The leadership may be there but will solidarity follow?

Community News & Features Dec 16, 2004 at 2:35 pm

By Jerry Villanueva
Justice for Jeffrey Coalition

While other community strives to enhance their status in our society, ours can’t be said of the same. You look at the Greek community at the Danforth, although people from different backgrounds come and visit regularly, it is still generally known as the Greek community. Canadian Muslims in the GTA have mosque all around the city. The Italians have made a name for their community. And everyone knows Chinatown no longer means downtown. From Mississauga in the west to Pickering in the East, and extends north to Markham, you can always find a little Chinatown around.

Until the acquisition of a property on Parliament Street, subsequently called the Filipino Centre, there is very little that we can identify ourselves in the City.

This may be attributed to a number of things including lack of interest from Filipinos born or raised here. Or, maybe we’re lacking true leadership or credibility. Whatever the reasons are, the perception of some of us towards the Filipino community in general has never been positive. Whether this perception is true or not, it still results in low rate of participation in the community. Accomplishment and advancement is very slow considering the fact that the very first group of Filipino immigrants may have come here as early as in the 1960’s. The population of Filipinos in Canada, and especially Toronto, is on the top of the list. There may be hundreds of little organizations here, but they are mostly devoted to social events and gatherings. Issues that affect our day to day lives have seemed to be non-existent. There is no political voice for us. There is no organized network to achieve togetherness. Rather than work together; identify the needs and formulate a solution; frictions and envy rules the playing field. And unless we get past this hurdle, our children’s children will experience the same situation. The time to be socially conscious is now. The need to stand up and to make a difference is very much evident.

The Community Alliance for Social Justice, (CASJ), has thrown the first salvo. The recently held workshop on community issue is probably just the first of many activities and campaign that the group is planning in the near future. Attended by various members of different ethnic groups, social problems and strategies were discussed, including the pursuit of Justice on the shooting death of
young Jeffrey Reodica.

CASJ is trying to fill the void of Leadership in the Filipino community. Whether the masses can be convinced to join in and to participate remains to be seen. But one thing is for certain, “there is strength in numbers”. And their success will heavily depend on community support.

When the permit was refused for the use of Albert Campbell Square a few months ago for a benefit festival for Jeffrey, the Mayor and Councilor Glen Deaberamaker were bombarded with e-mail of displeasure with their decision. This, many believed, led to the meeting with municipal officials to resolve the issue.

Participation and support is therefore quite important to have any chances of success. The leadership and the cause are here, and what is needed now is participation in different forms. Stand up and be heard. It’s time to put our differences aside. Forget about opinions from the past. Maybe it’s time to give a little something back to our community.

Lack of free time should never be used as an excuse anymore. Everyone knows that if someone really wants to, then he or she can make time to support the cause. Besides volunteering, there are plenty of little things that can make a difference like signing petitions, writing to our government officials or even donating small amount of money for legal and political campaigns.

The Justice for Jeffrey Coalition, which are about to launch a massive fundraising campaign, is one that is banking on the support of the community. Fighting an uphill battle against a powerful institution may not be impossible but certainly tough. The surprisingly large numbers of supporter clearly shows that people have come to agree that the killing of Jeffrey Reodica was senseless and needs justice for a closure. The fight to achieve this goal is not, and never will be simple. In our society, the price we pay for truth and justice can be really costly.

But we have shown lately, as we have shown in the past that the Filipino community is capable of joining forces together, in solidarity, to make one powerful voice. There are a lot of us who refuse to be bullied around any more. Enough is enough. And it’s interesting to see if others feel the same way.