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Anakbayan Scarborough launched

Anakbayan Scarborough launched

On June 18th, Anakbayan Scarborough, a new local chapter of Anakbayan Canada, officially launched at the Thomson Memorial Park on Brimley Road. Anakbayan is the largest and most comprehensive national democratic mass organization of Filipino youth, with over 40,000 members worldwide.

The launch brought workshops, cultural performances, solidarity messages, and educational discussions under the theme “Engaging with the Filipino community, exploring the conditions of workers and youth, expanding the national democratic movement.”

Formerly a target area within Anakbayan Toronto, Scarborough has one of the most significant communities of Tagalog speakers in the Greater Toronto Area and Canada. According to the latest census data from 2016, there are 44,865 immigrants born in the Philippines in the East End of Toronto.

The Filipino community represents a key demographic group in Scarborough. As a result, Filipino establishments dot the Scarborough landscape, with almost every mall and plaza having at least one Filipino establishment, from grocery stores to remittance services that facilitate sending money from migrant workers to loved ones in the Philippines.

However, the history of the Filipino community in Toronto has not always been positive. For example, in the summer of 1993, the security personnel of Scarborough Town Centre, the largest shopping mall in Scarborough, banned Filipino youth from entering the premises. However, policy repealed this unfair and pernicious policy after protest marches were held and charges of racism were filed with the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

Other issues faced by the Filipino community include immigration and migrant workers’ rights, forced migration and family separation, and heightened racism during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the event, members of this new chapter presented their research and analysis of the Filipino community in Scarborough, ratified a general program of action, and elected leaders to their central committee. Numerous supporters of Anakbayan Scarborough were also in attendance, including members of solidarity organizations like the Canada-Philippines Solidarity Organization (CPSO) and the International Coalition of Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP), international Filipino cultural organization MALAYA, and other national democratic organizations under the BAYAN Canada alliance.

Later, a solidarity night was held at the Filipino Centre Toronto, a popular gathering place among Filipinos residing in the surrounding areas. The program was filled with solidarity messages and cultural performances encouraging Anakbayan Scarborough to keep expanding, organizing, and struggling towards national democracy in the Philippines.

Members and supporters of Anakbayan Scarborough also remembered Jeffrey Reodica. In 2004, the death of 17-year-old Jeffrey at the hands of a plainclothes cop in Scarborough resulted in a substantial public outcry among Filipino-Canadians. This year marked the 18th anniversary of Jeffrey’s death. Jeffrey’s father, Willie Reodica, was one of the speakers at the launch. He expressed support for Anakbayan Scarborough, encouraged Filipino youth to be active in advocating for social justice, and emphasized that racism is very much alive within the police force today. Willie Reodica spoke of a recent finding exposing a disproportionate use of force by members of the Toronto Police Services towards communities of color, such as Scarborough. Last week, Toronto Police Chief James Ramer apologized for this in a highly-publicized press conference. Anakbayan Scarborough inherits this continued fight for justice for Jeffrey, among other issues faced by the Filipino community in their area.

The successful launch of this new chapter during Filipino Heritage Month in Toronto is symbolic of the contributions of Filipino-Canadians to Canada. More importantly, the continued expansion of progressive youth organizations like Anakbayan may also be connected with the Philippines’ current economic and political situation. Filipino youth worldwide were outraged by the outcome of the most recent national election, which placed a dictator’s son and a tyrant’s daughter in the highest offices in the land. Youth in Toronto and Scarborough are correctly directing their frustration with the rotten system into organized action.