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Aksyon ng Ating Kabataan

“Degrees evade Filipino youth”

A comment on the Filipino Youth Transitions in Canada Study

By Darlyne Bautista

On February 20, the Winnipeg Free Press published an article entitled “Degrees evade Filipino youth.” The article featured the Toronto-based study, Filipino Youth Transitions in Canada. The study took place in five cities: Winnipeg, Toronto, Vancouver and Hamilton. It took three years to complete, and its findings suggest that Filipino-Canadian youth across Canada are not meeting their full potential.

ANAK worked with Dr. Philip Kelly to conduct the study in Winnipeg. ANAK took to the role by calling on Winnipeg youth to complete surveys as well as participate in key interviews and focus groups. The comment ANAK can make about Winnipeg findings is simply: we are not the rest of Canada.

In accordance with researcher, Dr. Philip Kelly, we concur that “what we found in Winnipeg is the immigration history and geography of settlement is quite different.” For those of us who call Winnipeg home, this statement means a number of things we take for granted. For starters, we are more likely to hear Tagalog on the street than Canada’s own official language, French. We can forever satiate a Filipino food craving with a hop, skip, and jump over to any local Filipino bakery, store, or restaurant. We can also consult Filipino-Canadian officials at our local levels of government. Although these things may be just another day in Winnipeg, we must remember that these things are also a great anomaly to our kababayan in other provinces.

In Ontario, it is foreign for Filipino-Canadians to understand what it is like to be an entire city comprised largely of Filipino families and extended networks. It would be difficult for them to understand that political pundits must listen when Filipinos exert their civic participation. Notably still (and perhaps sadly), they don’t see their role models the way we are likely to. These days, Filipino-Canadian youth in Winnipeg can look to their teacher, coach, boss, or elected officials to reflect the same confidence we have in who we are.

So, how is it that “degrees evade Filipino youth”?

Maybe we are asking the wrong question. Does a degree only equate to success for Filipino-Canadian youth?

Winnipeg is unique. By default, Filipino-Canadian youth in Winnipeg are also unique. We are participants of an economic climate that is based in the trades. And, if I speak to you as a Filipino-Canadian thirty-something, odds are your parents are like mine – labourers in the garment industry and in manufacturing. I underline that many among us have moved away from Winnipeg to pursue other aspirations. Some of us still, have opted for a diploma from Red River instead of a coveted university degree. Many more of us have young families with dreams of living the rest of our lives financially secure and ultimately happy. We all lead differing paths in life. Is not finding what speaks to us truly where success lies?

What I ask of Winnipeggers to take away from this study is not a pat on the back, but an understanding of how Manitoba’s policies have shaped the community we are.

Thanks to Canadian immigration in the 1960s and 70s, Winnipeg has become home to our parents – the community’s early pioneers. Thanks to the Provincial Nominee Program, Winnipeg has also become home to our extended family and friends. Somewhere in between, we became the generation of Filipinos born in Winnipeg. Now, as we look to the future (and specifically in the many generations to follow), how do we keep this sense of community alive? Each Filipino-Canadian, immigrant or not, plays a role in the success of the other. The study makes this clear. But, what if immigration policies continue to change for immigration numbers to drop? How will we be if our community networks dwindle? Will we carry on with the same cultural self-confidence? What kind of success will we wish for our own children? Who will we be then?

Darlyne Bautista is a founding member of ANAK and the lead collaborator for the Filipino Youth Transitions in Canada Study in Winnipeg.

 Contact the author at info@anak.ca.

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