A Lethbridge educator who’s spoken out on employment abuses has been awarded one of this year’s Immigrant Achievement Awards.
Glenda Bonifacio, a professor of women’s and gender studies at the University of Lethbridge, was saluted this week during an event presented by the Immigrant Services arm of Lethbridge Family Services.
She was among a small group of Lethbridge citizens, born elsewhere, which included former alderman Sean Ward and longtime drama director Ed Bayly.
“All new residents make a significant impact on our community,”
Immigrant Services program director Sarah Amies said, announcing the awards. “We are very happy to recognize just a few of those individuals whom have made such an incredible contribution to our community.”
For many, Amies adds, that comes with “a grace and dignity that defies overwhelming circumstances and challenges.”
This year — the third year for the Lethbridge celebration — the business awards went to Anup Ghai of the Baadshah Royal East Indian Restaurant and Monica Munoz of the Spanish Montessori Learning Centre, the “outstanding youth award” to college student (and documentary
producer) Robin Timsina, and the workplace diversity award to Lethbridge library volunteers Teena Cormack, Joanne Nemeth and Sheila Urban.
Bonifacio, born and educated in the Philippines, was recognized in the “distinguished professional” category. A Canadian resident for seven years, she outlined employment abuse issues facing temporary foreign workers in Lethbridge during a session of the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs earlier this year.
Some have called the practice “modern-day slavery,” she said.
Unlike qualified immigrants, Bonifacio said, the temporary workers seemingly have few of the health, safety or hours-of-work protections that are in place for other workers in Alberta.
After two years, she points out, many are required to leave Canada.
And they may have to wait years if they wanted to return.
“It’s a revolving door,” she said in a recent interview. “It works for business, but it’s not fair for the people.”
Currently, Bonifacio said, the Canadian government is admitting more temporary workers and fewer immigrants. But all too often, she said, skilled immigrants who arrive discover their credentials are disregarded — and they’re forced to take low-paid jobs that don’t relate to their education or previous career experience.
While many immigrants from the Philippines earn university degrees before leaving home, Bonifacio adds, she’s learned she’s the only Filipino professor who’s been granted tenure-track status in Alberta.
With the university attracting students and faculty from many nations, she says it’s encouraging to see recognition for those who are able to make their home in southern Alberta.
“It’s a way to recognize the diversity of the people who come here.”