Organizers of Pinoys on Parliament, a national youth-led leadership conference by and for Filipino-Canadians, are busy preparing for this year’s event, which will take place at the end of May. This annual conference features workshops, panel discussions, talks and other events covering a wide range of topics.
Axella Apostol, workshop director for Pinoys on Parliament 2022, says one of the conference’s goals is to increase Filipino-Canadian representation in “leadership positions in a variety of fields, especially in spaces where decisions that impact our community are being made.”
“As we’re one of the largest ethnocultural groups in Canada, it’s imperative that our voices and unique perspectives are being heard and represented,” she says in an email to The Uniter.
According to the 2016 census, more than 800,000 Canadians are Filipino. Winnipeg has a significant Filipino community, which comprises more than 10 per cent of its population.
Only two Filipinos have ever been elected as Members of Parliament in Canada: Manitoban Rey Pagtakhan, who served from 1988 to 2004, and Ontarian Rechie Valdez, who was first elected in 2021.
Manitoba has also had Filipino representation in its legislature. Flor Marcelino, Jon Reyes, Malaya Marcelino, Conrad Santos and Ted Marcelino have all served as MLAs.
Nikki Vinzon, who has been a conference delegate for the last few years, believes Pinoys on Parliament’s mandate is important.
“From my experience as a public servant, it excites me when I see other Filipinos in the public service ... because I don’t see that many, but I hope that’s changing,” she says.
Vinzon says she loves the conference because “it allows us to share our Filipino-Canadian story.”
“It’s not just (recently immigrated) Filipinos that have come here. It’s also Filipinos that were born in Canada who have a totally different experience,” she says. “That diversity of stories is a wonderful way to share and empower us.”
Pinoys on Parliament was founded in 2018, with the first conference taking place in 2019.
“It’s the first and largest Filipino youth conference in Canada,” Apostol says.
The Edmonton-based non-profit worker first participated in 2020 and says she is especially looking forward to this year.
“Our theme this year is ‘Pagitan,’ a Tagalog word describing a ‘space in between,’” Apostol says.
“We want to create a welcoming space to explore who we have been, who we are now, who we can be and all of the spaces in between,” she explains.
“We hope that by developing leadership opportunities for our youth, we’re able to inspire generations to build strong leadership in our community, bring people together and achieve the positive change we’d like to see,” Apostol says.
This year, Pinoys on Parliament will be held virtually over two weekends: May 20 to 21 and May 27 to 28. The conference is open to anyone who registers. Further information can be found at pinoysonparliament.com.
Published in Volume 76, Number 21 of The Uniter (March 17, 2022)