EDMONTON, CANADA — Gina Bahiwal of Baguio City entered Canada in 2008 on a work permit.
After experiencing unfair treatment of her fellow OFWs, she lost her employment several times defending fellow workers.
Bahiwal became a key lobbyist for the labor rights movement in Toronto for Filipino foreign workers, and even made headlines after receiving a deportation order from Canada.
But her story is not yet over.
“Its bad kasi, matagal na ako nag trabaho ako dito, tapos yung connection ko dito sa community dito at nag iisa ako dito. It was really bad,” she told BA over Skype.
The Filipino community appealed to the government about her status, after all the help she’s done for other contract workers.
To their success, Bahiwal received a temporary resident permit from immigration services in Canada, allowing her to stay for a year, while her application for permanent residence under the humanitarian and compassionate considerations is in process.
There were mixed reactions to Bahiwal’s case.
“Gina Bahiwal entered into this country, and pretty sure she’s well equipped with the proper knowledge that she will be working under contract,” said Lito Velasco, a community leader in Edmonton. “And by the virtue of that contract she know that according to the paper that she signed. The government has nothing to do with her situation.”
“Masayang masaya ako sa resulta sa laban ni Gina, at ito ay matagal na niyang hinihintay napatigil siya dito at least nabigyan siya ng chance sa kanyang H&C application,” said Marco Luciano from Migrante Alberta.
Bahiwal is called a champion for foreign workers — and a vocal advocate for migrant worker rights.
She appeared in a documentary called “The End of Immigration.”
Some of her accomplishments include organizing the historic 12-hour Pilgrimage to Freedom march, and the Harvesting Freedom caravan — which called on the federal government to grant permanent status upon arrival for all temporary foreign workers.
As an advocate, she was invited to speak before a parliamentary committee in Ottawa last year, which ultimately led to the revocation of the “four-in-four-out” rule.
She shares her accomplishments with friends, family, and the world on Youtube.
Her advice to contract workers in Canada:
“Hindi tayo dapat matakot dahil sa mga abuso at sa mga recruiters at sa mga employers dahil hindi sila ang mag papauwi sa atin , ang mag papauwi sa atin ay ang gobyerno ng Canada… so, I encourage all the contract workers ilaban natin ang government of the Philippines, sa problema kasi lahat nang mga aplikante ay dadaan sa recruitment , which is very wrong so hopefully labanan natin eto.”
Bahiwal will continue her advocacy.
She believes there is still much to be done with the temporary foreign worker program in Canada.