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Canada welcomed a quarter million new permanent residents last year. Of them, 32,747 – or 13 per cent – were Filipinos, good enough for second place.
It was an impressive sum, and yet a regression. The Philippines had been Canada's top source of new residents for the previous two years. They actually slid to second place.
These days, about 450,000 Canadians were born in the Philippines, roughly the same amount of Canadians born in all of Africa. Canada's Filipino diaspora is large and growing. So when disaster strikes the Philippines, it quickly ripples through Canadian cities – including the populous, and vote-rich, Toronto area.
Response to Typhoon Haiyan "will be remembered, come election time," says Rosalinda Cerrudo-Javier, president of the Filipino Centre Toronto.
"It's not only individual politicians, it's individual politicians and the parties. We will remember that of course, though our concerns are not just the Philippines," she added.
She applauds Canada's efforts so far, though she expects Canada to keep an eye on ongoing calls for help. "Already Canada has done something, and if there is a need for more, I would like them to help more," she said.
All this won't come as any surprise to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Mr. Harper visited the Philippines last year and appointed Canada's first Filipino-Canadian senator, Tobias Enverga. Vancouver entertainer Jojo Quimpo, a Filipino who is now organizing a typhoon fundraiser, travelled with the Prime Minister to the Philippines.
"I think Harper also recognizes the importance of the Filipino community here, because we're a growing immigrant group," Mr. Quimpo says, though he doesn't see disaster response as a politicized subject. "For us, Filipinos, we already remember this kind of thing, what others are giving to us at this time of crisis. But at this point, for us, we don't look at it as a politics thing."
Nonetheless – whether it's his interest in the country, the large Canadian diaspora, the scale of the disaster itself, botched previous responses or some combination thereof – Mr. Harper hasn't dragged his feet.
Canada has pledged $5-million to relief efforts, and will also match local donations, a fact cited by Filipino community leaders, many of whom support it and now say their fundraising is effectively doubled. Canada also quickly sent soldiers. "I am keenly aware of all the Filipino-Canadians anxiously waiting for news on their loved ones," Mr. Harper said in a statement on Nov. 9, one day after Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines. The next day, a Challenger jet took off with an advance team, headed for Manila to see what Canada could do. Two day later, Mr. Harper sent in the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), at a cost not yet specified. All of this was tightly controlled. It was another two days before the Conservatives gave the DART soldiers permission to talk to reporters in the Philippines.
The donations and dispatching of DART may seem to be obvious moves. After all, the NDP and Liberals each agreed to them. But it wasn't always this quick. After the 2004 tsunami in Asia, the Liberals dragged their feet before dispatching the DART after 11 days, and then found themselves under fire for the delay.
This time, it took four days. That's partly because Canada has heavy cargo planes, C-17s, that it didn't after the tsunami. But the senator, Mr. Enverga, believes Canada is learning from the past, and that this response is not going unnoticed.
"I think Filipino-Canadians are happy with what's happening. ... Filipino-Canadians expect the best from this government, and so far they've been satisfied with all activities happening right now," the Conservative senator said in an interview. And while he thinks Mr. Harper would have taken the same steps if Canada's Filipino community was much smaller, he suspects there's a reason for the quicker response.
"I think Canada has learned so many lessons from other calamities around the world. I was very happy with the response."
Josh Wingrove is a parliamentary reporter in Ottawa.