Conference on Social Justice set in Toronto, Oct. 30

Community News & Features Sep 16, 2004 at 3:44 pm

TORONTO–“Kung hindi tayo kikilos, sino pa?” (If we won’t take action, who will?)
Such is the call being issued by the newly-formed Community Alliance for Social Justice (CAll for Social Justice, or CASJ) for all concerned Filipinos and supporters, to participate in the National Consultation Conference on Social Justice in the Filipino Community on Saturday, October 30, 2004, at Metro Hall Council Chambers in Toronto.

The main goal of the conference is to raise awareness on social justice issues affecting the Filipino community and to engage everyone in find ing ways to collectively deal with these issues as a strong community.

The holding of the conference at this time was prompted by the reality that now, the Filipino community has grown to become one of the major ethnic groups in Canadian society. In Toronto alone, the Philippines shares rank with Hong Kong as the third largest source of immigrants by birth, with China and India, taking the first and second ranks respectively, according to Statistics Canada.
Moreover, statistics also show Filipinos are one of the mostly highly-educated, highly-skilled community, while anecdotal information attest to Filipinos as hardworking, efficient, responsible and honest, and yet, a great majority of them remain in the low-income categories of the overall working population. Also, the community remains visibly unrepresented in the three levels of government. As one Canadian political observer had noted, the Filipino community as a whole, “does not count” in any significant political or electoral activity or any major fund-raising effort.

Meanwhile, various past and current incidents involving social justice affecting individual members and sectors in the community have been brought to the attention of community organizations, media and government, mobilizing support for the victims. The most recent is the fatal shooting by a Toronto police officer of 17-year old student Jeffrey Reodica, which has generated support from the Filipino and broader Canadian community. The still ongoing campaign for truth and justice in this case was launched by the Justice for Jeffrey Coalition which spearheaded the community-wide townhall meeting on May 31, the subsequent Vigil for Jeffrey at St. Rose of Lima Church in Scarborough and the two rallies at the Special Investigations Unit in Mississauga last month.

A number of community community leaders, had learned from previous social justice campaigns in the Filipino community, and took inspiration from the sustained advocacy networks in the Black, Chinese, South Asian, Jewish, Hispanic communities. Realizing that it is about time the Filipino community became strong enough to stand up side by side with supporters in the wider community, these leaders decided to form an alliance to vigilantly support social justice issues affecting especially the most vulnerable, disadvantaged individuals and sectors in the Filipino community. As a prominent leader of one of the largest Filipino-Canadian umbrella organizations and a CASJ founding member said: “We have hundreds of social, civic, religious, and cultural organizations, and it’s about time we form a strong umbrella organization that will serve as an advocacy, research, education, and community action group, that will strongly stand up for our social justice cause whenever we are wronged by the system. This is the only way we can help ourselves as a strong community, and gain respect in this society.”

Thus, the conference call for everyone to participate and lend support.

At present throughout September, various focus groups are being conducted in six sectors in the community in preparation for the conference. The focus groups are engaging youth, seniors, caregivers workers, trades and professions, workers and gay-lesbian-transgender communities to identify what their most pressing social justice concerns are. The priority issues coming out of these focus groups willl the subject of workshops to be held at the October 30 conference.

A distinguished social justice advocate will address the conference as keynote speaker. Ms Zanana Akande, the first black Woman Ontario Parliament Cabinet member, and currently president of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, has accepted the invitation to share her ideas and experiences in working on social justice issues with other communities, in the context of our diverse mullticultural Canadian society.

Conference organizers are inviting participants and supporters from a broad base of sectors — youth, adults, professionals, businesses, workers, Filipinos of diverse religions–as well as institutions–government, the Philippine Embassy, the Philippine Consulate, ethnic media, community media, and mainstream media–and Filipino organizations all over Canada.

Conference fee is $20 per person, which includes lunch and printed materials. For information and tickets, call Mel, Hermie or Mila at (416) 461-3445 or e-mail casj-toronto@yahoo.ca.