When local woman Clarizze Truscott moved from the Philippines to Fort Saskatchewan in 1991, the city’s Filipino population was small, numbering only about 30.
Decades later, Truscott is one of many in a thriving Filipino community. Fort Saskatchewan’s Filipino population has grown tremendously over the years, boosted by the federal government’s temporary foreign worker program and continuing to increase as families reunite after years of separation.
The Alberta government recently designated June as Philippine Heritage Month in the province. On Saturday (Jun.9), mayor Gale Katchur and Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville MLA Jessica Littlewood made it official in the city, publicly declaring the month at a ceremony outside city hall.
“Filipinos contribute to the life and culture of Fort Saskatchewan as volunteers, as artists and as athletes, establishing their own basketball teams, language classes, dancing and musical groups,” Katchur said. “And Filipinos have done this all through great individual sacrifice, hard work and sometimes decades of separation from family."
Truscott is president of the Kabisig Society of Fort Saskatchewan, a nonprofit group that aims to promote Filipino culture, organize recreational activities and support Filipinos who've come to the area to work. “Kabisig” comes from a blend of some Tagalog words that mean “arm in arm.” Truscott said that members of the society act as family for one another, stepping in to help workers whose relatives remain in the Philippines.
Truscott was pleased to note at Saturday’s gathering that a growing number of families are now back together and living under the same Canadian roof.
“The average number of years that families are separated is between 5 to 10 years. So the fact is, we are celebrating a lot of these families who are now reunited,” Truscutt said, adding that Filipinos have experienced many achievements and successes as they've settled into life in Fort Saskatchewan.
"We become business owners, we become professionals and we give back to the community and volunteer. So this is a celebration of all of that."
Saturday’s declaration, which coincides with Philippines Independence Day on June 12, also gave local Filipinos a chance to show off their culture.
Kabisig volunteers served food and entertained the crowd with songs and dances and a group of children from the society’s Filipino language class, which is open to kids of any ethnicity, shared a traditional song and poem.
Alberta has the second largest Filipino population in the country. According to the provincial government, 175,130 Filipinos call Alberta home.