The Laquians Look Back at
50 years of Filipino-Canadian History
By Carlito Pablo
Retired Vancouver couple Aprodicio
and Eleanor Laquian are writing a book about the half-century
of Filipino migration to Canada that is as much a people's chronicle
as their own story in their adopted country.
Canada has the second-largest
Filipino community in the world, behind only the U.S., the Laquians
said in an interview with the Georgia Straight. But until the
1960s, they noted, most Filipinos knew very little about Canada,
which many imagined to be a land of snow and Eskimos. Some, according
to them, had seen pictures of Niagara Falls and thought it was
entirely an American landscape.
The Laquians have lived in
and out of Canada since arriving in Ontario as a young couple
with their two children in 1969. It was during this decade, they
said, that Filipinos were officially categorized as a distinct
ethnic group in Canadian-immigration statistics. Back in 1964,
according to their research, there were only 770 Filipinos living
in the country.
For the past 38 years, the
authors have travelled all over the nation, meeting Filipinos
from all walks of life, and finding some as far north as Nunavut.
In 1972, they drove from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast to
interview Filipinos in such places as Wawa, Chicoutimi, Flin
Flon, Moose Jaw, Medicine Hat, and Alert Bay for Eleanor's master's
Starting in 2006, the two teamed
up again to take a look at the Filipino diaspora that has gained
more than a toehold in Canada's multicultural society. Aside
from poring over immigration records and conducting a survey
of newcomers, they also renewed acquaintances with some of the
people they interviewed in 1972.
"It was really a process
of looking back," Aprodicio said. "There has not been
a written nationwide history of Filipinos in Canada at all. This
is the first."
Eleanor noted that available
records indicate that a handful of Filipino doctors and nurses
on the U.S. Exchange Visitors program came to Canada in the 1950s
to have their visas renewed from outside the U.S. as required
then. "For them, Canada was a mere steppingstone to get
back to the U.S.," Eleanor said. "Some chose to stay
to see what it's like here in Canada. They never left."
In the decades that followed
the arrival of these accidental immigrants came waves of Filipinos
who have come to regard Canada, according to the authors, as
a land of promise like the U.S. but a "more peaceful"
and "a kinder, gentler nation".
According to Citizenship and
Immigration Canada, the Philippines is the number three source
of new permanent residents in the country after China and India.
In 2005 alone, 17,525 Filipinos landed in various ports of entry.
In the first half of 2006, according to CIC's on-line statistical
newsletter, The Monitor, some 9,800 Filipinos made their way
Leo Cunanan, a 71-year-old
resident of North Vancouver, has been in Canada for 36 years,
and he told the Straight that a historical account of the Filipino
migration would help the new generation understand their roots.
Vancouver-based youth worker Honorio Guerrero said in a separate
interview with the Straight that without such an understanding,
the young won't be able to grasp the meaning of what it is to
be a Filipino-Canadian.
A March 2005 study by Statistics
Canada projected that in 2017, when Canada celebrates its 150th
anniversary, there would be at least 540,000 Filipinos in the
country's expected total population of 34.5 million.
The study, entitled Population
Projections of Visible Minority Groups, Canada, Provinces and
Regions, used as its basis the 2001 census figure of a total
population of 30.6 million, of which at least 315,000 are Filipinos.
The same study projected that
from the at least 65,000 Filipinos in B.C. in 2001-of which the
bulk, at least 58,000, reside in Vancouver-the Filipino population
in the province will grow to more than 123,000 in 2017, with
Vancouver's share at more than 112,000.
In their first few years in
Canada, the Laquians lived in Toronto, Ottawa, and Sharbot Lake
in Ontario, building successful careers in government and later
in various bodies of the United Nations during the 1980s. In
1991, they settled in Vancouver, where Aprodicio was appointed
a full professor and director of the UBC Centre for Human Settlements.
Eleanor served as manager of administration and programs at the
UBC Institute of Asian Research from 1992 to 2000.
"We think most Filipinos
have done well in Canada," Aprodicio said, reflecting on
the almost four decades that he and his wife have been studying
Filipino immigration to this country.
The Laquians divide their retirement
time between travelling, writing, volunteer work at the Vancouver
Committee for Domestic Workers and Caregivers' Rights-an advocacy
group for Filipino temporary migrant workers-and doting on their
three grandchildren. They expect their book to be published within
Published at: http://www.straight.com/article-90245/
The project was made
possible with the support of the
on 10 May 2007.
of Canadian Heritage through the Canadian Culture Online Strategy
The Acrobat Reader
is available free from