Canada and the Philippines: The ties that bind
DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Neil Reeder (The Philippine Star) - February 27, 2014 - 12:00am

The recent visit to the Philippines of Canadian Senator Tobias Enverga Jr., and that of over 250 Filipino-Canadians who took part in the Winter Escapade in the Philippines, organized by the Departments of Tourism and Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, reminds us of the growing people to people linkages between Canada and this country.

Sen. Enverga and his wife Rosemer are prominent members of the Filipino-Canadian community who immigrated to Canada a number of years ago. Less than two years ago, Prime Minister Harper appointed Sen. Enverga to Canada’s Senate, making him the first-ever Canadian senator of Filipino origin.

The personal ties between the two countries have grown considerably in recent years. We have seen a growing movement of Filipinos to Canada both as permanent residents and temporary foreign workers. The labour dimension is important as Filipinos assist Canada in responding to labour shortages in a number of sectors at a time of expansion in the Canadian economy. The Philippines is our 7th largest source country for foreign workers, with over 8,000 foreign workers receiving work permits in 2012.

That same year, we also issued nearly 33,000 permanent resident visas, making the Philippines the second most important source country, after China, for permanent residents in Canada. The number of permanent residents from the Philippines has tripled in the past 10 years. This is in addition to another 30,000 temporary or visitor visas issued annually.

The number of Filipino students studying in Canada is modest and has room for growth. Canada offers quality education in a safe, multicultural environment, and at a moderate cost. Over 250,000 international students and researchers choose to study in Canada every year.

This movement between our countries has led to a large community of Canadians with roots in the Philippines, with more than 800,000 Canadians of Filipino descent, located primarily in cities such as Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver.

Tagalog is now the fastest-growing language group in Canada.

However, being the resilient and adventurous people they are, Filipinos are also striking out to work and settle in newer destinations like the western province of Saskatchewan, the North West Territories, Yukon and even in Nunavut, our self-governing aboriginal territory in the eastern Arctic. Filipinos now comprise one of the largest foreign-born populations in our North.

In the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda it was particularly touching to see how the Filipino community in Canada reached out to help those in their country of origin who were suffering. By raising funds for humanitarian relief, sending goods and other assistance, and by offering a helping hand in that fine Philippine tradition of bayanihan. In recent weeks I have met incoming delegations of Filipino-Canadians including doctors, eye specialists and dentists who volunteered their own time and resources to travel to the Visayas to help out. Others have raised funds to build new homes for those displaced, with funds generated by volunteer contributions in Canada.

The Filipino dimension of Canadian life reflects the benefits of an open and transparent immigration policy. People have come from all over the world to Canada, to apply their energies, skills and entrepreneurial talents towards making our country a better place.

Diversity is a national asset and a touchstone of Canadian life. We are honoured that so many Filipinos have chosen to be part of our country, while retaining strong ties to their country of origin. They continue to make an important contribution to the success story that is the Canada of today.

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(Neil Reeder is the Ambassador of Canada.)


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