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It's All History by Jon Malek

So, why Winnipeg?

By Jon Malek

As part of my continuing adventures in grad school, I had to defend my dissertation proposal a couple of weeks ago (the same proposal I discussed in last month’s article, “Filipina/o-Canadian?”). This is the final stage before the department lets students run free and conduct their research, and it is an opportunity to receive feedback on their research projects before they get too far into it. One major concern for all researchers is that people who read your work know why your subject is important. To me, someone who is interested in the history of the Filipino community in Winnipeg and the life experiences of its members, the importance of this subject is obvious, but to others it may not be so clear.

Most of the academic literature on Filipinos in Canada deals with Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal (most, but not all). As a result, there is not a lot of information on Filipinos in Winnipeg. When I pointed this out at my defense, I was asked what made Winnipeg unique and why the Winnipeg Filipino community should be studied (not in any demeaning way, of course, they were simply curious). There are, I believe, a few things that make the community in Winnipeg unique from other Canadian cities.

The first is how Filipinos are coming into Winnipeg. A recent study released by Dr. Philip Kelly of York University – a project that the youth group ANAK collaborated on – has shown that while other major cities, such as Toronto and Vancouver, receive many Filipino immigrants through the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP), Winnipeg only receives around one to two per cent through this stream. Most Filipinos immigrate to Winnipeg through the Family Sponsorship stream or the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program. Of all Canadian cities with large Filipino communities, Winnipeg is the only one that is not greatly affected by the LCP. This could affect the settlement patterns of immigrants as family members help newcomers find residence – indeed; Winnipeg’s Filipinos tend to concentrate in the city’s north end. According to Government of Manitoba statistics, Filipinos are concentrated in the Downtown (9,855), Inkster (8,245), Point Douglas (5,360), and Seven Oaks (7,300) areas of the city.

The second reason that this community is important is that there is a lingering conception of Winnipeg as a gateway city to Western Canada, that is, a city that people merely pass through as they move west. However, in the last decades Winnipeg has become home to growing a number of ethno-cultural groups. In the past, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant immigrants, largely, populated Winnipeg. However, while these groups remain very prominent in the city’s makeup, Asia-Pacific has become the number one source of new immigrants, with the Philippines, India, and China (in that order) being the top-three source countries in 2012.

The third reason is that a significant amount (but, again, not all) of the research that looks at the life experiences of Filipinos in Canada discusses experiences in the LCP in cities other than Winnipeg. Recent projects like the From Manila to Manitoba oral history project by ANAK, or The First Filipino Immigrants in Manitoba 1959-1975 by Gemma Dalayoan, Leah Enverga-Magsino, Leonila C. Bailon of the Manitoba Filipino Writers’ Guild have brought much needed attention and voice to the experiences of Filipinos in Winnipeg, but more is needed to do justice to the range of historical experiences of its members over time as the community has grown and developed.

The good news is that I convinced my committee of the importance of this community. Starting this summer, I’ll be joining the growing number of researchers who are building awareness of this community’s history, development, and contributions. As always, I am happy to discuss with any members of the community their experiences in Canada.

Jon Malek is a PhD candidate in History at Western University, and an alumnus of the University of Manitoba (B.A., M.A. in History). As part of his research project on the history of Filipinos in Winnipeg, Jon would be happy to talk to members of the community about their life experiences. He can be contacted at jmalek7@uwo.ca

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