By Brandi Morin
Posted 1 day ago
STONY PLAIN - In recent years there has been a significant increase in the amount of foreign workers in Parkland County. Even with the fall of the economy in 2008 certain job sectors have remained prosperous with a demand for skilled and committed employees.
In order to promote employment opportunities in Alberta, the Province entered into an agreement with the Philippines Department of Labour and Employment.
Alberta's Minister of Employment and Immigration, Hector Goudreau, said that they prefer Filipino workers because of their skills, flexibility, adaptability and wonderful work ethics.
Richard Naya, 25, from La Carlota City, Negros Occidental, Philippines, has been working in Alberta for almost five years and as a chef at a popular Stony Plain restaurant for the past three years.
"It was really good to grow up there (Philippines) because of the beautiful weather and stuff," said Naya.
"But what good is the weather when you can't put food on the table?"
He grew up poor in a family of seven a couple hours inland north of the Pacific Ocean. His father worked as a truck driver and his mother worked planting and harvesting sugar cane to make ends meet.
Child labour is not forced upon children in the Philippines but they can choose to work if they choose to.
"When we were young kids playing around by the farms, we were hungry anyway so we asked my mom's boss if we could do work for him and get paid," said Naya.
"It wasn't easy planting sugar cane under the hot sun but we did it anyway. To a Filipino working here in a restaurant is easy like a dream job of working in an office compared to working in the fields."
Naya was dedicated to school and always envisioned a better life for him and his family. After Grade 6 he wrote and passed an exam that qualified him and only three others from his school to attend a private high school in Manila called CEBU, the Sisters of Mary School.
"I was really lucky I passed and my mom was really happy," said Naya.
"Although she was crying a lot because I was going away from home for so long."
The school required students to attend for four years with only two weeks off in the summer. But Naya said it was the greatest experience of his life.
"That high school gave us lots of opportunities like automotive, carpentry, electrical and computer skills."
Everything was paid for including his meals, shelter and regular hair cuts, "From top to bottom we were taken care of," said Naya.
Upon graduating at the top of his class Naya was granted a scholarship to study the two-year Mid Wife college program back in his hometown. It's a job there is a high demand for in the Philippines.
After getting his midwifery license Naya worked at a few local fast-food joints while waiting to find employment in his field.
An aunt encouraged him to consider applying to work in Canada because she told him he would be better able to help support his family rather than making a dollar an hour working in the Philippines.
Naya decided to apply and the process took a full year. He also had to borrow money from one of his bosses to secure the funds to move.
Skilled worker immigration in Alberta is part of the Provincial Nominee Program. This is an employer-driven immigration program managed by the Government of Alberta and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).
His first job in Alberta was at an A & W in Westlock, which he said he enjoyed.
Having come to Canada without knowing anyone but his aunt he soon made connections with other Filipino workers and met his future wife Belle.
With a desire to move closer to his aunt and new friends, Naya decided to move to Stony Plain.
The two happiest days of his life is when he got married and when his first child was born last June. But his son was born in the Philippines because Belle had been asked to leave Canada due to a problem with her immigration papers.
Although he hasn't yet met his son in person he tries to "see" them everyday using Skype.
"I feel really, really sad from not seeing them, like I mean not being able to touch them," said Naya. "I'm missing a lot of him growing up."
Naya works full-time and once a month sends half of his paycheque home to his wife and on his other payday he sends half to his parents and siblings.
When asked if he feels a lot of pressure to support his family he was quick to answer with a look on his face that was surprised that he was even asked such a question.
"The way I was raised, seeing them struggling, seeing them hungry, I know what it's like and I don't want them (my siblings) to experience that," said Naya.
"I want them to be able to go to school with a clear mind. Instead of thinking about such things like 'I'm hungry', they can go to school and play. It's all really about seeing them happy."
Immigration Canada is currently working on processing Belle's papers to return to Canada and Naya hopes to welcome his wife and meet his son in person for the first time in February.
Naya plans to continue to work with the hopes of being able to go to college in Edmonton to become a nurse but he has to have citizenship before he can apply.
The skilled worker immigration program in Alberta is designed to help candidates gain permanent residence and to help employers get workers for their companies. The ultimate dream for Naya would be to one day own a house and to raise his own family here.
"If I had lots of money of course I would want to go live back home," said Naya.
"But Canada is a really good country with lots of opportunity here. I even tried snowboarding although I'm not that good yet."
Naya plans to spend his fifth Christmas in Canada having a traditionally prepared Filipino dinner with his aunt and his friends.
He will speak with his family, wife and son through Skype.
Naya also said he is forever grateful for the abundant opportunities working in Alberta has given him and he is still working towards permanent residency and becoming a Canadian citizen.