Migrante Canada successfully held its 5th Congress on July 30-31 at the Providence Renewal Center in Edmonton, Alberta. Migrante Canada has 13 chapters and member organizations with over 400 individual members in British Columbia, Alberta, Western Ontario, Eastern Ontario, and Quebec.

At least 60 delegates, members, and observers took advantage of the recent easing of restrictions under the COVID-19 pandemic to see each other at the Congress. Migrante Canada combined the in-person gathering with the online participation of delegates and observers via Zoom.

Sol Pajadura, outgoing Chairperson, said “Migrante Canada has survived the three years since the Fourth Migrante Congress in 2018, two years of those under the continuing COVID-19 pandemic… [the pandemic] has not stopped us from making our presence felt in our communities.” She described the work of Migrante Canada in political campaigns and activities for migrants’ rights, welfare, and justice. She cited Sagip Migrante, disaster relief arm for the victims of disasters in the Philippines, and the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa COVID-19, the mutual aid network for Filipino workers and our communities in Canada.  Migrante Canada not only led campaigns to oppose Philippine state exactions like the mandatory PhilHealth contributions and the Anti-terror Law but also led local campaigns like the Health Care for All and the Justice for the Mushroom Four.

Migrante International Chair Joanna Concepcion, in her Keynote Speech via Zoom from the Philippines, stressed the importance of advancing the struggle to protect the rights and welfare of workers, especially the “undocumented workers”, more so when the overall situation of overseas Filipino workers has not seen any real positive changes since Duterte assumed power in 2016.

 Other speakers included Connie Monana, Chairperson of Migrante Alberta, and Marco Luciano, member of the International Coordinating Body, International Migrants Alliance. As well, Merryn Edwards of Women for Rights and Empowerment, Karen Kuprys, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alberta Federation of Labour, Peggy Morton of CPC, Fatima Barron of Anak Bayan Canada, and MP Heather McPherson of Edmonton Strathcona delivered their messages in person. Ferdinand Gaite, Bayan Muna Representative in the Philippine House of Representatives, Dolores Balladares of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong, and Mel Baltazar of Migrante Australia greeted the delegates and guests of Migrante Congress via Zoom.

 The Congress also elected the new set of officers for 2021-2024 to continue advancing the good work of Migrante Canada:  Chairperson Danilo De Leon, Vice Chairperson Clarizze Truscott, Secretary-General Stef Martin, Campaigns/Communications Officer Erie Maestro, and Treasurer Jane Ordinario.

When Danilo De Leon accepted his duties and responsibilities as Chairperson, he addressed the Congress and declared, “I am Danilo. I will openly say that I am undocumented. We need to be represented.” He inspired other members and migrant workers when he thanked well-wishers with these words: “Hindi dapat matakot na lumantad dahil mas nakakatakot na lumaban mag-isa. Walang organisasyon na kakalinga at magbibigay malasakit sa mga undokumentong katulad ko. Sa Migrante may pag-asa, ang Migrante, para sa masa!”  His words not only illustrate the face of non-status migrant workers in Canada but also highlight Migrante Canada’s important role as a mass-based organization that works for and with the most precarious and vulnerable Filipino migrant workers.

In celebration of the ten years of Migrante Canada, an evening of songs and solidarity rounded off the 5th Migrante Congress. Migrante members and friends who shared their gifts of music and words included Merryn Edwards, Lyla Luciano, Mubarik Adams, Himig Masa, Mila Bongco, Patria Rivera, Ruben Acosta, Clarizze Truscott, Lui Queano and McKenna Rose, five-year-old daughter of a non-status foreign worker, whose rights as a Canadian-born child was successfully campaigned by Migrante Canada.

August 2, 2021