The National Metropolis Conference is Canada’s largest annual gathering of researchers, policy-makers, and community advocates. And this year at the Westin Harbour Castle, Metropolis featured a number of Filipino-Canadian speakers.
Topics ranged from Hywel Tuscano’s speech on hepatitis B and C awareness in immigrant communities, to Dindin Villarino’s talk about immigrants in Northumberland County, to Ethel Tungohan’s presentation on the experiences of Temporary Foreign Workers in Alberta.
And on March 5th, two simultaneous Filipino-focused panels saw presenters advocating for Pinoy students, foreign-trained professionals, and caregivers.
In the “Accessing Education and Training: Challenges in the Filipino Community” panel, Philip Kelly of the York Centre for Asian Research gathered representatives from three research projects.
Along with Jennilee Austria and Don Wells of McMaster University, Kelly debuted the preliminary results of “The HCDSB Pinoy Project,” a study of Oakville and Milton-based Filipino students in the Halton Catholic District School Board.
The study looked at the impact of the Live-in Caregiver Program on youth— on their grades, their after-school employment, their parents’ involvement in their education, and in their goals for post-secondary education — and found marked differences between them and their peers whose mothers did not come to Canada as caregivers.
For Master of Social Work student Christa Sato, Metropolis was an opportunity to present her thesis on a nationwide level. After presenting her study of the factors that helped eight second-generation Filipino males to succeed at the University of Calgary, she welcomed audience questions to prepare for her thesis defense.
“It is a humbling experience to hear critical and thought-provoking feedback from esteemed scholars that will ultimately strengthen the quality of your work,” Sato said.
Petronila Cleto and Conely de Leon presented the GATES project, a GABRIELA-Ontario survey of over 600 former caregivers to discover the barriers to upgrading their education in Canada.
With the rise of young Filipino-Canadians in academia, Cleto emphasized that this project marked the first time that a Filipino community group partnered with Filipino academics to study caregiver issues.
Audience members such as Ann Bowen, an Immigration Officer from the Yukon government, attended the panel due to the rise of Filipinos in their areas.
Bowen noted that there has been “generational tension” in the community, with parents pushing their children to work rather than to pursue further schooling. She estimates that in the Yukon, the number of Filipino immigrants may have surpassed the francophone population.
In another Filipino-focused panel, UP Diliman-trained teacher Rowell Clarito Perez and MP Arif Virani advocated for better support for internationally-trained immigrants.
Masters student Monica Anne Batac and Flordeliz Dandal of Kababayan Multicultural Centre emphasized the various Kababayan programs and professional associations supporting internationally-trained Filipino-Canadian accountants, nurses, teachers, physiotherapists, and engineers.
For Batac, a highlight was meeting the Filipinos in the audience.
“At our session, we were happy to meet Filipinos from across Canada also committed to helping newcomers access their original professions,” said Batac.
“The possibilities for collaboration — whether for service delivery, research, or advocacy— are promising.”
For PhD candidate Conely de Leon, the Filipino representation at Metropolis was made possible by the leaders who had come before, such as Anakbayan Toronto, the Philippine Migrants Society of Canada, the Philippine Women Centre of British Columbia, and the Community Alliance for Social Justice.
“It is their continued leadership and active community involvement that drive the need to raise awareness and intervene in spaces where issues affecting Filipinos in Canada are often marginalized,” de Leon said.
And with the “alarming changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, and increasingly limited access to training, education and employment opportunities, it is important to raise awareness around issues that have a lasting impact on the survival of our communities,” said de Leon.
“This is why collectively presenting our research findings and policy recommendations at venues like Metropolis is meaningful.”
This article was originally published in The Philippine Reporter on March 11, 2016.