Consulate, police address spike in crime rate, violence in community

Community News & Features Dec 7, 2018 at 8:50 pm
From left: Deputy Consul General Bernadette Fernandez, Ambassador Olivia V. Palala, Constable Matt Romeral, Consul Edwin Gil Mendoza and Constable Don Laurel.

From left: Deputy Consul General Bernadette Fernandez, Ambassador Olivia V. Palala, Constable Matt Romeral, Consul Edwin Gil Mendoza and Constable Don Laurel.  (Photos: M. Ramos)

By Michelle Chermaine Ramos
The Philippine Reporter

On October 18, 2018, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders called for new recruits from different ethnic communities to serve the city’s diverse population in more languages. Similar concerns were echoed in the Filipino community’s recent discussions.

On Tuesday November 27, 2018, the Philippine Consulate General hosted an information session with the Toronto Police at the former’s offices in Toronto.

Deputy Consul General  Bernadette Fernandez

Deputy Consul General
Bernadette Fernandez

There are about 280,000 Filipinos within the consulate’s jurisdiction of the Greater Toronto Area and southern Ontario. The rise in crime involving Filipinos is attributed to the growth of the Filipino population.

The occasion also marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in the Philippines. The Philippines ranks 10th and Canada ranks 16th in the global gender equality index. The Consulate’s main goals in cooperation with the police are to lower the crime rate, lessen settlement difficulties for newcomers, and to promote and protect the interests of Filipinos. Filipino officers Detective Jose Dizon, Constables Don Laurel and Matt Romeral led a presentation about everyone’s rights regardless of immigration status, issues affecting the recent spike of violence involving Filipinos, personal protection in light of the growth of homicide cases in Toronto and other topics and updates such as the implementation of the recreational cannabis act on October 17, 2018.

Here are the main takeaways:

Online classifieds

Know that many stolen items are sold on online classifieds and if you end up with one, you could potentially be charged for possession of property obtained by crime.

Consul Edna May Grecia-Lazaro

Consul Edna May Grecia-Lazaro

Drinking and driving

Starting on December 18, 2018, the police no longer need a reason to suspect you have been drinking before demanding a breath sample. As long as you are lawfully stopped, they have the authority to ask you to take the test.

Cannabis (marijuana)

It is the user’s responsibility to know what is legal in their province or territory. Get the facts from the Canadian government here: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/health/campaigns/cannabis.html

Intimidation and threats

Detective Jose Dizon

Detective Jose Dizon

Many newcomers like caregivers and abused spouses suffer in silence and fear threats of deportation. Caregivers have the same rights as landed immigrants. Constable Laurel explains, “Nobody has the right to intimidate you by threatening to have you deported. There is a proper process for that. You cannot just be deported immediately.” The police’s priority is your safety and he urged victims to contact them.

Holding police officers accountable

Vilma Pagaduan, a settlement counsellor from The Neighborhood Organization (TNO), reported encountering domestic abuse and employer abuse cases involving caregivers every week in the Filipino community. In a recent case she handled, an employer dragged and kicked out a Filipino caregiver and despite her calling 911, the police officer did nothing. Detective Dizon explained that in Toronto, they can easily investigate which officers attended a call as long as they know the time and address of that call.

Domestic violence and abuse

Ellen Pacelo of Kababayan  Multicultural Centre

Ellen Pacelo of Kababayan
Multicultural Centre

The police are duty bound to arrest violent aggressors. This raised concerns about cases where a parent was arrested and forbidden to go near his/her family despite the parties’ willingness to reconcile. Some couples have reached out to TNO asking if they can intervene with the police on their behalf and what they can do after charges are laid. Detective Dizon advises them to write a letter to the Crown Attorney as the police cannot do anything more. “Once we’ve laid charges, it’s before the courts. If the victim doesn’t want to go to court, a subpoena will be given and they have to go to court. What they say in court is up to them. The courts don’t want to destroy a family. They want to put a family together and make sure the abuser no longer abuses.”

Republic Act 9262 Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children

One out of four women aged 15 to 49 has experienced physical, sexual or emotional violence committed by her partner according to the 2017 national demographic and health survey conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority. That is 24.4 percent of the Philippine population. Philippine law recognizes the obvious forms of physical or sexual violence and the more hidden psychological violence and economic abuse. The Consulate has handled cases where individuals in the Philippines are searching for their spouses whose whereabouts are unknown in Canada after they stopped providing financial support. That is abuse and is punishable under Philippine law according to Republic Act 9262. More men are also becoming victims of abuse. In Canada, men and women have the same protection under Canadian law.

Vilma Pagaduan of The Neighborhood Organization

Vilma Pagaduan of The Neighborhood Organization

Devastating effects of delayed family reunification

Many Filipino women arrive here first and when finally reunited with their families, the parties endure feelings of alienation from years of separation topped with the responsibility of taking care of children while working multiple jobs to survive, triggering tension. Many end up separating. Some spouses return to the Philippines or find new partners here. Ellen Pacelo, a settlement worker at Kababayan Multicultural Centre confirmed a spike in domestic cases through referrals from probation officers and schools, sending the centre people who prefer Filipino counsellors, estimating that 98% are from reunified families.

Overcoming Language Barriers

Judith Gonzalez of Filcore Support Group and Loida Gatchalian of Kababayan Multicultural Centre emphasized the need to support Filipinos who struggle with communicating in English. Attendees at the information sesssion discussed the idea of sending a petition to Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders to assign a Filipino officer as a contact person for kababayan who are more comfortable communicating in their language.

Loida Gatchalian of Kababayan  Multicultural Centre

Loida Gatchalian of Kababayan
Multicultural Centre

RESOURCES:

Multilingual Community Interpreter Services offers services in different languages and Philippine dialects. https://www.mcislanguages.com/

Victim Services Toronto is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in over 35 languages. http://victimservicestoronto.com/

To report a crime anonymously, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS)