Filipino community elects new leadership

Approximately 150 people swarmed into a small room Sunday evening to cast their votes for a new board of directors for the Canadian-Filipino Association of the Yukon.

Approximately 150 people swarmed into a small room Sunday evening to cast their votes for a new board of directors for the Canadian-Filipino Association of the Yukon.

The past president, Yvonne Clarke, stepped aside after 14 years of service. It was the first time there has been a “contested election,” she said.

“Nobody stepped up in the previous years, but it’s different this year because we have a lot of newcomers from B.C.”

A slate of nine candidates who ran under the banner “Team Lingkod” – Tagalog for servants of the people – ended up taking eight out of the nine board seats.

Team Lingkod’s platform called for more job referrals, settlement assistance, information sessions on immigration and social benefits, and sports programs for youth.

The ninth board member was the previous vice-president, Daniel Dao, 25. He said he would like to start an education fund for youth pursuing post-secondary studies.

“That was always my struggle here in the Yukon,” he said. “Money is often always an issue for us, especially in schooling our younger individuals,” the registered nurse said. He added that migrating to Canada requires a lot of adjustment as is, and having to move to another part of Canada for university is an added challenge for youth.

Mike Buensuceso, who won the president’s seat, also happens to be the father of Jocelyn Curteanu – the first Filipina to win a seat as city councillor – in March. He launched the first free Filipino newspaper with his business partner, Ailene Gayangos, who owns Asian Central Store.

Aileen Maningas, a government lawyer in the Philippines, is the new vice-president. “I can assist (members) in dealing with legal issues especially in immigration, citizenship, taxes, and legal issues in the Philippines that they might still encounter,” she said.

Maningas said that the group’s new goals stem from the previous mandate to help Filipinos, the team simply refined it. She said the group will connect newcomers to Filipino managers of local businesses such as Tim Horton’s, Canadian Tire and Walmart.

The group will also aim to build upon settlement services that the Multicultural Centre of the Yukon and the territorial immigration office offer, as there often is a language barrier, Maningas said.

More formal services would include inviting immigration officials or tax specialists to provide information to members and process income tax returns, she said.

The new board also aims to add a “Filipiniana Collection” of books and films to the Whitehorse library so that second-generation Filipinos can learn their roots and Canadians can better understand the community, Maningas said.

Three of the nine new board members recently moved to the Yukon from B.C., including Buensuceso, Maningas and Raul Dioquino, who won the treasurer seat. They lived in Whitehorse for 10 months, four months and two years respectively.

Some Filipinos grumbled about former B.C. residents taking over the board, but others said they don’t mind it. “It doesn’t matter if you’re new here or if you’re old here, if your objective is to help the people, that’s the main thing. It’s not power tripping,” said Cristina Tinoco Nelson.

Clarke said the organization might not be able to represent everyone in the fast-growing Filipino community in the territory, but hopes that unity would be maintained. “As we grow, it’s inevitable that there would be some people separated and people would have different clans or clashes,” she said.

“In B.C. right now every little area has its own association and I’m hoping that wouldn’t happen here,” Clarke said.

The group estimates there are 2,200 Filipinos in the Yukon. Statistics from the 2011 census listed ethnic minorities only by languages spoken: 450 for Tagalog, 60 for Bisaya.

The election was part of the annual general meeting, which took place in the Multicultural Centre of the Yukon.

Contact Krystle Alarcon at