by Rachelle Cruz, ABS-CBN News
TORONTO — The City Council of Toronto unanimously voted in declaring the month of June as Filipino Heritage Month.
Spearheaded by Neethan Shan, Councillor for Scarborough-Rouge River, Ward 2, the motion also calls on the City Council to formally request that the province and the federal government do the same.
In Toronto, where the population of the Filipino community is more than 160,000, Philippine Independence Day festivities and Pinoy celebrations are already visible during this month.
But Councillor Shan says that the formal declaration is a way of giving back to Filipino Canadians.
“Today Canada is richer and vibrant because of the contributions of Filipino-Canadians,” said Shan. “It also gives space for non Filipino-Canadians to learn about the rich heritage of the Filipino communities but also about the contributions..”
The initiative sprung from a petition started by Paulina Corpuz, president of both the Filipino Canadian Parents Association in Catholic Education and Philippine Advancement through Arts & Culture.
“As people of colour, in city council, we are under-represented,” said Corpuz. “So we have 44 councilors and a Mayor, but very few of us are racialized community members so we have to be able to help each other in different ways, as communities, forming solidarity.”
Shan is the first Tamil Canadian to serve on the city council. He is also a youth worker.
Here at the Scarborough Civic Centre, Councillor Shan held a Filipino Youth Get Together to discuss the issues that Filipino youths are facing today.
The discussions ranged from family reunification problems to understanding Filipino identities.
Organizers here say these youths need to see themselves represented more in society, and the Filipino Heritage Month celebration could help.
“We have a chance to take up a platform, take up a space and not be squished into this idea of Asian identity, especially when Asian identity doesn’t talk about our Pacific Island heritage, our specific history,” said Dorothy Anne Manuel, Kapisanan.
Later this month, Councillor Shan is inviting Filipino communities to a reception to celebrate the declaration of Filipino Heritage Month.