OTTAWA — A new grassroots group says it’s time federal parties promise to field Filipino-Canadians in key ridings as they pointed out the community has had no voice in the House of Commons since 2004.
"If you want to represent Canadians of all groups, it is about breaking down those barriers for more marginalized communities that lack that representation," said Grant Gonzales, co-founder of the Filipino Canadian Political Association.
The non-profit, which registered a few months ago, advocates for a stronger voice in Parliament, noting one of the largest diaspora groups in Canada is virtually invisible on the federal scene.
The group analyzed 2016 census data and the tightest ridings in the 2019 federal election, and found 37 electoral districts where the number of people who identify as Filipino is more than the margin of victory. That includes six of Winnipeg’s eight ridings.
Filipino-Canadians are no strangers to the Manitoba legislature or Winnipeg city hall. The first Filipino elected to Parliament represented a Winnipeg riding. Rey Pagtakhan represented the Liberals in the former Winnipeg North-St. Paul riding from 1997 to 2004. No other Filipino-Canadian has followed in his footsteps.
That’s meant a lack of input on issues, such as the pandemic’s effect on personal care home workers, who include hundreds of Filipino-Canadians.
"They’re out there, getting exposed to the pandemic and yet have no voice in the decision-making process," Gonzales said.
"It’s hard to have a voice and to represent what the community is feeling, if you don’t have that voice in elected office to drive that conversation."
Gonzales said it’s tough to gain political clout when the population is spread out as opposed to being in one or two cities.
He noted Filipinos have immigrated to Canada more recently than other ethnic groups, and report lower incomes than people of colour in Canada.
Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux’s Winnipeg North riding has the highest proportion of Filipino-Canadians, accounting for one-third of its residents.
Lamoureux said Tuesday he hopes to see many Filipinos step forward to contest Liberal nominations.
"I think there is a movement, and I know the prime minister is very much keen and interested in seeing more diversity. I look forward to hopefully seeing a number of candidates," he said.
Gonzales said parties need to recruit members from his community.
"There are a lot of ethnic groups that feel they just don’t have a place in the political process, which is an intimidating process to begin," he said. "Without the network, without the knowledge of resources that are available, or fundraising… nobody wants to run."