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The Philippines: the new China/India?

It seems that I may no longer have to answer the question, “Why are you doing a case study of Filipinos?” Ever since the 2006 Census showed that Filipinos were the largest immigrant group entering the country, there has been increased interest in the status of the Filipino population in Canada, with a major focus on those who have entered the country under the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP). It’s gotten to the point that to say you’re working with the Filipino population is to invite harassment at parties by people wanting to know why nannies aren’t allowed to bring their family members to Canada with them (an excellent question, but one outside of my field of study).

In June, the Vancouver Sun featured a special five-part series on Filipinos in BC, trying to paint a broader picture of the Filipino population than their reputation as “nannies and maids”. However, the articles succeeded only in painting a somewhat grim picture of the challenges new immigrants face, even well-educated Filipinos who are usually fluent in English. Many of the more recent Filipino arrivals came to Canada on temporary worker visas. This program started in 2001 and was intended to fill labour shortages in technology, such as jobs in the burgeoning oil sands in Alberta. It was then extended to all kinds of other areas such as nursing, trucking, construction, fast food industry, and retail. There have been complaints about the program as it is vulnerable to human rights abuses, although some temporary workers may now apply for permanent residency after two years. Still, as I found out during my fieldwork in Toronto, Canada offers a better deal than other countries: it takes ten years to qualify for residency in Germany and in Saudi Arabia, it is impossible to get permanent residency. There are many other challenges for newcomers, which is why many choose to move to the major cities, where substantial Filipino populations, cultural associations, and community groups can provide support.

As many of you know, my dissertation focuses on the housing and transportation choices of Filipino immigrants in Toronto. I am particularly interested in how these choices have changed over time as the city grew and changed. What kinds of jobs did new immigrants find when they entered the country? Where did they live? How did they travel? Structural changes in immigration policy have played a key role in these choices, such as the introduction of family class sponsorship in the 1970s, the creation of the LCP in the 1980s, and the temporary worker category in the 2000s. I will be writing more on my dissertation topic as I finish up my data analysis in the next few months.


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