With one of the largest Filipino populations of any riding in Canada, MP Mark Adler of York Centre feels very connected to the Filipino community: “I say all the time, I might look Jewish, but my heart is Filipino.”
To aid with Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts, Adler held an interfaith prayer gathering in European grocery store Yummy Market, and set up collection boxes in his riding.
In addition, he plans to help officially recognize Bathurst and Wilson as “Fil-Town” or perhaps “Filipino Square.”
And this spring, he will be at a synagogue event to honour President Manuel Quezon, who took in 1200 Jewish refugees during the Holocaust.
When asked to identify one challenge for the Filipino community, Adler identified a lack of civic engagement. “We have a Filipino senator now… But we need to get Filipinos elected to Parliament. We need to get Filipinos elected to the Ontario Legislature, to City Hall… We’re a country of immigrants and everybody needs to feel like they’re doing their part to make Canada a better country.”
Last year, he created the Order of York Centre Awards, which honoured community leaders. Of the 40 recipients, 1 was Filipino: Pastor Jesse Anunciacion of Mount Zion Filipino Seventh-Day Adventist Church, who was recognized for his successful food bank and effective outreach. Adler would like to honour more Filipinos in the future.
As Adler works towards re-election in October, he goes door-to-door in the riding and asks residents how he can help them.
He said that most of the time, residents are so surprised to see him that they don’t come up with anything to say.
For residents roughly living between Yonge to Jane Street and the 401 to Steeles Avenue West, if you find Adler knocking on your door, here are six issues that you can ask him to elaborate on:
1) With the new policies for caregivers, only 5500 caregivers can apply for permanent residency. Why the cap?
Adler explained that this is not a cap, but that numbers are determined by labour market needs. He suspects that the numbers will change over time as they go down “to a reasonable level.” He stated that this will ensure “a swifter admittance into Canada for people who qualify for caregiver programs and for permanent residency.”
2) Is it true that not all caregivers who finish the program requirements will be able to get permanent residence?
Adler claimed that this is a misconception. “Actually, now it’s easier to get your permanent residency status. If you meet the requirements of the caregiver program, you’re on the track to get permanent residency actually faster than you did before.”
3) Why is the government making it harder for caregivers to bring their families to Canada?
“It’s not a family reunification program, the caregiver program,” Adler clarified. “And so, somebody would become a permanent resident and they would use that to bring family over and that’s not the purpose. The purpose is for caregivers to become permanent residents and not for family reunification. So that’s one of the reasons why the changes were made…That was creating a huge backlog… You had these family members who weren’t coming as caregivers restricting those people who actually want to come in as caregivers.”
4) Is it true that caregivers cannot switch between the streams of the Caring for People with High Medical Needs and the Caring for Children Pathways?
According to Adler, “Before, you would lose whatever you built up in one stream, and you’d have to start again. Now, you can actually move from stream to stream without losing what you’d built up before. So that’s a misconception.”
He agreed that, for instance, a caregiver can switch freely from working with a disabled client to working with children.
5) What should a caregiver do if he or she is being abused by an employer?
Adler explained, “Certainly, there’s the police that can be alerted. I know there’s support groups. They can call their Member of Parliament, and in this area, I’d certainly be prepared to help. So they have recourse now. Before, if you were a live-in caregiver and you left the live-in situation, then you’d lose whatever you built up towards permanent residency, whether it’s an abusive situation or not. Now, it’s not like that anymore… There’s no reason, no need, to stay in an abusive relationship.”
6) What do you think of recent York University studies that have found that Filipino youth are not likely to go to university, or to acquire high-paying jobs?
“In terms of my experience of what I’ve seen in the Filipino community, I haven’t seen that. At all.”
Adler cited the high school graduation ceremonies where he saw Filipino students receiving university scholarships.
“That’s what Canada’s all about, and that’s why people want to come to Canada. There’s a chance for opportunity so that you can come here as a caregiver, but your kids are going to be doctors and lawyers and Members of Parliament, that kind of thing. Just like every immigrant group, like my parents, and everybody else who came to this country.”
As MP of York Centre, Mark Adler represents the 20,000 Filipinos who make up over 17% of his riding. And with the re-election edging closer, he is looking forward to making more connections.
“I go to all of the Filipino events… I’m very, very connected to the Filipino community. They’re good, good people. I feel like the Jewish community and the Filipino community, we’re just so tied together.”
This article was originally published in The Philippine Reporter on February 13, 2015.