The Filipino Factor: Dispelling the Filipino worker stereotype

They’re not just live-in caregivers. Many are nurses who want to live and work in Canada.
By Joanne Lee-Young – Vancouver Sun
Third in a four-part series
For many Canadians, the image of a Filipino worker is one of a nanny pushing a baby carriage. But the reality is quickly changing. Lawrence Santiago, a Trudeau scholar doing his doctorate at the University of B.C., wants to dispel some stereotypes about Filipino workers in Canada.

As he puts it, only about 12 per cent of the total Filipino population in Canada arrives via the Live-In Caregiver program.

To make his case, Santiago chose to study health care workers from the Philippines.

B.C. has not recruited nurses en masse from the Philippines the way the Prairie provinces have in recent years. But they apply to come anyway. The province’s College of Registered Nurses gets more applications for licences to practise nursing from the Philippines than it does from any other country.

Santiago set out to hear the voices of these workers, understand what happens when they leave the Philippines, and see how they eventually fit into Canadian hospitals and clinics.

His project started in a small Saskatoon house, returned to his native Philippines, and this month looped back to B.C.

His research has illuminated the many challenges involved with widespread migration, both here and in the Philippines.

On a personal level, nurses who emigrate for a brighter economic future are often wracked with homesickness and guilt for leaving their families.

Globally, the large-scale exodus of health care workers also takes a toll. The country they leave loses some of its best and brightest nurses and doctors, harming both the quality of health care and training for the next generation.

Last summer, Santiago camped out for several months with five nurses from the Philippines. They were all on temporary work visas, living in Saskatoon, the first batch of recruits hired by the Saskatoon Health Authority in 2008. His initial source was a childhood friend.

“Before he left for Canada, we met regularly in our town and at the community church,” said Santiago.

From there, Santiago fanned out to meet and do in-depth interviews with other Filipino nurse migrants in Saskatoon.


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