Why we must support the Justice for Jeffrey campaign

Opinion & Analysis Jun 16, 2004 at 1:23 pm

I CONSIDER the issue of the Jeffrey Reodica campaign for justice a rare and golden opportunity to build a strong and united Filipino community in the Greater Toronto Area.

The main objective of the campaign, of course, is to achieve justice in the death of a young member of our community. Shooting an unarmed 17-year old boy in the back has no justification whatsoever, to quote Black community leader Dudley Laws who spoke Thursday, June 10 at Queen’s Park and in front of the Toronto Police Headquarters on College St.

If the Justice for Jeffrey Reodica Coalition succeeds in this campaign, it will be a great victory for the community. In doing so, the community will have started to grow into a mature community that is able to advance its interests in a country where it is considered an ethnic minority that is often marginalized.

A former member of the Police Services Board said recently that unfortunately, the Filipino community “does not count” in Canadian society. This frank statement may jar our sensibilities but it is true. The community does not count in elections because we fail to deliver bloc votes that matter to politicians. The community does not contribute in a significant way to any fund-raising for charity purposes.

Although the Philippines is considered the fourth largest source of immigrants in Canada and a top source of immigrants in Toronto, we still do not count because we are known to be a fragmented and therefore weak community.

The Jeffrey Reodica issue may change all that if we are keen enough to realize that this is our great chance, maybe our only chance, to redeem ourselves.

We are a people with a great history of struggle for freedom that many other peoples don’t have. The Filipino people have a glorious history and can boast of countless heroes who fought foreign and local tyrannical regimes. Up to the recent years, the peoples of the world were witnesses to the non-violent over-throw of the Marcos dictatorship and the corrupt Joseph Estrada regime.

Why, in a city like Toronto, where we are considered a visible minority, meaning a visibly significant ethnic community, do we behave like docile citizens unable to fight for our interests? Why are other ethnic communities stronger and more united and therefore more respected and more able to protect their interests?

In going the rounds of organizations and the big picnics and celebrations of the Philippine Independence Day, I saw and felt the overwhelming support for this campaign. Community leaders anywhere we went and individual citizens expressed their deep concern for what the incident meant for them. Many of them said they fear for the safety of their children. One leader said she may consider moving out of Toronto. A big number of them were one in the opinion that something must be done, that the community must unite as one this time and not let this pass without a good fight.

The petitions being circulated by the Coalition and those posted on the website
(www.reodica.com/jeff) had gathered thousands of signatures in about two weeks time. People sign those petitions quickly after they’re told they were about Jeffrey Reodica. The townhall meeting on May 31 witnessed the outpouring of emotion and support. The massive attendance in the wake and the funeral, the solemn vigil and the well attended youth meeting — all these indicate an overwhelming sense of outrage for what happened and a willingness to act. I don’t know if all the established leaders in our community feel this. Some do and have come forward to join the campaign. Those who don’t will be left behind. New leaders are emerging to take the challenge. (Those who want to join and help out may send an email message to justice4jeff@yahoo.com.)

A related issue is the participation of other groups and communities outside our own. They should be welcome. Uniting with those who have similar experiences should not scare us. We live in a multicultural society. It is time we learn how to work with others who sincerely support us. The worst that could happen to us is to work in isolation from our allies. The parties who don’t want us to achieve our goals will be overjoyed at this spectacle.