FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Filipino-Canadian youth voice the community’s need for a Poverty-Free Ontario
Toronto, ON – November 5, 2009 – On this national Day of Action, Ugnayan ng Kabataang Pilipino sa Canada/Filipino Canadian Youth Alliance–Ontario stands in solidarity with student and community groups as we struggle for accessible education and a Poverty-Free Ontario. We are united with various groups in the recognition that the lack of accessible education is only one aspect of a larger systemic problem. Poverty in Ontario affects us all, as systemic barriers withhold us from accessing adequate social services such as childcare, housing, job training and proper wages.
We have continually witnessed tuition fees increasing with each passing year, as more and more students are no longer able to afford a full-time education, much less provide for their basic necessities. Ontario now has the highest tuition fees in Canada, fees that are increasing up to 8 percent each year. We are affected by education that is becoming increasingly exclusive, one that presents an idealized vision of the education system, while preventing the participation of people from marginalized communities. Though tuition fees have continually increased, financial aid has become more scarce. Students are relying more and more on student loans and casual jobs to finance their education. On the other hand, universities have increased their spending for infrastructural and research initiatives, while claiming to support “diversity” and “community relations.” Such issues only begin to scratch the surface. In racialized communities where high drop-out rates become persistent, access to post-secondary education becomes a privilege earned only by a few.
For Filipino-Canadian youth, having accessible education means, first and foremost, tackling issues of economic marginalization and systemic racism. Our lack of participation in post-secondary education is an important part of our need for survival and prosperity, but there are more pressing issues at hand. Our youth are experiencing personal and systemic forms of violence in their schools and workplaces. Our workers remain in the service sector from not having the financial wherewithal to access costly upgrading courses when their foreign credentials are not accredited. Our women are being funneled into the Canadian job market as live-in caregivers who earn minimum wage while sending money to support their families back home. Children of domestic workers are disproportionately affected by the Live-in Caregiver Program as they are forced to drop out of high school to work in order to augment their family’s income. Besides facing economic hardships, they also have to deal with a family whose dynamics have been affected by years of family separation. Since a majority of our community is composed of women and youth, the effects of such issues are real and ever-pressing. Having access to education is only one aspect of the Filipino community’s struggle towards our successful settlement and integration in Canadian society.
We are not only Filipino youth who are affected by poverty, we are also Filipino-Canadians who are advocating for our community’s genuine participation and full entitlement in Canadian society. We challenge all participants on this national Day of Action to look into their own lives and their own communities and draw the links we have with one another. We are not just students, women, Filipinos, Afro-Caribbean, workers, immigrants, refugees, Tamils, queers – we all suffer from different forms of systemic oppression. And we all have the ability to resist.