Pinoys who Came by Waves (and more are coming!)

Sadiri Joy Tira
June 03 2024


A number of Filipinos refer to themselves as Pinoys, much like Canadians are referred to as Canucks. Tsinoys are Hybrid Filipino-Chinese. (I want to be clear that I am not using these words in a derogatory manner.)

In the late 1960s, a large number of Pinoys came to Canada, as factory workers in the textile industry in Manitoba and in car building in Ontario (in particular, they worked with GM factories.) In the 1970’s, more Pinoys came as teachers, nurses, and even a few physicians. A few seafarers, from Vancouver, BC to St. John’s, Newfoundland, decided to jump ship to find jobs on land. Pinoys have been adventurers since the days of the Galleon traders, and they are scattered across Canada, from east to west.

Paul (Ama)

Paul and Bien were forerunners of Filipinos in Alberta. They became founding pillars of the First Filipino Alliance Church, of which I was the founding pastor.

Paul was fondly called “Uncle Paul” or “Ama” (father). He came in the mid 1970’s as a teacher to work in the remote First Nation village of Lac La Biche, north of Edmonton. He was a hard worker, humorous, and extremely extroverted. He taught Math, Physics, and Physical Education. And in Lac La Biche, after regular working hours, he invited his male students to teach them boxing in his basement and backyard.

After 25 years he died of cancer. I officiated his funeral and graveside service. Many Filipino community leaders in Edmonton came all the way to the cemetery. I noticed over a dozen older First Nation men who came. After the ceremony, I asked if they know Paul. Most of them wept and they said: “He was our teacher, our friend, our ‘Ama’. We will never forget him and his family.”

One of them said, “You Filipinos look like us … we love you Filipinos, you are not the face of colonizers. You came to help us.” Indeed, we look alike, but culturally we are very different.

In the North

In the Spring of 2019, The Right Rev. Bishop David Parsons of the Arctic invited me to speak at the conference of the Anglican ministers held in Yellowknife, NWT. Over 100 Inuit ministers were there - from Inuvic (near the Beaufort Sea) to Hudson Bay, all the way to Nunavut, Arctic Circle. What a privilege and honour to minister to these dear brothers and sisters, fellow ministers who look like me – a Pinoy.

What caught my attention was the fast-growing Filipino Community in the North. They work in hotels, diamond mines, restaurants, Tim Hortons, and Wal-Marts, as auto mechanics, clerks, bank employees, household workers, nurses and a few medical doctors.

Consider these approximate population stats:

  • Yukon: Population of around 45,000 // Filipinos = around 2,000
  • Northwest Territories: Population of around 45,000 // Filipinos = around 3,000
  • Yellowknife: Population of around 19,000 // Filipinos = around 2,000
  • Nanavut: Population of around 3,000 // Filipinos = around 300

These Pinoys have Bible Study groups and fellowship groups. During very cold days, they gather for prayer huddles and “Fellow-soup” with their Inuit friends and locals. Therefore, speaking about Filipino Diaspora and immigrants is far beyond the urban centres of Southern Canada. There are Pinoys close to the North Pole.

Pinoys in Canada

Today, wherever you go, wherever there are Tim Hortons, malls, and hospitals, you will find Pinoys. And more Pinoys are coming!

According to Stats Canada, there are now 957,355 Filipinos in Canada (2021 Census). And we can assume that, after the pandemic, there are now closer to one million Pinoys in Canada. In addition, there are 25,000 Filipino International or Visa students scattered across Canada from East to West.  

Stay tuned for my next article "Dead gods & Shattered Temples" where I will share more about the missional impact of Pinoys in Canada.  

Sadiri Joy Tira, DMiss, DMin, more commonly known as Joy, is the Diaspora Missiology Specialist at the Jaffray Centre for Global Initiatives at Ambrose University in Calgary, Alberta.





(Specific information in this article came from Stats Canada, Anglican Church NWT Diocese, and from Sadiri Joy Tira RTS DMin. (2002) & Western D.Miss. 2008 Dissertations.)

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