Monday, January 28

Filipino youth in Canada mourn Deward Pontes death blaming the Live-in Caregiver Program

As several Filipino groups in Vancouver continue to mourn the death of Deward Ponte, they are calling for better support for their young people.

They're also pointing the finger at the federal government for immigration programs they say keep families apart for too long.

Mildred German with the Filipino Canadian youth alliance says the federal government's live-in-caregiver program-which allows immigrants to come to Canada to work and later bring family over- also brings a host of problems for immigrants and their families back home.

"These are the trauma of migration, family separation and reunification. And added to this trauma is the lack of genuine support and services culturally appropriate to the Filipino youth and the Filipino community."

German says government policy causes Filipino immigrants coming to Canada to stay economically marginalized.

Deward Ponte’s mother worked in the live-in-caregiver program before bringing Deward and his sister.

Ugnayan ng Kabataang Pilipino sa Canada/Filipino-Canadian Youth Alliance, BC (UKPC/FCYA-BC) extend our sympathy and condolences to the family and loved ones of Deward Ponte, the 15-year-old Filipino teen who was stabbed in Grays Park in East Vancouver, and later died in hospital on January 27, 2008.The unfortunate death of Deward is a traumatic event for the community.

It reminds us of the unfortunate death of
Mao Jomar Lanot back in 2003, and of the many similar experiences of Filipino youth in Canada, whose everyday lives are faced with challenges and barriers to full participation into Canadian society.

Most newly-arrived Filipino youth face the trauma of migration, family separation and reunification. A recent study at the University of British Columbia (UBC) found that Filipino youth experience an average of five-year separation from their parents who come to Canada under Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC)’s Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP).

95% of workers coming under the LCP are Filipino women, who cannot bring their families when they enter Canada to work.

Filipino youth are the most affected as they are the ones left behind while their parents are working abroad.

When youth finally are able to enter Canada to be reunited with their parents, they are reunited as strangers—the result of many years of separation.

This was the case for Deward Ponte, and his mother Daisy, who where separated for five years.Ponte told stories of how hard life was in the Philippines.

At the age of ten, he started working while taking care of his sister.

The economic and political crisis in the Philippines have been the main factors for the forced migration of the Filipino people.

The Philippines is the number one source of migrant workers in the world, with Canada bring a top destination.

The Filipino community is the third largest visible minority group in Canada, however it remains one of the most marginalized.

This economic marginalization of the Filipino community in Canada is due to the policies embedded in Canadian institutions.

On January 21, 2008, UKPC/FCYA-BC, alongside with other migrant organizations and community groups, questioned the CIC on the social impacts of their policies, particularly with the Temporary Workers Program, the Canadian Experience Class, and the Live-in Caregiver Program.

The CIC Deputy Director for Permanent Resident Policy and Programs Development Division, Katherine Pestieau, admitted there is no money for the integration and settlement of our migrant communities here in Canada.

Pestieau’s disappointing response could only further the impacts that racist policies implemented on our community and other migrant communities.

Filipino community’s experience with the LCP, the impacts are tremendous: the trauma of migration, family separation, and reunification. Adding to this trauma is the lack of genuine support and services culturally-appropriate to the Filipino youth and the Filipino community. It is not surprising that the UBC research found that the Filipino youth has the second highest drop-out rate in Vancouver.

For us in the UKPC/FCYA and other community groups of the KC, we have been actively conducting Anti- Racism work for over ten years, educating, organizing and mobilizing Filipino youth and empowering them to take a critical look at the immigration policies and the roots of our migration.

With the death of Deward Ponte, it is urgent to look at the issues faced by Filipino youth and the community.

There is a need to look to the policies affecting the Filipino community and other communities of colour.

There is a need to understand the root causes of these traumatic events.

We must all look for a solution and action, so that justice will be fully served for our community, so we no longer remain underdeveloped, underrepresented and marginalized.

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