By Salma Zahid
I was proud to stand in the House of Commons on October 30th as we unanimously passed my private Member’s motion 155, officially designating the month of June as Filipino Heritage Month across Canada.
Diversity is Canada’s strength. We are a diverse and welcoming country where people of all backgrounds can have a real and fair chance at making a better life for themselves and their families, and a key part of that diversity is our Filipino-Canadian community.
I was proud to bring forward M-155 on behalf of Canada’s Filipino community. This motion recognizes, celebrates and raises awareness of the Filipino community in Canada. It is also a way of showing our Government’s official appreciation of the Filipino community for their important contribution throughout Canadian history and for helping to make our country the rich and vibrant place it is today.
Filipinos are the fastest growing ethnic group in Canada. Filipino Canadians are making a difference in communities from coast to coast to coast and across all walks of life – from singers like Canadian Idol finalist Elena Juatco to athletes like soccer star Jonathan de Guzmán. Rey Pagtakhan was the first Filipino-Canadian MP and cabinet minister, and the late Senator Tobias Enverga was a champion for his community in the Senate. Filipino Heritage Month will help celebrate these important contributions, and many more, that have enriched our Canadian society.
Dating back to 1930, the first generation of Filipino-Canadians were mainly women who worked as nurses, garment workers, teachers, and in the health sector. Many of them made the enormous sacrifice of leaving their families left behind in Philippines to build a better life for them here in Canada. They hoped one day to be reunited with their families in Canada, but unfortunately that was not always the case.
Our Liberal government recognizes that too many Filipino families were separated for far too long under the previous Conservative government. That’s why, over the last few years, we’ve made substantial improvements to the Parents and Grandparents Sponsorship Program and we’re on track eliminate the backlog in the Live-in Caregiver Program by the end of this year to reunite families sooner. We also introduced a new benefit for people who provide care to a critically ill or injured adult family member – adding up to 15 weeks of EI benefits. This is helping more Canadians support their loved ones when they need it most.
Building a diverse and inclusive society by promoting and encouraging awareness, understanding and respect for many different cultures is one of our Government’s top priorities. Now that June is designated as Filipino Heritage Month we can continue to put our values into action. I’m very proud of our government’s work to support Filipino communities across the country.
I look forward to celebrating with the Filipino community next June. Mabuhay!
Salma Zahid is the Member of Parliament for Scarborough Centre, and a member of the Liberal Party of Canada. Her web site is szahid.liberal.ca