relief efforts, a drive led by Filipino-Canadians that our government was proud to match dollar for dollar right across this country.”
In early 2014, it was announced that individual Canadians contributed over $85 million in eligible donations.
Canada also sent relief teams to the Philippines to help out and has committed more assistance in the reconstruction of areas affected by the typhoon.
When it was his turn to address the audience, Aquino spoke in Tagalog and focused on his administration’s accomplishments during a speech interlaced with jokes.
Unfortunately for the Filipino Torontonians, Aquino hardly offered the crowd something new. His speech in Toronto was almost identical to the one he gave in Chicago, Illinois a few days prior.
For example, in boasting of his administration’s infrastructure projects, Aquino told the Toronto crowd the same joke about the new Lullutan Bridge in Isabela.
“Ang tawag kaya, ang buong pangalan kaya nito ay Lullutang at Lulubog Bridge? (Do they call this bridge Lullutang (floating) and Lulubog (sinking) Bridge?),” Aquino asked the audience in Toronto. And like in Chicago, this part of the speech elicited the same response of laughter.
Also like in Chicago, Aquino boasted about his administration’s job programs and economic gains, adding that the numbers he presented were actual statistics.
But there were other projects Aquino mentioned to the Toronto crowd like achievements in the coconut industry and in the Philippines’ weather forecasting capabilities.
Amidst the mix of cheers, standing ovations and protests, both state leaders outlined the gains earned from the state visit.
Canada announced more aid and assistance to the Philippines, which has been identified as a country of focus for Canada’s international development efforts, and initiatives were announced in the areas of free trade, occupational health and safety, development assistance, police and security, and counter terrorism in the Asia-Pacific region.
Published in partnership with The Philippine Reporter.
by Rachelle Cruz (@rachellecruz_) in Toronto
If Friday’s state visit of Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III was any indication of the Harper government’s political orchestration in obtaining votes from the Filipino-Canadian community, then it’s safe to say that winning over Filipinos in the upcoming federal elections won’t be an easy feat.
Kababayans (Filipino word for countrymen) across the Greater Toronto Area flocked to Roy Thomson Hall to show their support and excitement to meet the Filipino leader. Some men donned the traditional barong, and some women were dressed in Filipiniana iconic butterfly-sleeved gowns. It was the first visit of Aquino and the first by a Filipino president since 2002 with the visit of then president Gloria Arroyo.
But in the periphery, there was also a group of other Filipino organizations that rallied outside. Jesson Reyes, a spokesperson from Migrante Canada said that they are ultimately calling for Aquino’s resignation because of his dismal record in protecting Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) like Mary Jane Veloso and failing to address the extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances rampant in the country, among other issues.
Though the three-day state visit of Aquino was clearly divisive, it was still a rare occasion to celebrate and witness. He arrived in Toronto, home to Canada’s largest Filipino community, on the second of his three-day visit.
Philippines-born Senator Tobias Enverga Jr. (pictured to the right) was the evening’s emcee; he introduced Prime Minister Stephen Harper to the stage, shortly followed by President Aquino. Both leaders received standing ovations, applause and cheers from the crowd, as waves of small Philippine flags broke out from the audience.
“I’m excited to hear his speech,” Art Viola, the nostalgic former Lord Mayor of Niagara-on-the-Lake expressed. “When his mother came to visit Toronto, I was also invited. A couple of people from Niagara Falls attended the dinner. So it was double excitement. I was really surprised to see him here; I just got the invitation last night. It was very informative and positive.”
An electric mix of excitement, nationalism, pride and unity hung in the air, as both leaders took to the expansive stage that was adorned with Canadian and Philippine flags.
As the two national anthems were sung one after the other, Filipino-Canadians experienced that feeling of duality – of loving both their motherland and now their adopted country Canada.
Other dignitaries and officials were present; Harper was backed up by some of his Cabinet officials including Finance Minister Joe Oliver, and barong-clad Defence Minister Jason Kenney. Toronto Mayor, John Tory, was also in attendance.
Positives in Bilateral Relationship
In his speech, President Aquino respectfully told the Prime Minister that in this rare occasion to meet with fellow Filipinos, he’d like to deliver his remarks in Tagalog, to which Harper then intermittently put headphones into his ears for translation.
President Aquino humbly boasted about the reforms and progress made under his administration, from infrastructure/road projects, boom in coconut water exports, updates on procuring second-hand fighter jets, and his steady fight against corruption. Mostly, his remarks highlighted economic growth in the country.
“Bigyan mo lang nang isang pagkakataon, ay talagang magpapakitang gilas ang Pilipino,” Aquino said, which translates to, “Just give him one chance, and the Filipino will surely show his prowess.”
He continued stating that what the Philippines had accomplished economically was “no joke”. “Let’s peek at the economy, formerly Sick Man of Asia, now tagged Darling of Asia. We achieved the all-time high foreign direct investments of $6.2 billion in 2014. From 2010 to 2014, we had an average GDP growth of 6.3 per cent,” he noted, garnering applause from the audience.
The President added that this year’s target would be seven to eight per cent GDP growth.
“This is a very significant visit here, one of the largest Filipino populations is here in Canada,” said Julius Tiangson, officially nominated Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) candidate for Mississauga Centre riding.
“It’s a good report and it’s wonderful that a Philippine leader can actually come and visit Filipinos who are overseas and give some good, positive report in what’s happening in our country. It is wonderful that the people-to-people relationship is already there. Now we can mutually develop the trade relationship.”
The visit is not only a reciprocal gesture from Harper’s official trip to the Philippines back in November 2012. This time around, the two countries engaged in discussions over free trade agreements, regional and global security challenges, and Canada’s foreign aid, in a move to further strengthen bilateral ties.
“We are starting negotiations on a FIPA (Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement) and we are going to start on a preliminary basis having a free-trade agreement,” said Finance Minister Oliver. “We already have a FIPA, we need to modernize it. We just want to broaden trade in all areas.”
Important Issues Overlooked
It wasn’t all pride and glory though. While those present could appreciate the moment, some were critical.
“You know what, if it walks like a duck, it talks like a duck, it’s probably a duck,” immigration lawyer and advocate for the live-in caregivers program, Rafael Fabregas, commented. “There were definitely elements of a political rally, but the people who are sitting around me, who didn’t know who I am and what my background is, they were cognizant of that, they picked up on it.”
Fabregas said he heard comments like, ‘Ano ba to? (What is this?) Rally ba ito or speech ni PNoy? (Is this a rally or speech of PNoy (Aquino)?)’ from audience members. “Filipinos are smart, they’re intelligent people, we know what the story is, it’s going to be difficult to pull a fast one over us,” he added.
Still, he had some positive observations.
“I think it was a very engaging speech, a lot of information,” Fabregas added. “I was looking forward to hear more about what’s going on in the Philippines. It was nice to hear him acknowledge the contributions made by the Filipino-Canadians, through the betterment of our country. At yun naman yung talaga ang gusto natin right? (Isn’t that what we want?) We always want to give back to our motherland.”
Others showed some disappointment.
The more contentious issues, like the plight of Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW), were left out, or simply contained. Reports have stated that Aquino and Harper made a deal on the TFW program, but details of that have not been released.
A member of the Ladies of the Knights of Rizal voiced out, “I was a bit disappointed because I thought that he came here for that purpose. You know to bail out our TFWs from going home and applying again in four years, which is unnecessary. And most of the jobs of TFWs, the Canadians don’t even want to take it. That’s why they were hired in the first place, from the Philippines. They don’t want to do the jobs that the Filipinos are willing to do,” she said.
When The Philippine Reporter broached the subject with Minister Kenney, and asked if the TFW subject was raised between the two leaders, he replied: “It was only raised briefly, and I think both Prime Minister and President Aquino agreed that we want to protect the rights of contract workers, of temporary foreign workers.”
“Of course, we Canadians have to ensure that Canadians, immigrants, and citizens, have the first available access to available jobs,” he continued. “We don’t want to end up with permanent people who are on temporary status, which is why we have increased pathways to permanent residency and citizenship for TFWs and also put in a limit to how long those who don’t get permanent residency stay in Canada.”
When further pressed about the negative implications for migrant workers in relation to the Four-in/Four-Out rule that took effect early this year, he said: “The number of Filipinos [immigrating] to Canada with permanent residency has doubled since our government came to office. It has increased by over 100 per cent. It has gone from annual average of about 16,000 Filipino permanent residents' immigration to Canada prior to 2006 to about 28,000 on average now."
He continued: "So that’s largely because of the huge increase in the number of temporary foreign workers who can now access permanent residency through the Canadian experience class and, of course, the expanded live-in caregiver program, as well as the new Express Entry program. Obviously we are much more generous than before, but there are obviously going to be limits and anyone who comes here on a work permit knows full well that there’s no guarantee they’ll get permanent residency. So there’s got to be a balance.”
Filipinos are Philippines Greatest Resource
Yet like it or not, Filipinos are creating a niche for themselves beyond the common stereotype as caregivers or health-care professionals. There’s a surge in the community where Filipinos are now working to serve as political leaders, entrepreneurs, creative designers, activists, journalists and so forth.
Harper eloquently greeted the masses with “Bonsoir, Good evening, Magandang Gabi,” but it was his remarks later on that were foretelling: “Ladies and gentlemen, I think the President Aquino put it well when he said, and I quote, ‘The Philippines is blessed with the greatest resource. It’s people, who are hardworking, very loyal, and very adaptable . . .’ and I would add, love for family and commitment to faith. Filipino-Canadians have become an integral part of every single aspect of Canadians today,” he said.
And he’s right. Kababayans are no longer just sitting there waiting on the sidelines.
Published in partnership with The Philippine Reporter.
-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit