Culture Minister Flor Marcelino

Cabinet appointment sets precedent
Flor Marcelino

MANITOBA – In an unprecedented move on November 3, 2009, new Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger gave a vote of confidence to women leaders, making sure that they were well represented in his cabinet. The premier appointed eight women as cabinet ministers to help him govern the province. They make up 42% of his cabinet (8 women out of 19 ministers). Among the women was Flor Marcelino, the MLA from Wellington, who now holds the title of Minister of Culture, Heritage and Tourism and Minister responsible for multiculturalism.

The news was met with cheers not only by Filipinos in Canada but also by her compatriots in the Philippines and overseas as well.

This was not the first time she made history for overseas Filipinos. The first time was in 2007 when she became the first woman of colour to be elected in the Manitoba Legislature and the first woman of Filipino descent to hold an elected office in Canada. Two years later, in 2009, she made history again by becoming Manitoba’s first visible minority cabinet minister and also the first Filipino-Canadian woman in the country to be appointed to a cabinet post.

“Multiculturalism is not limited to just song and dance.. it involves protection of human rights, respect of our diversity and being open to individual differences.. being tolerant and not imposing your own beliefs on others,” said the Honourable Minister in a recent interview with the Pilipino Express.

The mention of human rights in the context of multiculturalism does not surprise people who know Flor Marcelino. Before entering politics in 2007 and even before she and her family immigrated to Canada in 1982, Marcelino has been a strong advocate for human rights in the Philippines.

In the early 1990s she and her husband Orlando began publishing the monthly Philippine Times in Winnipeg, continuing their work to promote human rights, freedom and justice not only for Filipino migrant workers but also for Filipino labourers in the Philippines.

Through her journalistic work, she made known the struggle of many Filipino human rights activists. She is also an active community leader, having served with Project Peacemakers, St. Stephen’s-Broadway Foundation, the Premier’s Economic Advisory Council, Broadway Disciples United Church and its international affiliate, the Global Ministries Board. Marcelino was also on staff at Red River College for 17 years. Among the women joining Minister Flor Marcelino in the Manitoba Cabinet are Rosann Wowchuk (Finance), Theresa Oswald (Health), Nancy Allan (Education), Diane McGifford (Advanced Education and Literacy), Kerri Irvin-Ross (Housing and Community Development), Jennifer Howard (Labour and Immigration) and Christine Melnick (Water Stewardship). Completing the new cabinet roster are 11 male Ministers, they are: Greg Selinger (Premier, Francophone Affairs), Andrew Swan (Justice), Stan Struthers (Agriculture), Steve Ashton (Infrastructure and Transportation, EMO), Gord Mackintosh (Family Services), Eric Robinson (Aboriginal and Northern Affairs, Sport), Ron Lemieux (Local Government), Bill Blaikie (Conservation), Dave Chomiak (Innovation, Energy and Mines), Jim Rondeau (Healthy Living, Citizenship and Youth), and Peter Bjornson (Entrepreneurship, Training and Trade).

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