April 1, 2023 - On March 21, the B.C. provincial government recognized individuals and organizations for their work in fighting racism and advancing multiculturalism.
One of those cited was William Canero, a third-generation Canadian Filipino, who received an honourable mention in the Emerging Leader Award category.
The said category in the 2023 B.C. Multiculturalism and Anti-Racism Awards acknowledges youth and young adults for building intercultural trust, confronting racism, and tackling barriers for marginalized communities.
“Canero sits on the boards of the Kathara Pilipino Indigenous Arts Collective Society, the Southeast Asian Cultural Heritage Society, and the Mabuhay House Society, and also works as an organizer for the Joyce Street Action Network,” the provincial government stated in an official release.
As well, “Canero has worked with Burnaby’s planning department on ethnic business and farmer protections, arts and culture, and Indigenous co-management research.”
When reached for comment by Canadian Filipino Net, the 26-year-old Vancouver resident reflected on what he has done since he started getting involved in the Filipino community and wider diaspora in 2018.
“I had largely thought of my work, not as anti-racist or multicultural, but instead as community work,” Canero said.
It was “work that brought people together and provided opportunities for people to connect with their history and heritage”.
“By creating spaces where Filipinos could show up, learn from each other and their culture, be a part of the community, I was inadvertently doing anti-racism work the entire time by keeping Filipino language and culture alive in the next generation,” Canero also related.
“I would come to see the work I do as inherently working against a system that attempts to exoticize or assimilate newcomers into a system that oppresses others,” he also said.
“This theory and practice would become the foundation of my work and my guiding light in the creation of a Filipino cultural centre,” Canero added.
Canero was referring to ongoing efforts to develop a Filipino cultural centre in Vancouver, a community initiative being led by the Mabuhay House Society, a nonprofit in which Canero serves as vice chairperson.
Canero was nominated for the Emerging Leader Award by Sammie Jo Rumbaua, a co-chair of the Mabuhay House Society.
“Today,” Rumbaua wrote, “more and more newcomers and second generation migrants are asking for opportunities to connect with their ethnic identity, and for years, William has worked tirelessly to provide spaces for such opportunities to take place.”
In 2022, Canero completed his master’s degree in community and regional planning at UBC, with a focus on social planning for arts and culture.
In the same year, he started work as systems change coordinator with the Collingwood Neighbourhood House in Vancouver.
Canero’s work supervisor Emily Rees wrote a reference letter for the Canadian Filipino’s award nomination.
“Through his involvement in various cultural heritage organizations and community initiatives, he has helped provide access and opportunities for British Columbians to engage and reconnect with Southeast Asian culture, while also working towards equity, justice, and anti-racism initiatives,” Rees noted.
Rees cited as one example Canero’s involvement with the Joyce Street Action Network, a group that emerged when new condo and commercial developments threatened to displace Filipino stores and dining establishments in the Joyce Street area of Vancouver.
“His role as an organizer for the Joyce Street Action Network has helped address issues around insufficient community consultation with the Filipino community in Joyce Street,” Rees stated.
In connection with his job as systems change manager with the Collingwood Neighbourhood House, Rees noted that this “involves challenging ideas, beliefs, and behaviors of individuals, communities, organizations, and institutions to address the root causes of complex social problems, including initiatives focused on anti-racism, equity, and justice”.
In the interview, Canero told Canadian Filipino Net that everyone has a role to play in fighting racism.
“Some may feel disempowered to tackle that, and so my role is to educate people around the experiences that Indigenous, Black, people of colour have within the system and empower them,” Canero said.