Cordillera Day in Vancouver

April 24th – Cordillera Day – is a celebration commemorating the brave struggles of indigenous peoples in the Philippines to protect their ancestral land and preserve their way of life. With music, dance and community chanting, people pay tribute to Cordillera martyrs who have fought for self determination in their own homeland.

Today, Cordillera Day is celebrated in different parts of the world including Hongkong, Belgium, Macau, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan and Canada. Organized by Cordillera migrants and attended by international solidarity partners and advocates, it is a reminder that the fight for social justice, genuine development and peace is far from over.

We need to be vigilant… and stay together.

Happy Cordi Day!

The Orange Wave

Got prime real estate for my camera at the rally. Thanks for the photo, Kim!

The Orange wave just hit B.C.

In the final stretch of his campaign, Jack Layton visited Vancouver to rally his supporters around the NDP banner. Over 2,000 people came out anticipating what could be an historic vote come election day.

How I wish I could vote!

All you Canadian citizens out there… make a choice and cast your vote tomorrow. 😉

A New Leader for the NDP

What a great day to be part of the NDP!

Action. Suspense. Drama. No, I’m not talking about the Canucks playoff series. I’m talking about the NDP Leadership Election.

I never thought I’d find myself attending a political event with such excitement and anticipation. But BC politics, I’m learning, can be very entertaining.

April 17th, 2011. After months of intense campaigning, it all came down to this… election day. The New Democratic Party was to elect a new leader whose main task was to take government in the next provincial election. Four candidates participated in this fiercely fought, yet issues-driven campaign: Adrian Dix, Mike Farnworth, John Horgan and Dana Larson. Only one thing missing in this highly competitive race… a woman candidate.

The convention hall was packed. There was no empty seat in the house. You know it’s an important event when all the media outlets – print, radio, TV – have set up camp.

Entertainment came in all forms: live band, David Eby’s horrendous rendition of “Livin’ On a Prayer” (thank god you don’t need to be a singer to win against Christy Clark in the by-election) and Game 2 of the Canucks/Blackhawks playoffs on the big screen.

But even with ALL that, the main feature of the day was the NDP leadership race. Four guys battling it out in not one, not two, but three ballots! To be elected, winner must have 50% + 1 of all the votes cast. So even if Adrian Dix had the most votes in the first and second ballots, he couldn’t be proclaimed leader because he received less than the required number of votes.

The candidate with the least number of votes was eliminated after each round. By the third and final vote, it was only Adrian Dix and Mike Farnworth standing. Both camps worked hard on their respective campaigns and this was evident in the final count. In the end, only 700 votes separated the candidate from the winner.

Adrian Dix is the new leader of the NDP… and the Premier-in-waiting.

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No More Grand Slam Breakfast

A few months ago, Mable (my partner) and I went for our usual breakfast at Denny’s. Comfort food. We wanted a big, hearty start to our day.

Recognizing fellow Filipinos, our server introduced himself to us. He was a temporary foreign worker and relatively new to Canada. Mable gave him her business card and extended an invitation for him to come to her constituency office should if he have any questions or concerns about his employment. Sure enough, he did.

Months later, Mable’s office assisted him in filling out forms with Employment Standards and supported him in a precedent-setting $10 million class action lawsuit against Denny’s. It’s the first time that temporary foreign workers have come together as a collective to challenge their employer – a decision that was not made lightly considering what’s at stake… their lives and livelihood.

The lawsuit alleges breach of contract where workers did not receive the hours of work, overtime pay, air travel and other conditions stipulated in the employment contract. It also alleges that workers were required to pay approximately $6000 each to a recruitment agency for placement in Denny’s Canada locations in B.C.

I cannot begin to describe the sacrifice Filipino migrant workers make to be able to come to Canada – from the financial stress of travel and recruitment fees to the emotional stress of family separation. The last thing they need is a lawsuit.

Filipinos are generally a hardworking, peace-loving, “head-bowed-down” kind of breed. It takes a lot to get a Filipino up in arms. Just check out our country’s long history of colonization, tyranny and abuse. Something must have gone terribly wrong at Denny’s because Filipino migrant workers have had it. They are speaking out and fighting back.

Mo more grand slam breakfasts for me.