by Kevin Lamoureux
The first ever Canadian National Filipino Heritage Internship Program was a success and the program was only possible because of the Canada Philippine Parliamentary Friendship Group. The program was based on the Ukraine international internship program that has been in existence for over 30 years.
The Filipino Internship Program was held back in May and June of this year and as the chair of the “CPPFG” I can tell you that we will hoping to host another program in 2020.
The program’s long-term survival will only be secured if the Friendship group is able to identify an association or individual or a group of people that is prepared to take on the challenge of making sure the Internship program continues into the years ahead.
The internship program is all about identifying young people from across Canada of Filipino Heritage and providing him or her the opportunity to work and better understand what happens in Canada’s Parliament. Interns came from across Canada and were under contract by a sponsoring Member of Parliament or Senator.
During the program the interns learned about the parliamentary process by watching Question Period in the House of Commons, touring the Senate building and attending the standing committees on justice, human rights and immigration. By doing this and speaking to the many people they meet at receptions, events and parliamentary programming, they learn the experiences of people across the nation and from around the world. They hear the stories of those suffering under oppressive governments; they learn routes that they can take to remain on the path of democracy, and they understand the true value of the freedom of choice.
The tasks that the interns performed vary between offices. Some of the interns work on immigration files that help constituents become Canadians and support their families in coming to Canada as well. Others work on campaigns and learning about the people they have living in their member or Senator’s riding. One of the main tasks that all the interns participated in was the Philippine Independence Day event on June 12, which included a Philippine flag raising and a reception. This celebration was extra special because it was the first year that June was recognized by the House of Commons as Filipino Heritage.
The interns also had a glimpse of the Ottawa Filipino community with the help of the Philippine Independence Committee of the Ottawa Valley (PICOV), led by Nora Arriola.
With their help, the interns got to see the strength of the community, the culture that thrives in the city and the growing efforts to get Canadians of Filipino descent into the political sphere. One of the best events that they have participated in was a lecture about Dr. José Rizal, a prominent figure that shaped the identity of the Philippines and her people.
Important conversations had taken place between the interns and those they met on Parliament Hill and in the city. These conversations include how they can make their communities better, how they can bridge the gap between established immigrants and those who have just landed, while also talking about how they can share their culture with others. By empowering these youth, the Filipino communities across Canada will be able to better connect and thrive with themselves and with each other.
Many of the words above come directly from some of the participating interns, the Philippine Embassy in Ottawa and others. It is fair to say that the program was a success and in about two months we will be finding out if there will be another program in 2020. I suspect there will be!