Madam Speaker, with pleasure I rise today in full support of the motion to designate June as Filipino heritage month in Canada. As the member for Saskatoon West, I am proud to represent many constituents of Filipino descent. The Filipino community in Saskatoon, indeed in Saskatchewan and all throughout Canada, has enriched our cultural diversity. Its members have worked and volunteered beside us, contributed to our joint community-building projects, generously offered their leadership in times of need, and have become our friends and neighbours.
In fact, the 2016 Canadian census tells us that Saskatchewan has over 20,000 Tagalog speakers, one of the official languages of the Philippines, an increase of over 123% since 2011. Specifically, in Saskatoon, of the residents who identified themselves as immigrants in that census, nearly one quarter hailed from the Philippines. That is 10,000 strong and growing.
The 2016 census shows the Tagalog language as the immigrant language most commonly spoken on the Prairies: 20,000-plus people list it as their mother tongue, 2% of the population, and over 11,000 people say it is the language they most commonly speak at home. In Saskatoon, Tagalog now ranks behind English as the second most common mother tongue.
According to the most recent annual report of the IRCC, the Philippines is Canada's top source country for new permanent residents with over 42,000, almost 14% of new permanent residents. This has been the case every year since 2013. I am extremely proud of the Filipino Canadian community in my riding. Its members have contributed so much to our shared economic prosperity in Saskatchewan while at the same time building a better life for themselves and their families.
I am proud to represent the residents of the Saskatoon Confederation Park neighbourhood, and it is with extra pride that I say this neighbourhood includes the largest population of Filipinos in my city. Of course, at one time, the community was much smaller, but that did not deter Rose Lacsamana and her family who, 10 years ago, opened a Filipino store targeted at the small but growing Filipino community. It is this type of leadership and forward thinking and risk taking, by Rose and many others, who built up a business and while doing so, built up our community. It is through these efforts of local Filipino Canadian business owners that Saskatoon was able to welcome newcomers from the Philippines with open arms. I thank Rose and her husband JR for their venture, the Global Pinoy Food Store, and for believing in our community to grow and prosper. I congratulate them for 10 years of service to our community.
One of my favourite things to do as an MP is to attend citizenship ceremonies in my riding. During my constituency week in October, I attended not one but two ceremonies. Both were, of course, very special, but one was extra special for a couple of reasons. First, it was Citizenship Week in Canada. Second, we were gathered at the wonderful Saskatoon Farmers Market and I want to thank Erika Quiring, operations manager at the Saskatoon Farmers Market, for hosting us. Third, the Institute for Canadian Citizenship organized an opportunity for me and other community leaders to host table conversations with our brand new citizens.
I met lvan and his family from Iran and Rachel who was there with her sister. Rachel was nervous and shy, but very happy to be getting her citizenship and happy to be together again with her sister and other extended family. Rachel came to Canada from the Philippines as a live-in caregiver. She had waited many years to get her citizenship. It was wonderful to share that day with her. It reminded me of the many women who come to my constituency office for help, who are raising other people's children, having come to Canada, many from the Philippines, as live-in caregivers, the women whose children are growing up without their mother, the women who are working hard to earn money so that one day they can be reunited with their own children, the women who, like Rachel, dream of one day attending their own citizenship ceremony.
The members of the NDP have long been champions for the Filipino community and my colleague from Vancouver East has continued those efforts. One of the most important yet invisible contributions of Filipino Canadians is the many ways in which Filipino caregivers help raise our children and run our households.
Since 1992, some 75,000 Filipinos have become permanent residents of Canada through the federal government's caregiver program. The sales pitch was hard to resist. They would help raise our children for two years, and we would reunite them with theirs and give everyone a shot at permanent residency. Last year alone, some 23,000 Filipinos came to Canada under the program, but it has become a victim of its own success.
In 2015, the backlog of applications for permanent residency was 17,600 names long. Citizenship and Immigration Canada promised swift action and announced plans to expedite the approval process, but for many, the wait, which now averages over 50 months, and that is after two years of employment, is torture. At home, their kids are growing up without them, and with rock-bottom wages in the Philippines, going back is not a viable option. With the recent announcement by the federal government that the program will end in 2019, these women are understandably very concerned.
It is not a secret that women who are employed through the caregiver program are vulnerable and sometimes face harsh working conditions for very little pay. At the same time, they are isolated and far away from their homes and families. Most of them do not get to see their children for many years. They come and work under conditions that most of us would find trying, all for a chance at a better life. The least we can do is offer them better workplace protections and a pathway to permanent residency in a process that is clear, stable and not fraught with delays or uncertainty.
Currently, the average application processing time for live-in caregivers is four and a half years. The NDP is calling on the government to take immediate action to end the backlog and processing delays that are keeping an estimated 40,000 live-in caregivers from reuniting with their families.
We have always believed that if one is good enough to work here, one is good enough to stay. I hope that in addition to celebrating Filipino heritage month next year, the federal government will also be modernizing our immigration policies and processes and giving priority to reuniting families.
All around my community I see the good work brought about by members of the Filipino community, and their efforts are supported by residents of all different backgrounds.
I was proud to participate in the Flores de Mayo Fiesta celebration, which last year raised funds for the Filipino Heritage School in Saskatoon, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2017. Founded in 1996, the Filipino Heritage School is dedicated to preserving the Filipino language and culture, strengthening unity within the community and promoting intercultural understanding. The school's success is the collaborative effort of parents, families and teachers collectively working together to teach the Filipino language and culture.
The Filipino-Canadian Association of Saskatoon, or FILCAS, is a vibrant community organization serving as sort of the mother of all Filipino organizations in the city. It is the leading organizer of major Filipino Canadian activities, such as Philippine Independence Day on June 12, the sports tournament and the Filipino Canadian annual Christmas party.
Since the inception of the Saskatoon Folkfest over 36 years ago, FILCAS has hosted the Filipino pavilion, showcasing Filipino arts and culture and promoting Filipino heritage for all of us to enjoy.
I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge this year's Filipino Folkfest pavilion ambassadors, Hilbert and Grace Macadaeg, and youth pavilion ambassadors, Julenne Florida and Jayda Ho, for their warm welcome on my visit to the pavilion this year.
It has been an honour for me, as the member of Parliament for Saskatoon West, to attend the ANCOP, or Answering the Cry of the Poor, fundraising walk for the past two years. This year it celebrated its fifth walk in Saskatoon and its 15th in Canada. The money raised in Saskatoon walks has supported 35 sponsored children in going to school and has built 30 houses in the Saskatchewan Village in the Philippines.
My community and I are proud to honour the many contributions of Filipino Canadians in Saskatoon.
In closing, I must continue the accolades for the Filipino community in Saskatoon. I only wish I had more time, as the list is longer than my time allows.
I want to congratulate the University of Saskatchewan Filipino Student Association, which was honoured this year with the prestigious University of Saskatchewan Vera Pezer Award for Student Enhancement as the campus group of the year.
Last, but certainly not least, I want to send a special shout-out to the many Filipino Canadians working, and caring, as health care workers in my community, many of whom are proud members of the Service Employees International Union, SEIU-West. President Barb Cape and the members of SEIU-West are not only members of a great union but are also outstanding community partners, supporting many local Filipino events and cultural celebrations.
I look forward--