Aside from the annual celebrations of June 12 as Philippine Independence Day, Canadian Filipinos in the province of Alberta have much to celebrate this month.
On June 1, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell signed a provincial proclamation designating June every year as Philippine Heritage Month, making it the first Canadian province to do so.
“Alberta is the proud home to the second-largest Filipino population in the country,” Premier Notley said in a news release issued June 3. “For decades, Filipinos have enriched our province with their culture, their languages and their skills.”
Speaking at the Alberta legislative assembly on June 5, Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman made the declaration on behalf of Premier Rachel Notley. Hoffman announced that the proclamation in perpetuity is a recognition of the “tremendous contributions of generations of Filipinos to Alberta’s faith, civic, cultural and economic communities.” She then acknowledged the presence of members of Filipino Canadian groups joining this celebratory proclamation.
In an exclusive interview with Canadian Filipino Net, Philippine Ambassador to Canada Petronila Garcia expressed elation about the news: “I am very pleased that the province of Alberta has recognized the contributions of the nearly 175,000 Albertans of Filipino heritage to the continued progress and development of the province by declaring the month of June as Philippine Heritage Month.”
In her message to Filipino Canadians in Alberta, Garcia said, “The Embassy and our Consulate General in Calgary call on all Filipinos and Filipino-Canadians in Alberta to celebrate this honour by continuing to be valued and productive members of the Alberta society, showing the spirit of bayanihan that is a cherished aspect of what it is to be Filipino. Mabuhay po kayong lahat!"
An online petition was initiated in May by Edmonton-based Philippine Arts Council. The petition, along with letters of support from various Filipino Canadian civic and social groups in the cities of Edmonton and Calgary, were instrumental in the Alberta government’s proclamation of June as Philippine Heritage Month.
Also in May, the cities of Calgary and Edmonton declared June as Philippine Heritage Month, followed by the City of Fort Saskatchewan doing the same on June 9. The City of Toronto was the first local government in Canada to designate June as Filipino Heritage Month in November 2017.
At the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, a bill seeking to declare June as Filipino Heritage Month in Ontario received first reading in November 2017.
A motion seeking a Canada-wide designation has been filed with the House of Commons by federal Liberal MP Salma Zahid of Scarborough Centre in Ontario.
In an interview with the CBC radio program The Homestretch, Vangie Caoile reflected on the Alberta proclamation: “It’s very humbling for the community and it is a testament to the difference our community has made in the social fabric of Alberta.”
Caoile, chairperson of Philippine Festival Council of Calgary, added, “The proclamation is a testament that our voices are loud and being heard across the province and (that we are) actively contributing to the political scene of this province… shaping the future of this province and of this country.”