In just a few short decades, Canada’s Filipino community has grown from less than a thousand residents to become one of the country’s largest immigrant demographics. At present, over 500,000 Filipinos call Canada home, and this number is increasing rapidly. In fact, in recent years the Philippines has been the greatest source of immigrants to Canada.
The story of Filipino immigration to Canada is one of dreams, hard work, sacrifice, and success. In 2012 alone, over 32,000 new Canadian Permanent Residents came to Canada from the Philippines – a whopping 146% increase from 2004. Still more traveled to Canada that year to work (44,000) and study (918), all record highs for the country. As new arrivals settle in Canada, both countries benefit economically as well as culturally.
The History of Filipino Immigration to Canada
Filipino immigration to Canada began somewhat late compared to many other nationalities. Immigrants from the Philippines were first recorded in small numbers in the year 1930. By the 50s and 60s, only 800 or so had settled in Canada. Almost all resided in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Since the 1990s, immigration from the Philippines had increased steadily. Many new arrivals came to work as live-in caregivers across Canada. More and more began to settle in major Canadian metropolises, especially Toronto. Today, over 200,000 Filipino immigrants reside in the greater Toronto area, more than in any other city.
Winnipeg, however, has remained a major destination for newcomers from the Philippines, with 1 in 10 Filipino immigrants living in this city. Filipinos are now recognized as Winnipeg’s largest ethnic minority, making up almost 9% of the city’s total population.
Many Filipinos have worked hard to bring their immediate families to Canada. Oftentimes, an individual will first come to Canada as a temporary worker, leaving spouses and children behind. Once permanent residency is achieved, they are then able to reunite with their families in Canada.
Canada’s generous family sponsorship rules allow permanent residents to sponsor not only children and spouses, but parents and grandparents as well. These include the popular Parent and Grandparent Sponsorship Program as well as the new Super Visa Program, which offers long-term visitor visas to qualified applicants. The introduction of these family reunification programs has contributed to a secondary upsurge in new arrivals from across the Philippines.
Where do Filipino Canadians Work?
Whether from the Philippines or any other country, there is no ‘typical’ immigrant to Canada. Filipinos in Canada can and do work in a wide range of disciplines in every province in the country. Because many Filipinos have a good command of the English language, they are able to find jobs and quickly settle into their new homes upon arrival.
Many Filipino immigrants find work in one of two popular fields: nursing and care giving. Prospective immigrants with experience in these fields are in luck, as Canada has many immigration programs geared towards workers with these skill sets. In fact, Canada has a dedicated Live-In Caregiver Program that facilitates the entry of these workers to the country. In addition, popular immigration programs such as the Quebec Skilled Worker Program award high points to nurses, while many Provincial Nominee Programs have created special programs targeting healthcare workers, skilled tradespersons and even food service managers.
Filipino workers in Canada are important to both the Canadian and Philippine economies. While workers in Canada help to fill important labour shortages, the Philippines benefits from approximately $2 billion in remittances sent from Canada every year.
The Filipino-Canadian Community Today
The Filipino community has become well integrated into the fabric of Canadian society. In 2012, Tobias Enverga Jr became Canada’s first senator of Filipino descent. Another Filipino-Canadian, Rey Pagtakhan, was elected to Parliament in 1998 and served as the Secretary of State for Asia and the Pacific from 2001 to 2004.
Many members of Canada’s Filipino community maintain strong ties with their home country, which in turn has led to a strengthening of bilateral relations between Canada and the Philippines. These relations were underscored in the wake of the recent tragedy of Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated many parts of the Philippines. Canada has to date donated over $20 million to relief efforts, and deployed dedicated emergency response teams. In addition to relief efforts, Canada is allowing priority processing of immigration applications for individuals who have been affected by the typhoon.
Such gestures demonstrate the strong connection that has developed between Canada and the Philippines. As thousands of new temporary and permanent residents settle in Canada every year, this connection will continue to strengthen and deepen. The future will see Filipinos in Canada continue to shape the country’s character and heritage in more ways than ever before.