TORONTO – Filipino community leaders raised their concerns before city representatives recently as they seek greater participation in government's policy-making.
Among issues raised were difficulties in accessing city services particularly for Pinoys living below poverty line, and live-in caregivers who are only off during weekends when some city offices are closed.
The meeting was called by City Councilors whose wards have a large concentration of Pinoys.
"We need to develop a stronger relationship between City Hall and the Filipino community. And that's everything from services that we have to knowing who to go to when you need help," said Joe Mihevc, councilor for Ward 21, St. Paul's West.
Canadians with Pinoy roots in Toronto are estimated to be at least 100,000 as the Philippines continues to be one of the top sources of immigrants to Canada in recent years.
With the strength in numbers, Pinoy leaders are also asking Toronto councilors to advocate for some of their concerns at Queen's Park and Ottawa and for the city to concretize its support for racialized minorities.
"We would like the city to develop a task force, a task force that can serve in an advisory capacity to identify policies, programs and needs that are specific to the Filipino-Canadian community," said Dr. Roland Coloma, professor at the University of Toronto and lead researcher on Pinoy seniors in the GTA.
Councilor Mihevc is open to the idea of a task force but wants further dialogue.
"What I'm hopeful for is that we find an ongoing, regular form for the city to be in conversation with the Filipino community. Maybe some kind of task force on Filipino affairs that will deal with nanny issues, immigration issues, youth issues, education issues, employment security, housing. All those things need a place for ongoing conversations. I think that's the big take-away from this meeting," he said.
For her part, former Toronto Member of Parliament and now mayoral candidate Olivia Chow, herself an immigrant, said City Hall can do more to address the needs of the Pinoy community.
"I know the needs of the Filipino community quite well. I believe the city of Toronto, through building more affordable housing, having good after school programs, youth employment programs, connecting communities can really enhance the quality of life of the Filipino community," she said.
The councilors and Pinoy representatives at the meeting agree a task force for Philippine affairs can be a role model for other racialized communities in the city.