The first visit of a Philippine president to Canada in 20 years has stirred Filipinos across the country as they eagerly await the arrival of President Benigno Aquino III (or PNoy, to most Filipinos) in early May.
But while most Filipinos are eager to meet Aquino during his May 7-9 visit, Migrante BC’s Jane Ordinario says her group is planning a rally against Aquino.
“We strongly oppose the visit because Aquino has a poor human rights record. He does not embody the values of human rights that Canada has,” says Ordinario.
“He has no respect for migrant workers, as proven by his late response to the appeal to save the life of Mary Jane Veloso.” – Jane Ordinario, Migrante BC
“He has no respect for migrant workers, as proven by his late response to the appeal to save the life of Mary Jane Veloso,” Ordinario adds.
Aquino is expected to visit Ottawa, as well as Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver, where he will meet with the large Filipino communities in these cities.
He will also make a one-day working visit to the United States to meet with potential investors and with the local Filipino community in Chicago.
“We do not have any definite confirmation of the visit yet,” says Philippine Honorary Consul General Orlando Marcelino by telephone from Winnipeg.
“Syempre presidente yan, gusto nating makita [Of course we want to have a meet-and-greet] — a forum, here in Winnipeg,” adds Marcelino.
“I look forward to meeting with President Aquino to further strengthen the bonds between our two countries, including in the areas of trade, investment, development and security, benefiting the citizens of both nations.” – Stephen Harper
Elected in 2010 (pictured to the right), Aquino is on his last two years of a six-year term. He is not the first of his family to visit Canada.
In 1989, his mother, Corazon “Cory” Aquino, fresh from overthrowing the dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the People Power Revolution, was the first Philippine president to visit Canada.
“[Aquino] is most welcome, but so far, wala pa kaming narinig sa konsulado [we haven’t heard from the consulate],” says Tomas Avendano, president and CEO of Vancouver’s Multicultural Helping House Society.
The Canada-Philippines Relationship
According to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada and the Philippines enjoy a “close friendship” as they have shared democratic values and strong people-to-people ties. After all, Canada is The Phillipines’ sixth top source market for tourism, and is home to almost 700,000 Filipinos.
“I look forward to meeting with President Aquino to further strengthen the bonds between our two countries, including in the areas of trade, investment, development and security, benefiting the citizens of both nations,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a press release announcing the visit.
“It is a significant visit as Canada tries to move up its relationship with the Philippines.” – Hugh Stephens, Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada
Harper visited Manila in 2012 and met with Aquino at the Malacañan Palace. It was the first visit by a Canadian prime minister in 15 years.
Some community leaders, like Hugh Stephens, senior fellow at the Vancouver-based Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, agree with Harper’s viewpoint. “It is a significant visit as Canada tries to move up its relationship with the Philippines,” says Stephens.
Discussions between the two prime ministers will focus on expanding trade and investment, as Canada is the Philippines’ 21st largest trading partner and bilateral trade between the two countries totalled $1.8 billion in 2014.
In addition, though, Stephens says mutual agreement on recognizing international credentials and removing barriers would be a logical area of discussion.This is because Canada’s largest source of temporary foreign workers, as well as domestic workers, under the federal Live-in Caregiver Program, is The Philippines.
Ted Alcuitas is the founder of Canada's first Filipino newspaper, est. 1976. He is also former Senior Editor of Philippine Asian News Today and current publisher and editor of Philippine Canadian News.