Vancouver, B.C.-- An estimated crowd of 70 people, which included guests, well wishers and members of the Filipino community came together to celebrate the successful launch of the MIGRANTE B.C. last September 14, 2008. MIGRANTE-B.C. is a new community-based organization of Filipinos in British Columbia that asserts that Filipino migrants deserve the greatest promotion and protection of their rights wherever they are.
At the Longhouse Church in the east side of Vancouver, the community was welcomed by First Nations Elder Jim White and Longhouse Church Pastor Barry Morris. Councillor Ted Stevenson (City of Vancouver) and Members of the Legislative Assembly David Chudnovsky (Vancouver-Kensington), Shane Simpson (Vancouver-Hastings) and Jenny Kwan (Vancouver-Mount Pleasant) sent in their greetings of solidarity to the new organization.
Member of Parliament Libby Davies (East Vancouver) personally delivered her sincere greetings and best wishes to the Migrante B.C.’s members and supporters. “While the Migrante B.C. is new and small,” MP Davies said, “you have a mighty spirit” and “your strength, discipline and political consciousness and awareness are all good things” that help build a network to take up the migrants’ cause. She pointed out that the collective Filipino experience is important and encouraged the community to find its political voice, more so in the upcoming federal elections, and engage in political debate. Speaking of workers’ rights, she brought up the issues of the temporary foreign workers who are very vulnerable to exploitation and also of the long standing injustice of the live-in-caregiver program. Of the latter, she said, “you come here and you find that you have left one prison for another.” MP Davies declared that she and the New Democrats will work to remove the restrictions on the live-in-caregiver program so that “people can come here as permanent residents.” “You have our support,” she said, “and we will continue to work on this issue.”
The Kilusang Mayo Uno (May First Movement Labour Centre), the biggest trade union alliance in the Philippines, MIGRANTE International, and Ka Osang Beltran, the widow of the late Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran also forwarded their militant congratulations and commended MIGRANTE B.C. on its “commitment to defend the rights of Filipino migrants and their families as we all fight for a society that genuinely promotes the rights and interests of the workers and people of the Philippines, wherever we may be.” From Canada, messages came in from PINAY, the Filipino women’s organization in Quebec, MIGRANTE-Ontario, the Victoria Philippines Solidarity Group and the Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights.
Ms. Maita Santiago, the General Secretary of MIGRANTE International, the international alliance of Filipino migrant organizations, delivered the keynote address. She gave a brief situationner of the plight of Filipino overseas workers now found in 197 countries and territories around the world. Ms. Santiago lauded the historic launching of the MIGRANTE B.C. at a time when grassroots migrants organizations have joined ranks under the International Migrants Alliance (IMA), the first global network of its kind in its Founding Assembly in Hong Kong earlier in June. Ms. Santiago also shared the stories of those involved with Migrante International in its work of assisting Filipino overseas workers and their families in the Philippines. Maita, an immigrant to Canada herself, came with her newborn son to the launch and said that her son, “like all our children, symbolize the hope and aspirations of Filipino migrants for a better life.” A lively question and answer period followed the keynote presentation.
Cultural numbers performed by the members showcased the artistic talents within the MIGRANTE B.C. A short video presentation on the life of the late Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran in the program was a poignant reminder of Ka Bel’s last visit to Vancouver as part of the Philippine Solons Tour this year. Those who supported Ka Bel, many of who are now founding members of MIGRANTE -B.C., provided the accommodations, medical assistance and community support for that tour.
Two banners of Migrante B.C. were proudly displayed, each banner a labour of love from the migrants themselves. Bert Monterona, international award-winning painter and visual art designer from Mindanao, made the blue banner with the Migrante B.C. logo. The other banner was worked on by Bootz Estella, a Migrante member from the Igorot tribe in the Cordillera.
Jane Ordinario and Florchita Bautista, emcees of the program, declared that MIGRANTE B.C. is a fitting memorial to the legacy of the late Crispin Beltran who defended the national and democratic rights of workers, including that of the Filipino migrant workers.
For reference: Migrante-B.C.
109-4155 Central Blvd.
Burnaby, British Columbia
Canada V5H 4X2
See photos and report at Arkibong Bayan