Name: Immanuel Ferrer Lanzaderas
Place of Birth: Cebu City, Philippines
Elementary School: St. Maria Goretti, Scarborough
High School: Blessed Cardinal Newman, Scarborough
1. Could you please describe how you came to be in Canada?
My father moved to Canada when my mother was still pregnant with me. He sponsored us, after getting a job with CN Rail. My mom and I moved to join him in Toronto in May 1983, when I was seven months old.
2. Describe your experience of growing up, living, and/or working in Canada?
My mother raised me on her own, while working temporary, or part-time jobs; and sometimes on social assistance. My father never paid child support, and I have only met him 3-4 times in my entire life. So, growing up a poor immigrant child of a single mother wasn’t easy. My mother was a teacher in the Philippines, so she instilled in me the importance of getting an education in order to get ahead. Even though we didn’t have much, we still traveled to visit relatives, went to see music and theatre, and volunteered in community organizations and festivals. Although getting a law degree has allowed me to have a career and meet all kinds of different people, I still consider myself a poor kid from Scarborough – and I know that others in my field still see me as that, as well. It was also weird that I was technically an immigrant, but really only lived outside of Canada for 7 months of my life; I only speak a few words of Tagalog, but I can work in French. Growing up in Canada meant that I didn’t always feel like an immigrant on the inside; but being Filipino means that I look it on the outside.
3. What are some of your major accomplishments? What were/are some of your major struggles?
My major accomplishments are becoming a lawyer, which took seven years of university, co-founding the Filipino Students Association of Toronto with a good friend, and co-founding the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers, which has grown into a national lawyers’ association and advocacy group. Being a lawyer has meant being able to help my mom with her bills, and being able to travel a lot. Law, however, is not the easiest job. It’s stressful and I am still paying my student loans. It is a struggle to deal with systemic racism that permeates the legal profession. Professionally, I’m often the only non-white person in a meeting or office or social event. People also don’t see me as being able to speak French because I’m Filipino. Many times, I’ve lost out on job applications to white lawyers whose French is not nearly as good as mine. Unfortunately, being a person of colour in Canada means you do have to work twice as hard to get to the same place as richer, white people. It’s tiring, but it can be worth it, when you see that you can make a difference for your clients (especially when I was a criminal lawyer for Legal Aid), and in the profession.
4. What are some of future goals that you envision for yourself and for the Filipino community in Canada?
I would like to see Filipino Canadians aim higher. So many Filipinos of my parents and my age settle for just getting by. We have one of the highest dropout rates of any ethnic community in Toronto. That has to change. I don’t care if you want to become a doctor or a video game designer – do what interests you, and stay in school in order to make that happen. We are an incredibly creative, joyful, and stylish people. We’ve spent too long in the shadows of other larger, wealthier Asian communities.