Options and alternatives
Gaining political influence in Canada — Part 5
Our greatest challenge is to bring back the lost trust and faith with each other especially to our leaders. Some of us seem biased against Filipinos during elections or will not support them financially. We only open our wallets when we get something. We always ask what we can get from involvement. We do not realize the value. Generally, we seem to be indifferent as voters like other Canadians. A few do not even want to be called Filipinos. Some would rather vote for white people. But when they need help, they ask Filipinos. Do we have the colonial mentality? Are we contented with the political situation here and our role as Filipino Canadians?
Do you think we can still hope to have a better political influence in the future?
The late Frank de Leon said that Mayor Hazel McCallion asked him why some Filipino leaders who come to her tell her not to trust other Filipino leaders. She said it speaks ill of our people. If they can betray their fellow countrymen then the more they can do this to other ethnic groups and mainstream Canadians.
Reminds me of our past when some maids would tell their masters of the wrongdoings of their fellow servants to look good in the eyes of their masters. We still have this servant’s mentality. Leaders of our small tribes did the same thing against other tribes that is why we were colonized by a few hundred Spanish soldiers for more than 300 years.
In the early 1980’s a talented Filipino Canadian Tony Archangel was appointed in a high position in the Federal Government. Some activists wrote the government that he is a Marcos crony simply because he said during an interview that “Marcos is not so bad” and so he was removed. Lately a few tried to pull down the newly appointed Senator Tobias Enverga. It is good that Canadian leaders no longer believe them. If we do this to every Filipino who goes up to a high position, imagine when it is time for us to be appointed or elected and someone did the same to us. When can we have our own representative in the government with this habit? Do you think you are more qualified and deserving than Senator Enverga? Most of us have good credentials and are equal if not better than most Canadians. We have to accept that others have more influence than us and they were there at the right moment. It is not always qualification but being close to the right people at the right time. Some people are luckier than others. If we have nothing good to say about our fellow Filipinos, please keep your mouth shot.
We must know the language politicians understand. We always hear them flattering our egos with their sweet talks during community events and many of us are content with that. What have we gotten so far compared to other ethnic communities? While they give away millions to other communities, we get pennies. They will only listen to us and give us what we want and deserve if they perceive that we have enough votes to make them win and stay in power or we can support them financially. If they know we have influence, they will listen to us.
During the Philippine Centennial at the SkyDome (Rogers Centre) which gathered for the first and last time more than 35,000 Filipino Canadians in 1989, Mayor Mel Lastman of Toronto rejected our invitation to speak. Mayor Hazel McCallion of Mississauga became the main speaker. When Mayor Lastman heard about the huge attendance, he sent us a note that he was sorry and begged to be invited the next time. Former Prime Minister Joe Clark, the Conservative Party leader staged his return to politics at that event. Even the various businesses had a bidding war at the end to be accommodated as sponsors.
Stop trying to unite
Uniting the Filipinos in North America is a beautiful dream but impossible to achieve. In Canada, we tried to unite them for more than four decades but failed. Never in more than 550 years of history did the Filipinos ever united in the Philippines or in other communities. No country or community ever did unite since time in memorial. Even the United States and Canada are divided.
Should we lower our expectation? We should in fact ask, “Do we need unity?” No we don’t.
We only need 1%
The Conservatives Party in Canada is not even 1% of the population, but they have control of the Federal Government and have a say on where our billions of taxes go and what projects, policies and laws are enacted. The Liberals in Ontario are even a minority in the Provincial Parliament but they rule over the province. They only have an alliance with the NDP and are allowed to govern.
The Democrats in America are less than 1% of the population but have enormous power over the country and decide where trillions of dollars are to be spent and decide the fate of more than 350 million Americans, the most powerful nation on earth. Republicans are also less than 1%. We therefore do not really need everybody to have influence or power. We only have to know how to gain that influence. By studying the experience and practices of other ethnic groups and businesses in Canada and America we can also improve our influence. We should know how the system works, where the power centers are and how to influence them.
What then are our alternatives to gain political influence? Let us study our options. The Jews have shown us that you don’t have to field candidates to influence the decisions of politicians. They hire lobbyists to get grants for their projects and influence government policies that affect their businesses. They show their voting powers and influence. They donate money for their campaigns and to their political parties. They were also like us in the beginning until the rich and influential Jews bind themselves together, organized, financed and give direction to their community.
The Chinese do the same in the Philippines. They fund all the leading parties and candidates and have a win-win situation. The Indians, Pakistani and Muslim communities recruit 6,000 members and at $10.00 membership fee they hand over the $60,000 to their party and demand that their choice be the official candidate of the party. That is why they have a lot of Indians and Pakistanis in the provincial and federal parliaments and we have none. According to one candidate who was recruiting members, Filipinos want to join but don’t have the $10.00 to contribute unless they have something in return.
In the past, when we want the Government to act at our concerns we rally our people like what we did in the Philippines. We rallied when the Toronto Sun called “Filipinos Eating Dogs” in its newspaper headline. Also when our youth were banned in Scarborough Town Centre and when Jeffrey Reodica was shot and killed by a trigger-happy police officer. The problem with this is that it embarrasses the Government and if we have a small group, it does not even get media attention and it shows the government that we are not serious about the problems or that we don’t have the support of our people. It is also too difficult to organize. Most of the time, we don’t get what we want. They don’t even listen to us. The media don’t even bother to attend.
Lately, we learned our lessons. When our caregivers were being maltreated by an MP from Brampton and some of them were being denied OHIP and being sent home because of sickness, we identified the politicians involved in their cases, find out who among us have influence to these officials and worked thru them. The Juana Tejada law was passed during this time. With the help of Pastor Julius Tiangson, we were able to get an audience with Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney at the Federal level and Peter Fonseca, Minister of Labor in the Provincial government to win their cases. Ralph Logatoc and Geopo Dacanay connected us with Fonseca. Some of the caregivers have died but their families have been granted landed status.
A difference in our strategy is this time we crossed party lines knowing our goal was for the betterment of our people.
(Those who are interested on this topic and might want to get involved in fulfilling this dream, please email the author at rodjalram@gmail .com)