‘Recognition of the Ethnic Community’

Community News & Features Feb 16, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Interview with Florfina Marcelino, Manitoba Minister of Culture, Heritage and Tourism



(Interview conducted by Mila Astorga-Garcia on Feb. 2, 2010 at Filipino Centre Toronto, Parliament St., Toronto)

Reporter: What is your core mandate? How do you perceive your role as a woman of colour, as a Filipino Canadian:

Marcelino: I am so honoured by the trust that was given me. I have been in office for 2 1/2years and I was given this task of being the Minister of Culture, Heritage and Tourism and also Minister Responsible for Multiculturalism. It is an enviable position in the sense that I’m in charge of culture, heritage, tourism. It’s a fun department, a portfolio that is full of events and activities that make people happy. If you hear good symphony music that is wonderful, ballet, actors and actresses in theatre productions, you feel good so I believe my mandate as Minister is to support and enhance the existing bountiful talents that are in the province of Manitoba. By bountiful, I think it is an understatement because the province is really bursting with all forms of art the visual and music of all genres and we have so many talents in jazz … so I thought I’m in a this position where I have this unique responsibility of making sure that these are all enhanced and make it acceptable for all.

Being the first woman of colour in an elected position in Manitoba is such an honour and ever since I have been elected into office, I see this as the beginning of recognition of the ethnic community in our province, in our country for that matter. They need to be recognized for the contribution they can offer to this society, I thought that was a confirmation of that fact. We are here, they should recognize us, they should acknowledge us and we have something to contribute to society. I also see my election as, it was my wish upon my election that it would be the start of other people of colour being voted into office and being able to serve their community in the best way that they can. Aboriginal Inuit Metis, the Black community, Asian community. I hope more people of ethnic background would come forward, put their name in the ballot and see if the community will acknowledge them or accept them. So right now I’m intentionally looking for candidates of ethnic background and see if they would be interested in going into the political arena.

Jack Layton, Florfina Marcelino and Cathy Crowe

Jack Layton, Florfina Marcelino and Cathy Crowe

You asked me earlier if you have some advantage to the Filipino community.

I think this position that I hold will be advantageous in the sense that if there are pressing issues or concerns in our community there is voice in government to let government know those issues and concerns. For example when we had this flood in September in the Philippines right away the Province responded by giving $100,000 to the CDRC. It’s an NGO tasked with making sure that applications for relief operations coming from the Philippines are made by agencies or organizations that are trustworthy, with a proven track record, so its not the province that will disburse the funds but that agency which receive the funds from the government.

Also, as you know, there is this very sad human rights situation in the Philippines. When Satur Ocampo came to Winnipeg in the spring of 2009 he was able to meet with the Premier and the Speaker of the House. When another human rights advocate came, she was able to meet with the Justice Minister and Members of Parliament from Winnipeg – that was Marie – and the representative of ACT came to Manitoba, he was able to meet with the Minister of Education. Not that we’re using weight here, but because I’m part of government and these are colleagues in caucus colleagues, I was able to request those appointments and the ensuing dialogue was very fruitful. And also because of the acceptance of the strength of our community, we see members of our community occupying responsible positions in the civil service, of course because they are highly qualified. In years past that did not happen but of late, the government has this proactive program called Gateway Program – it really seeks ethnic minorities, new immigrants and match their talents and qualifications to positions or offices in the civil service. That’s happening in Manitoba and that is a program of the civil service due to the initiative of the provincial government. Also as a recognition of the plight of foreign workers, the government came up with a legislation protecting foreign workers and that happened in April of last year. That was a first in Canada – a legislation protecting foreign workers. So it’is illegal to demand payment from foreign workers to obtain employment in Manitoba through agencies. If there is payment involved, it would be the employer paying the agencies who recruited them, not the employees paying to obtain jobs in Manitoba. So I thought those things happened because of the recognition by the government of the value of visible minorities in the province.

Paulina Corpuz, Connie Sorio, Mary Ann San Juan, Flor Marcelino, Fanny Calucag, Linda Javier, Amy Ada, Mila Astorga-Garcia.

Paulina Corpuz, Connie Sorio, Mary Ann San Juan, Flor Marcelino, Fanny Calucag, Linda Javier, Amy Ada, Mila Astorga-Garcia.

Reporter: How do you define multiculturalism? Critics say that multiculturalism could be just the promotion of dance and song among the ethnic minorities, and nothing else. Some say it should include equity, anti-racism…how do you look at it?

Flor Marcelino: You put the exact words into the meaning of multiculturalism. Song and dances are part of this, and were proud of it because it shows the culture of various ethnic groups and there’s even a festival to showcase those songs and dances. Yet, that’s not the only role. That’s not the gist of a multicultural society. Multiculturalism also includes just like what you said — equity, social justice, respect for each and everyone’s values and traditions and we could co-exist and be proud of our cultural traditions; we don’t have to set aside to be assimilated into the mainstream, but we could show our uniqueness as a culture yet be a part of a whole society contributing to this whole society. Each culture could complement and contribute. It’s very important that respect for each other’s culture and traditions and also our strength for human rights and equality be part of the equation in the Multiculturalism.

From left: Efren de Villa, Mary Ann San Juan, Rey Tolentino, Flor Marcelino, Linda Javier, Wendy Arena, Felino Javier, Evelyn Birondo and Ed Birondo.

From left: Efren de Villa, Mary Ann San Juan, Rey Tolentino, Flor Marcelino, Linda Javier, Wendy Arena, Felino Javier, Evelyn Birondo and Ed Birondo.

Reporter: What is the purpose of your visit?

Marcelino: I’m here as a faithful member of NDP. In fact I’m wearing the orange colour very proudly. I’m on vacation by the way from work for two days. I decided to spend my two-day vacation here in Toronto to help in the campaign for Cathy Crowe’s election because I believe Cathy Crowe is a trusted community worker who can be the strong voice of Toronto Centre in the Ontario Parliament. In fact I was so touched, I didn’t know Cathy before. I was so touched when I learned of wonderful things that Cathy has done for her community. She has lived here is the area for over 25 years. As a nurse she not only advocated for health care but also worked to improve housing; also took up the cause of the homeless and so many of them; and also the challenges faced by immigrants and new Canadians. For that matter, when I learned that, all the more I became so enthused, and so yesterday and today as I was doing the phoning – and I particularly sought out Filipinos – it was a tiring job but a happy one for me that I’m able to connect with our kababayan, and I’m able to tell them who Cathy Crowe is and what she can do for the community.

Jack Layton, Flor Marcelino and Cathy Crowe join in a photo with some members of the audience in the NDP campaign meeting for the Toronto Centre.

Jack Layton, Flor Marcelino and Cathy Crowe join in a photo with some members of the audience in the NDP campaign meeting for the Toronto Centre.

Reporter: Can you tell us about your win in the elections in which contenders were also members of the Filipino and other ethnic minorities?

Marcelino It was a five-way race and three of us were Filipinos, one was Aboriginal First Nation woman and one was a Canadian of Chinese background. I think I won because I am a member of the Party that has been in government for the past two terms and for the past two terms, the NDP, the way they govern was totally different from the way the Conservatives governed for the previous eleven years.
Emphasis was made on health, education, family services, innovation to making sure that business investment as well as culture, tourism and heritage were also supported, so based on the track record of NDP, I won. I think we didn’t disappoint the electorate because I and the rest of the caucus were one in truly making sure that the core values of the party are being implemented. That value is service as well as meeting the needs not just the physical needs but even the emotional and even the spiritual needs of the population.