Good Friday in Toronto: Pinoy groups reenact Jesus’s walk to Calvary
Human trafficking, exploitation of OFWs raised
By Veronica C. Silva
As the Filipino Christian community worldwide commemorated the most holy and solemn day of the Christian calendar last Good Friday, Pinoy migrant groups in Toronto were not left behind in keeping the tradition.
But some of our kababayans offered a non-traditional take on the tradition of re-enacting Christ’s agonizing walk to Calvary by participating in the annual Walk for Justice march around downtown Toronto.
The walk, with this year’s theme “Sold Out for Silver,” was organized by a coalition of local churches and ecumenical groups in Toronto. Organizers said on the event website (http://goodfridaywalkforjustice.wordpress.com/) that this year’s walk “focus(ed) on the modern-day betrayal by institutions and systems that put profits before people.”
Migrante Canada and its member organizations participated in the walk, which started at the Church of the Holy Trinity Anglican church at the Trinity Square near the Toronto Eaton Centre.
The Walk for Justice covered six stations with each station strategically chosen to dramatize the social injustices in today’s society, such as homelessness, environmental degradation, human trafficking, and human rights abuses.
The opening and closing stations were at the Holy Trinity church while station 2 was at Lake Devo, then station 3 was at the Old City Hall, station 4 at Federal Courts, and station 5 at the Homeless Memorial just outside the Holy Trinity church.
Explaining the significance of the stations in the walk this year, Rev. Brian McIntosh, described as “a long-time member of the Walk planning team,” said on the event website: “The three focus stations this year offer us the opportunity to recognize, lament and be empowered to transform how marginalized people and God’s good creation are currently devastated by the corporate, consumer and personal greed that ‘sells out’ thousands and even millions of lives and our collective future in the name of short-term profit for only a few.”
Migrante Canada was assigned to station 3 at the Old City Hall at Queen Street West. Members of iWWorkers-Migrante, Anakbayan Toronto, Filipino Migrant Workers’ Movement, Binnadang and Akdaan took part in a short skit with musical accompaniment to dramatize the plight of migrant workers in the country, especially the live-in caregivers.
The Pinoy groups chanted “We are workers! We are not slaves! We are not for sale!” as they deplored the oppressive labour export policy of the Philippine government and the temporary foreign workers program of the Canadian government.
To dramatize their disgust for human trafficking, the Pinoy migrant groups built a paper mâché of a human-sized black cross to signify the cross of human trafficking that’s too unbearable for Pinoy migrant workers to carry, similar to the cross of Christ that he carried all the way to his death on Mt. Calvary.
“Nakilahok kami dito sa Walk for Justice-Station of the Cross at ipinakita dito ng Migrante yung human trafficking. Ipinakita namin dito kung ano ba yung mga dinaranas ng mga women migrant workers (We dramatized in this skit the plight of women migrant workers),” said Maru Maesa, chair, iWWorkers-Migrante, a group composed mostly of Pinay women workers, such as current and former live-in caregivers, personal support workers, and homeworkers.
“Siempre, humihingi tayo ng hustisya dun sa mga exploitative and oppressive working conditions ng mga women migrants (Of course, we are seeking justice against the exploitative and oppressive working conditions of women migrants),” Maesa added.
Maesa said the labour export policy (LEP) of the Philippine government exposes migrant workers to exploitation by recruiters while Canada’s temporary foreign workers program (TFWP) also doesn’t offer much to protect them once they land in Canada.
“Sa kaso ng LEP (labour export policy) ginawa itong iskema para makapag-export ng mga OFW (overseas Filipino worker) pero wala itong sapat na programa para proteksyonan at tugunan ang rights and welfare ng mga migrante kaya pagdating sa ibang bansa mas pinatitindi rin ito ng dayuhang polisya tulad ng TFWP o ung mismong LCP (live-in caregiver program). (In the case of the LEP, it has become a scheme to export OFWs although there are not enough safeguards to protect … their rights and welfare. This is further exacerbated by foreign policies, such as the TFWP or LCP itself), ” said Maesa.
Migrant workers also fall prey to human trafficking because of unscrupulous recruiters. In the case of LCPs, many have fallen prey to the “release upon arrival” scheme where caregivers who were promised a job before arriving in Canada are suddenly told that they don’t have an employer anymore.
Desperate to look for alternative jobs as they land in Canada jobless, some caregivers end up doing low-wage paying jobs, Maesa added.
Bheng Abad, a new member of iWWorkers and a recent migrant worker in Toronto, said she participated in the event as she wants to raise awareness among her peers in the community that there are groups such as Migrante Canada, that are working to fight for the rights migrant workers like herself.