For many who have long called Steinbach or the southeast home, they would know that the communities they live in today are very different than the ones that they grew up in. That is partly because of the physical growth of the region in terms of businesses and residential properties but it is also because the region has become incredibly diverse.
Much of this diversity has been the result of immigration from the Philippines. While immigrants have been coming from the Philippines to Manitoba in significant numbers since the 1950’s, this truly accelerated during the 1990s with the signing of the Provincial Nominee Program by the former Progressive Conservative government under Premier Gary Filmon. This agreement, the first of its kind outside of Quebec, provided more ability for the province to recruit and select immigrants for high demand jobs. This began a surge in immigration from the Philippines as many of those who came were quick to find jobs in areas such healthcare, as one example, to support the growing demands for programs like homecare. Since those early days of the Provincial Nominee Program, it has been replicated across Canada and today nearly one million people of Filipino heritage call Canada home.
Steinbach and areas throughout the southeast have also benefited from the many Filipinos who have made the decision to move to Canada. Through our economy and our culture, we have seen the positive impact that has been made. My wife Kim, son Malachi and I have benefited personally from getting to know many people of Filipino heritage who have settled in the southeast. We have been so touched by the positive spirit and community and family values they have brought to our region. The friendships that we have made with new Canadians from the Philippines have enriched us personally even as they better Manitoba and Canada.
In Steinbach and area, there has been established for several years a Southeast Manitoba Filipino Association that organizes a number of annual events. In the past, my family has enjoyed the annual Christmas celebration and other events hosted by this organization. Local Filipino leaders have also worked to ensure that new Filipino-Canadians are welcomed to the region with open arms as they make the adjustment to a new country.
Because of these remarkable contributions Canada recently passed an Act proclaiming June as Filipino Heritage Month. It is celebrated in Manitoba as well every year and a similar Act is being proposed by PC MLA Jon Reyes, in honour of his own Filipino roots. In addition, June 12th marks Philippine Independence Day and Manitoba will fly the flag of the Philippines in Memorial Park outside of the Manitoba Legislature on that day.
There are many who contribute to building a better Manitoba everyday. We celebrate our traditional Mennonite roots each year through our tremendous Mennonite Heritage Village Museum and Pioneer Days. But it is also worth recognizing the contributions that come now from so many parts of the world. And this month, because of Philippine Independence Day and Filipino Heritage Month, it is particularly worth celebrating and thanking the many residents of Filipino heritage for making our province a better place to live.