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Filipinos in Neepawa: Immigration Experiences in a Prairie Town


Neepawa is a small town in western Manitoba, in the Canadian prairies.

A service centre for grain and livestock farms, Neepawa has a population of just under 5,000 people.

The town has been growing over the past decade, with a 27% increase in the population between 2011 and 2016 alone.

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27% ↑
2011 – 2016
Source: Statistics Canada

Immigrants from the Philippines have been by far the largest newcomer group.

Why is this?

Filipinos began arriving as temporary foreign workers in 2008.

Most of them men, many have stayed, obtaining permanent residency and bringing their families after long separations.

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Many temporary foreign workers have applied for permanent residency through the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program (MPNP)
Source: Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada

Most Filipinos who came to Neepawa as temporary workers were recruited by the local meat-processing plant.

This has had a ripple effect: spouses working in town, families buying homes.

Filipinos are engaged in volunteer work and church activities, and have formed a cultural association.

They are overcoming challenges and contributing to the broader community.

My name is Emily Burton. I am an Oral Historian at the Canadian Museum of Immigration.

I travelled to Neepawa in 2017 to conduct interviews with community members at the Margaret Laurence Home Museum.

I met some wonderful, warm people, and learned about their work, family, and community experiences.

Together, we created a record of the Filipino presence in Neepawa.

Temporary Foreign Workers: From the Philppines to Canada
The First Group: Applying in Manila

Eleazer Resolis:
And I get some kind of experience to the small meat shop in my hometown, so they qualified us. They qualified us, and they put me one of the six persons to be the first group coming in HyLi—Springhill before, HyLife now, on November 23, way back 2008.

Arriving in Neepawa: Like a Barangay

Greg Pepino:
And then we arrive here in Neepawa. We can think that Canada is, Canada is so big, and then we arrive here, like small town.

Eriza Pepino:
Very small town

Oh, this is Canada. Some of my batch mates: oh, this is, only a, we have a town or like a barangay

In our place, if we belong to a smaller community, we call it barangay. So it's like it's a small barangay.

Different Positions at the Plant

Ted (Teodoro) Bacalzo:
I tried the Sanitation Department, which is a very, very difficult job. It's suffocating and you have to go under the conveyor belt, you have to go underneath. It's difficult. I said I couldn't do it. I went back to the cut floor and they put me at the shoulder line.

Alberto Latag:
So I assigned the Shipping Department at that time until now. The job is good. Every day you can learn, what's the process of the company, for how to ship, how to invoice, how to scan, everything. Even to, how to use the industrial tools, like power pallet jack, high rise. I like the job.

Permanent Residency: Family Reunification and Spouses Finding Work in Neepawa
"Are You Really My Dad?"

Ronald Ignacio:
Toines was 4 years old when I left, and Ram was eleven. So it took then 4 years. So, it’s really hard, it’s really hard on my part, just seeing them on the video. It's really a hard, still a struggle, on our, both of our sides, away. So, there was a time that I had my two-week vacation only. That was a tough and I remembered Toines he poked my side, my body, like, “Are you real?” So, why? So, “You're just only on the video.” And then, “Are you really my dad? Of course, look at me. So, it took her two days I think, and then after that she really adjusted.

Teacher, Housewife, Settlement Worker

(Rosario) Myla Ignacio:
And then I was so happy being like a housewife for the first time. I'm not working. Being a teacher is just so busy and then that time I, in the Philippines, I was also having my masters. So when we arrive here, wow, okay, I can just cook, clean and everything. But Ronald says, "You have to find work."

It’s so hilarious because—

We have to be practical, so we have that one. And then after a month, I was hired as a receptionist in Neepawa Settlement. And after a year, I became a settlement worker.

Tender, Loving Care at Work

Analyn Resolis:
As a Filipino, if you're really a worker, love your work, and you have always show you’re compassionate and also you have show your tender, loving care, not only just by work or by earn money, no. As long as you do your best and treat them as, not only as individual with disability. You show your, love and care…they feel it and in return, they treat you in a nice way.

Community Life in a Prairie Town
Changing Perceptions

Ted Bacalzo:
Basically we’re not a bad people. We just wanted to be, get together every weekend, cook some food, like, eat on the, on the, at the back of their house. [Some people, some teenagers in transcript] Some teenagers doesn't like it. They think, they were thinking that they were creating a gang, but we are not. So, what I did, I volunteered with the COPP, which is the Citizen on Patrol. And after that I, I always go to McDonald’s where the elderly always go to every eight o'clock in the morning for a coffee. So, I talk to them, I explained to them how was the Filipinos. Okay, so, little by little they understood, but before they were thinking that we are taking their jobs away from them, but come to think of it, they realized no, Canadians doesn't want that job.


Nena Latag:
And then I am a volunteer catechist also in St. Dominic. I'm also a reader in the church. I also have my choir there. And whenever there's a volunteer thing during my first six months here, I used, I volunteer in the nursery, I volunteer in the school of my daughter. Any kind of volunteer that I see on paper just to make myself busy, I volunteer, I make myself involved in the community.

FANA (Filipino Association of Neepawa and Area)

Ronald Ignacio:
We are a member of a Filipino community here. That's what we call—


FANA, or Filipino Association of Neepaw and Area since we cater not only Neepawa, but in other areas like—

Ram and Ronald:
Gladstone, Minnedosa

During, when we still have the Lily Festival here and we join the FANA would, join for the street dancing and everything, and then—but mostly, recently we have the Filipino Cultural Festival via St. Dominic's Church and then we have also, we have done that one for the past two years.

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In 2018, Canada issued 84,229 work permits under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).

That same year, 56,369 individuals who had previously held a work permit became permanent residents.

Source: 2019 Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration

I would like also to thank the town of Neepawa, the community, because we feel the warm welcome for us.

Thank you for this opportunity of telling our story to you.

Thank you very much.

Ronald, Ram, Toines and Myla:
Malaming salamat.