By Alex P. Vidal
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — For Tomas “Tatay Tom” Avendano, president and CEO of the Multicultural Helping House Society (MHHS) here, designating specific places for ethnic groups in Canada “is tantamount to creating an atmosphere of division.”
This was Avendano’s reaction to proposal to create a “Pinoy Town” located on a stretch of Fraser Street between Kingsway and 33rd Avenue.
“Ayaw kong magka watak watak tayo (I don’t want our group to scatter). As Filipino-Canadians, we have already assimilated with other ethnic communities and we are all Canadians,” Avendano told this writer.
Avendano’s stand was echoed by Nemecio “Mang Nemy” Cepeda, longest serving former president of the Filipino Zodiac Circle of British Columbia.
“We have already started so many projects and most of them have not been completed yet,” Cepeda, 68, sobbed. “We should focus on one project first so that we can maximize our resources before undertaking another project.”
Cepeda lamented that past and present Fil-Can community leaders “have failed to erect the Filipino Community Center which should have been given priority to serve as the bastion of Filipino-Canadians’ solidarity and identity.”
“We always have the temerity to start something and not finishing them,” bemoaned Cepeda . “It seems that some of our leaders have mental dishonesty and ulterior motives the reason why we can’t complete one major project except the MHHS.”
MMHS was built “to help newcomers succeed in Canada…moving Canada forward, one immigrant at a time.”
Cepeda suggested that in order to finish one project, members of the Filipino-Canadian community “must do it ala Bayanihan style and set aside personal interests.”
“Let’s work together, focus our attention on one project so that our resources will not be divided and wasted,” he suggested.
The proposed “Pinoy Town” rekindled the debate after 24 Hours, one of Canada’s biggest daily tabloids with circulation in Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Montreal, and Vancouver, devoted a spreadsheet feature story about the project on January 4.
“Petitions for a city-designated Pinoy Town — located on a stretch of Fraser Street between Kingsway and 33rd Avenue — have been going out since October. The movement comes after city council passed a motion last fall designating Kingsway area between Fraser and Nanaimo Streets as ‘Little Saigon’ neighbourhood,” 24 Hours reported.
“But Little Saigon supporters made the misstep of not consulting with the entire community before submitting a 3,000-signature petition to city council, said RJ Aquino, a COPE candidate in the last municipal elections who declared in favour of Pinoy Town. That omission angered many locals.
“City-funded public consultation on the Vietnamese neighbourhood is scheduled for the start of 2012. Councilor Kerry Jang, who put forward the Little Saigon motion, said he supports efforts to celebrate Vancouver’s diversity, but adds it’s important for organizers to talk to both businesses and residents before approaching the city.”
The report also quoted 83-year-old Avendano as saying, “I think while we are here, we shouldn’t live as separate Filipino or Vietnamese (communities). This is Canada; therefore we should strive to be integrated and assimilate to Canadian culture.”
Avendano said “giving neighbourhoods official ethnic designations could hamper integration of new immigrants and wouldn’t necessarily boost cultural recognition or improve business.”