September 2, 2023, was a milestone event for the Philippine Centre Canada (PCC) and the Philippine Embassy in Ottawa as they collaborated in organizing the first-ever Filipino International Students Convention in Ottawa. The primary objective of this convention was to provide Filipino international students in Ottawa and nearby municipalities with pertinent information that would help in their settlement and integration in the schools where they study and the city or municipality where they reside.
In her welcome remarks, the PCC Chairperson, Lota Bertulfo, our stressed the importance of forming friendships and relationships to support the international student’s journey, settlement, and integration in Canada. In her message, the Philippine Ambassador to Canada, the Honourable Maria Andrelita S. Austria, acknowledged the growing number of Filipino international students in Canada and encouraged them to maintain a realistic perspective. She emphasized that their studies and experiences in Canada could be used to benefit the Philippines and help them become better individuals.
The presentations covered a wide range of topics such as settlement and integration services, student support services, legal obligations and rights of international students, and consular services and labour concerns. Representatives from the University of Ottawa and Algonquin College and agencies providing support services to international students and immigrants shared information about how to access their services. presentations to the students. Following each session, the participants were given the opportunity to ask questions during an open forum.
In addition to the various presentations and briefings at the convention, Atty. Angela Fatih C. Perez of ACPerez Law, a prominent law firm specializing in immigration, hosted a special session on the legal obligations and rights of international students. This session was particularly engaging and interactive, creating a fun and educational atmosphere for the participants. Atty. Perez made the topic relatable and relevant to the students by discussing specific scenarios and case studies related to international student experiences. She provided valuable insights into important topics such as immigration regulations, work permits, and the steps to take in case of legal issues or disputes. The practical tips and guidance she shared made the students feel confident in navigating the Canadian legal system. She encouraged open discussion and welcomed questions from the students, allowing for a deeper understanding of their legal rights and obligations.
Other highlights of the convention were briefings on the Philippine Embassy’s consular and labour services, including the services of the Migrant Workers Office and SSS in Toronto.
The event came to a close with a message from the newly-appointed Minister of Small Business, the Honourable Rechie Valdez, who expressed Canada’s commitment to supporting the dreams and aspirations of newcomers. The Minister advised the students to believe in themselves, highlighting that their Filipino heritage is their superpower. Furthermore, she encouraged them to always seek opportunities for growth, learning, and collaboration to ensure a bright future.