Tuesday, 27 January 2009

New Year, New Possibilities

Filipiniana News - Rhyme or Reason
14 January 2009

While thinking of a topic to write about for this month’s column, I cannot help but consider that this is the first month of the year.  Thus, I find it quite appropriate to reflect on the exciting possibilities that the new year can bring.  Please pardon the rather trite theme, but what follows are just some of my personal thoughts for the new year.

This month, the United States will inaugurate its first ever black president, Barack Obama.  One cannot help but be electrified by the overwhelming international interest in American politics arising from this and the tremendous hope that this historic event brings to the entire world.  Since the most powerful nation in the world has elected as President someone who embodies “change” in every sense of the word, then there is indeed reason to hope that the rest of the world will follow suit.

This month, the Canadian Parliament will reopen with the Conservative government’s promised new and improved economic stimulus package.  If the opposition parties accept that this will be good for the economy, then they will proceed with parliamentary business and hopefully work together to deal not only with the economic issues but also with the myriad of other social and political issues that beset this nation.   However, if the opposition parties are still unconvinced, then we could be faced with: another federal election, a coalition government, more intense political bickering from all sides, who knows.  The possibilities can be quite promising, but they can also be rather scary, or frustrating, at the very least.

In the Middle East, there is a terrible war going on, a war that has had a long and bitter history, and which has only intensified post-911.  In other parts of the world, there are likewise smaller (or possibly even bigger) wars, people dying of hunger and poverty, scandalous corruption and extremely skewed distribution of wealth, illiteracy and  brainwashing, child abuse, environmental degradation, crime and impunity, racism, discrimination and various other forms of human rights violations.  

Even as we seem like passive observers of these terrible tragedies happening outside Canadian borders, we need to be reminded that these problems do affect us and likewise occur in our midst, albeit in varying degrees and in more subtle forms.  So we need to educate ourselves and be aware of the ways by which we might be perpetuating systemic injustices or worse, be equally guilty of human rights violations by our mere act of silence and inaction.

For instance, as Filipino-Canadians, we have the wonderful opportunity of reaching out to our kababayans, to immigrants from other ethnic groups, and find ways of working towards or advocating for issues that affect this sector, e.g. immigration law reforms, accreditation of foreign credentials, racism and discrimination, settlement program funding, healthcare reforms, etc..  There are so many possibilities of getting involved in ways that will suit our capacity, availability, temperament and personal preferences.  What is important is that we do get involved in one way or another. 

It is perfectly understandable that our priorities tend to be that of improving our personal and family situations.   However, even as we struggle and evolve within our narrow personal confines, hopefully, we will also remain open to the endless possibilities of helping in any little way we can.

We need not do an Obama or wait for a tragic war of Gaza proportions before we act.  Every little effort counts.  Small acts of kindness here and there.  Respect, honesty and good faith in dealing with everyone we meet.  Hopefully, our smallest individual contributions will eventually create a tidal wave of collective action that will truly change the world for the better.

A peaceful, happy and prosperous new year to all!

The author is an immigration lawyer in Toronto and may be reached at mdsantos@osgoode.yorku.ca