This is an archived blog from when I ran Conscious Public Relations Inc. from 2008-2018. Excuse the potential outdated-ness!

A little article in this week’s Georgia Straight Arts section by Alexander Varty struck a chord with me.

The article is on a new multimedia exhibition by Reva Diana entitled “Shattering our (in)visibility” and is a comment on ideas of colonialism and subjugation still faced by Filipino immigrant workers in Canada. The show runs at the Museum of Vancouver until May 27.

The issue isn’t just the art and its statement, but the fact that I did a high school project on the issue of Filipino immigrant workers in Canada for Christian Education 11 in 1998 – and read recently that the situation was STILL widely unresolved – was disconcerting.

A lot of people in Vancouver should be able to relate to the fact that in-house nannies are mostly Filipino women, many of whom have educational backgrounds to qualify them as nurses and in other professional positions like lawyers. The fact is, our country doesn’t recognize these degree credentials and it usually takes another level of professional development to secure an entry-level job in Canada.

In an effort to employ these immigrants quickly, the federal government created a federal Live-In Caregiver Program (LCP) to recruit workers from the Philippines straight into these positions, which are difficult to escape from without a lot of money, or time to take professional educational or development programs to get better jobs. My two aunts immigrated to Vancouver in 1995 with my grandparents, and one of them thankfully has a teaching job in the same field, while the other – who graduated with a degree in Psychology – has had to settle for positions at companies outside of her expertise. In hindsight, they were still extremely lucky to have our family as sponsors instead of having to go through a program like this.

Though rarely heard of in today’s media, one resource that has become available is the Philippine Women Centre (PWC), also known as the Kalayaan Centre. The BC chapter is located on 451 Powell Street in Vancouver.

For our high school project, we interviewed Christina Panis, who is still an active volunteer for PWC today and was mentioned in the Straight saying, “The women are required to work 24 months of live-in care work, either childcare or elderly care…forced to live in their employer’s home; they have a…temporary work permit… that’s not a situation anybody would ever want.

According to the PWC, 70% of the 3000 people leaving the Philippines are women, who earn $2000 less than Canadian-born workers despite their high level of education. Many caregivers under the program are subject to all forms of abuse, a 24-hour work day, no health care, and no social services.

I couldn’t last 2 years at my first job out of school, so being forced to work in a family home for 2 years is a tough gig, especially for someone trying to start a new and better life in Canada. Kind of makes you think of another side to those “You gotta be here” commercials by Tourism BC.

Diana’s exhibit is said to be a voice of community resistance and empowerment, and an expression of her reclaiming the culture that she’s felt disconnected from, as someone living and working in Vancouver.  Reva Diana is an active member of W2 and owns her own graphic design company, Red Raven Creative.

To contact the Philippine Women Centre, call 604-215-1103.

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