Monday, July 27, 2009

FAMAS Elections

"High school drop out an issue concerning the entire Filipino community," says FAMAS candidate Neil Castro.

For immediate release, July 27, 2009

Montreal - When Neil Castro first met Kabataang Montreal in 2004, he was unaware of the everyday realities facing Filipino youth. "I met a group of young Filipinos who had dropped out of school, had joined gangs and had experienced teenage pregnancy and drug problems." However, he was quickly inspired and impressed to hear of the resilience and impact the youth were having as they became more aware of the root of their problems. "These youth were turning their lives around, talking about their problems and figuring out solutions to empowering the Filipino community. It wasn't long before I decided that I wanted to be involved in this kind of organizing, in a major way."

And he certainly has. As Secretary-General of Kabataang Montreal, Castro leads a team of 12 core members and hundreds of youth who identify with the group. Using workshops to understand their Philippine history, Kabataang Montreal actively explores their migration to Canada and analyzes issues such as racism, family separation and high school drop out.

Now running for a director position at the Filipino Association of Montreal and Suburbs (FAMAS), Neil hopes to bring the work of KM to a wider Filipino audience. Along with Mel Domingo, and his team of Lingkod Bayan, Castro hopes to unite the Filipino community through a mutual understanding of our settlement and integration in Canada."

Some people think that there is a divide in our community between those who were born in the Philippines and those who were born here in Canada. But that isn't the case," says Castro. "If we study our history of migration and understand our situation here in Canada, we can see that we're all in the same boat. We need to look more closely at the immigration policies imposed on us by the Canadian government that influenced where we are in society today."

These immigration policies include the programs in the 1970's that brought Filipinos to Canada as nurses, teachers and accountants, and the Live-In Caregiver program that today brings thousands of Filipinos to Canada to work as domestic workers. Research conducted by Kabataang Montreal suggest that difficulties with family separation and reunification, along with language barriers and racism in schools, are significant challenges that influence high school drop outs among Filipino youth."

Filipinos have one of the highest drop out rates among youth of colour and this is true across Canada. In Montreal, Filipino boys between the ages of 15 and 25 have one of the highest rates of not being in school," says Castro, "Many of the youth I meet who have dropped out of school already had high school and university diplomas in the Philippines. These are youth who could be working as engineers, accountants, and nurses are in factories, earning minimum wage. This is an issue for our community because it dictates the economic future of our community. And that affects all of us, not just the ones who are newly arrived."

Members of Kabataang Montreal come from a diverse, youth-oriented background: ranging from students in high school, CEGEP and university to young professionals in various fields (education, social work, music, etc.). In May of 2009, Neil formed part of the secretariat organizing "Ugat: Sharing Our Pinoyville Stories, Understanding Our Root" a Filipino youth intercollegiate and community conference that brought together dozens of participants for 2.5 days of workshops, panel presentations and artistic performances. The conference was an important part of recording the history of Filipinos in Montreal, looking at where we are in our settlement and integration in Canada, and bringing out the voices of the most marginalized members of the Filpino community.

Running for FAMAS director, Castro will continue to bring out the voices of the most marginalized members of the Filipino community. One of his objectives is to educate the community on the everyday experiences that Filipino youth face. By lending voice to their experiences, he hopes to create a better understanding of why high school drop outs is a predominant concern within the community. "I think there's a perceived divide between our youth, and the rest of the Filipino community. I think it's time that we look beyond this so-called divide so that we understand the issues that face our entire community. It's time for the Filipino youth to take the future of their community into their own hands. We are the future of our community and the future starts today."

Elections take place on August 9, 2009, 8:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. at Van Horne Park. FAMAS membership fee is $5 for students and seniors, $7 for singles and $10 for a couple. Membership must be paid prior to voting. Bring photo i.d. as proof of Quebec residency.

For more information on the elections or Neil Castro's campaign, email



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