The first recorded member of my community arrived in Canada in the 1930s.Coming from the United States, Filipinos nurses and healthcare professionals came to Canada, mostly entering through Manitoba. In the past recent ten years, my community has grown quickly. Canada needed able-bodied workers to meet the labour demands of Canadian families - caregiver to their loved ones - children and seniors. We are economic immigrants. We come to Canada to work because of lack of jobs and opportunities in the country we came from.
Today you see Filipinos everywhere and in most workplaces: hospitals, grocery stores, restaurants, and even in homes. The recent 2016 Statistics Canada results shows that Canadians of Filipino descent is the fourth largest ethnic community in Canada with more than 800,000 population.
I am one of them. I am Paulina Corpuz, a Filipino-Canadian. I love that I can call myself Filipino Canadian. I honor the land of my birth at the same time embrace my new home, Canada.
While my journey to where I am now has been tumultuous at times, I have stood triumphant because of you, Canada.
24 years ago, February 1993, I landed in Toronto with an 11-month child in my arms. It was a bitter-sweet moment, reuniting with my husband and missing my parents, siblings, relatives and friends. It was entirely a new world for me.
My family lived in a neighborhood in Scarborough, Ontario. As new immigrants, we were struggling economically. My parents-in-law stayed with us to help care for my young child while my husband and I went to work. It was five months before I got a good job, thanks to Toronto Public Library. There, I borrowed books on job searching and resume writing and found computers to do my resume and cover letters. In addition, there was a children’s program for my very young child.
In my first few years in Scarborough, Ontario, I learned about the Filipino community’s struggle against discrimination – such as the banning of Filipino youth from the Scarborough Town Centre. Thank you Canada for allowing and supporting the ethnic newspapers. I would not have known about this issue if not of the coverage of the Filipino community newspaper. Where persecution is a normal response to activism, Canada respects the rights of its people to speak out and stand up against perceived injustice and unfairness.
Canada is a welcoming country. The Filipino community is alive in Canada. From the moment I set foot on Canadian soil, my husband’s family was there to give us support. Filipino associations were also a big part in making Canada a home for me. My compatriots’ presence and support helped in alleviating loneliness and isolation. Being with my own community made me feel more at home and less homesick. New world, new beginning, new friends and new traditions.
Without the free health care program, OHIP, I would not be here today. I am a survivor of multiple strokes. I could not afford an open-heart surgery to fix my mitral valve. With OHIP, I did not have to worry about it. Thank you Canada for your healthcare.
Canada is my children’s home country. I gave birth to two children and brought one who was born in the Philippine. Twice a year, I would wake up very early in the morning to register my daughter in recreation programs of the City of Toronto. Back then, the programs were free. It was a great help for my struggling children. Thank you for the free children’s programs. It helped provide a total development for my children aside from the free elementary and high school education.
As a family, we enjoyed Canada, the people and places. There is plenty of interesting local places of interest. It has become an annual custom for us to camp in Canadian parks for a few days. I do not have to travel far to experience the various cultures and cuisines for the world from Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Greek, Indian, Italian, Irish, European, and lots more.
I thank and celebrate Canada. In spite of the challenges and issues that I faced, there is always someone who will hold my hand and pull me up. I have a lot to celebrate and thank for in this new country I now call home.