The government of British Columbia is anticipated to take further steps in 2024 to advance the delivery of a provincial Filipino cultural centre.
The positive measures build on the solid commitment of the province to help the Filipino community fulfill its long-standing dream for a space to celebrate and share their culture and heritage.
As B.C.’s Parliamentary Secretary for Anti-Racism Initiatives, Mable Elmore has received a mandate to move forward the complex work of establishing a provincial Filipino cultural centre.
“The plan to develop a Filipino cultural centre is firmly on track,” Elmore said.
Elmore is a Member of the Legislative Assembly of B.C., representing the Vancouver-Kensington electoral district.
“The province is moving surely and deliberately and in close and respectful collaboration with the Filipino community to realize the creation of a cultural centre,” Elmore said.
Since her first election in 2009 as MLA for Vancouver-Kensington, the Canadian-born and -raised official has been actively advocating for a Filipino cultural centre.
“This centre promises to be a lasting legacy for the Filipino community in B.C.,” said Elmore, who is first and only B.C. MLA of Filipino heritage.
In a historic first in the province’s history, B.C. NDP Premier David Eby on December 7, 2022 gave marching orders in mandate letters to Elmore and Lana Popham, who is the Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport, to work on a plan for a Filipino cultural centre.
This provincial commitment was affirmed in a statement last spring by Popham and Elmore.
In an April 14, 2023 announcement, Popham paid tribute to the contributions of Filipinos to the province of B.C.
“Our multicultural society is B.C.’s strength and the contributions of the Filipino community in B.C. are an important part of our province’s history, culture and success,” Popham said.
Popham also pointed to the significance of a cultural centre to the community.
“Having a Filipino cultural centre where the community can connect and share their heritage has been a dream of the Filipino community in B.C. for a long time, and it’s exciting to support the work towards making this vision a reality,” Popham said.
In the same statement, Elmore reiterated the government’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.
“It’s been a long-standing desire to have a physical space for the Filipino community to come together and celebrate culture and heritage,” Elmore said.
Filipinos in B.C. and across Canada celebrated Filipino Heritage Month in June 2023.
In a statement last June 1 to mark Filipino Heritage Month, Elmore noted that there are approximately 174,000 people of Filipino descent in B.C.
She also recalled that Filipinos have a long history in the province, with the first migrant Filipinos coming in as early as the 1800s.
Many of these new settlers were sailors who travelled from the Philippines, and put down their roots in New Westminster, then the capital of British Columbia.
“It is my honour to be B.C.’s first Filipino MLA. I stand on the shoulders of the many remarkable Filipino British Columbians who came before me and helped make B.C. the diverse and vibrant province we know today,” Elmore said.
The Filipino community has several local Filipino associations, including religious and not-for-profit organizations in the province, but there is no provincial Filipino cultural centre.
Cultural centres are key in bringing communities together. They provide venues for learning of customs and traditions, as well as volunteer opportunities.
For 2024, Elmore is encouraging Filipinos to be more engaged and active in the community.
“The development of a cultural centre needs the cooperation and commitment of everyone,” Elmore said.
As the province is expected to announce further steps this year about the planned cultural centre, Elmore is also calling for more conversations and respectful dialogues in the community.
“The process of building a cultural centre is a transformative opportunity to build capacity and enhance empowerment in the community,” Elmore said.