Story by Will Tigley
It has been three years since Filipino leaders from across Alberta have been able to meet in-person. The pandemic delayed the second meeting of the Alberta Filipino Leaders Conference, but on the weekend of November 20 and 21 over 150 leaders from Edmonton, Lethbridge, Brooks and other Alberta municipalities gathered in Calgary.
“This has been a long time coming for our community,” says Sherrisa Celis, Alberta Filipino Leaders Conference Chair. “In 2018 we made a lot of progress talking about how we can strengthen and build the Filipino community in our province and finally we’re in a position to once again get together to continue these important conversations.”
While the previous conference outlined issues facing the Filipino community across Alberta and recommended actions to provide support, this year’s conference focused the structure and governance of what a coordinated leadership organization would look like for the province by gaining consensus from attendees.
It was also an opportunity for participants to engage with government officials from the Alberta government. Premier Jason Kenney, Minister of Children’s Services, Rebecca Schultz, Minister of Labour and Immigration, Tyler Shandro and Associate Minister of Immigration and Multiculturalism, Muhammad Yaseen all reiterated the need for strong Filipino leadership in the province and the provincial government’s support toward the community.
Alberta Minister of Transportation, Rajan Sawhney and Federal Member of Parliament, George Chahal also made appearances during the evening conference gala to speak with participants to inspire them to move for more Filipino representation in government.
“We’re excited to be making progress as a community with this successful second conference,” says Prima Anderson, Co-Chair Philippine Festival Council of Alberta and one of the organizers of the conference. “We know that as Filipino Canadians we have a lot of challenges that we’re trying to solve, but collectively we have a better chance at finding solutions when we share knowledge and work together.”
From youth engagement, political representation, mental health and employment rights and equality, conversations between Filipino leaders from many municipal jurisdictions moved toward concrete action.
“Meeting each other and getting to know who’s active in the community is always a great step to build on these important conversations,” says Celis. “We want to ensure we move on this valuable work, so as a committee we’re going to look at all the discussions we’ve had and provide recommendations to the group.”
“The next time we meet, hopefully we’ll be even stronger and have a clearer path to success for our community across Alberta.”