Lauren Roulston • Feb. 22, 2024

Pinoys on Parliament organizers attend CHUO for an interview. From left to right: Chairperson Karla Atanacio, director of finance Lissa Landicho, and CHUO’s Lauren Roulston (Parujee Akarasewi/CHUO).



Members of the Filipino-Canadian community are flying to the capital from all across the nation. They’re here for an annual event called Pinoys on Parliament, (POP).

It’s a national leadership conference for Filipino youth in Canada, the very first and largest of its kind. POP began in 2018 when members from uOttawa’s Filipino Students’ Association reflected on the lack of representation in the Canadian government.

They banded together to create a space for growth and networking within the community. The event has grown since then. After six years, POP 2024 is their biggest year yet, according to organizers.

Karla Atanacio, chair of Pinoys on Parliament, has been a part of the organization since its inception.

“Six years is a long time,” she says. “We started with about a hundred delegates and now we’ve tripled that number. It’s really amazing, there’s an appetite for this kind of conversation.”

For Atanacio, these youths are looking to expand their social connections, especially after the pandemic.

What’s more, they aim to bring members into a network that sets their sights on future goals. POP has a series of esteemed members of the Filipino community that will greet and connect with attendees this weekend.

“We want to uplift Filipinos that are very respected in their industries, but we also want the Filipino youth that are coming after them to be comfortable enough in themselves to pursue whatever they want,” says Atanacio.

Tomorrow, the three-day conference will commence with an opening ceremony and cultural showcase at the Sir John A. Macdonald building downtown.

Sen. Gigi Osler, the first Filipina in the Canadian Senate will be there. The conference will see many other trailblazers and role models.

Rechie Valdez will also be there. Last year she became the first Filipina to be elected as a Canadian MP.

“We’re a group of Filipino youth really looking to solidify Filipino representation in all levels, in all industries, not just government,” says Atanacio.

Director of finance Lissa Landicho says this is one the things she loves most about POP.

“The people I’ve met, we all come from different types of professions,” she says. “It’s definitely inspiring seeing other people in different areas.”

According to chair Atanacio, this is exemplified by their speakers’ various talents. They’ll have 12 workshops and hear from many from across Canada.

They’ll hear from a Filipino playwright, an artist with cyberspace knowledge, and a pastry-maker. Canada’s Drag Race star Kyne Santos will also be participating in the conference.

“We try to bring people from all walks of life,” she says. “The point that I guess we’re trying to make here is that you can be the type of Filipino that you want, and there’s no wrong way of being that.”

Landicho and Atanacio both flew in from Winnipeg for the conference. It’s Landicho’s first POP and she says she’s been meeting plenty of people from across Canada.

“That’s honestly been one of my favourite parts,” says Landicho. “I feel like growing up here in Canada I kind of felt like I lost a part of my identity as a Filipino-Canadian. So when I joined [POP] my intent was to surround myself more with what it is and find my identity.”

This year’s theme is the Tagalog word ‘Laro,’ or in English, ‘play.’ POP’s website says that childhood memories are the foundation of who we are today.

On Instagram they write, “Let’s explore our heritage together and meet new people with a childlike sense of wonder and excitement. Through learning about Filipino/a/x-Canadians in the arts, culture, education, politics, and more, hopefully, you can all reminisce, embrace, and heal your inner child.”

Atanacio says the theme resonates for many in the Filipino community.

“For a lot of us, especially children of immigrants, we were forced to grow up a lot faster than other kids,” she says.

She recalls a friend who says she’d read legal documents for her parents at nine years old. Landicho also recalls cooking dinners for her family when her parents worked late.

“So there’s moments when you were younger where you’re supposed to be playing with other kids but your parents would tell you maybe you can’t afford to do those things,” says Atanacio.”Or maybe we just don’t have the resources because we’re starting from scratch, we’re building our lives here.”

For Atanacio, who’s been a part of POP since the beginning, and newcomer Landicho, the organizers hope the conference continues to grow and sustain itself.

“I’m hoping that this will translate into a larger social movement of Filipino-Canadian youth reclaiming their Filipino identity,” says Atanacio.


Listen to this conversation as heard on CHUO’s weekly show The Mosaic:

Largest Canadian-Filipino Youth Conference kicks off this weekend

Lauren Roulston

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Lauren Roulston • Feb. 15, 2024

Kids from TCBC sitting down in the House of Commons (Parujee Akarasewi/CHUO).

Two hundred kids lined the green velvet seats in the House of Commons. They came with a non-profit organization called The Children’s Breakfast Club (TCBC).

The organization aims to feed kids with hot nutritional meals so they’re ready for the school day. They also do coat drives, and collect sports and school equipment for the kids, too.

They do annual events, including a visit to Ottawa. This year the visit fell on Feb. 7.

For Black History Month the group honoured Zanana Akande, the first Black woman to be elected to Ontario legislature in 1990. Her work has involved removing barriers for disadvantaged youth and opening up new opportunities.

Zanana Akande holding an honorary poster, presented to her by TCBC (Parujee Akarasewi/CHUO).

“This is an opportunity for us to make sure that our history is still out there, that it’s an integral part of the history of Canada, that we’re respected in all of our roles, and that we assume them with comfort without the battle so many of us had to go through,” she says.

Akande notes that Black history wasn’t discussed when she was in school.

“We want to make sure that the children know where they’ve come from, what’s available for them to go to, that they come from before slavery a very proud and ambitious group and that we have the ability to take our places within this country or any other country and do well,” she adds.

Greg Fergus, the Speaker of the House, was also being celebrated that day. He welcomed the kids to the House of Commons as they filled the MPs chairs.

Greg Fergus, the first Black Speaker of the House of Commons addresses TCBC (Parujee Akarasewi/CHUO).

“Almost nobody gets to sit in these seats, but you do, cause you’re important. I want you to remember that because you are important, you are valued,” he said to them.

Fergus is the 38th Speaker of the House and the very first Black one.

“We can do a lot of great things,” he said to the kids, “when Black Canadians do well in this country, Canada does well as a country.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also spoke to the kids and took some questions from them. They inquired about what’s being done to mitigate the cost of living crisis, and what life in politics is like.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes the hands of the kids on his way out (Parujee Akarasewi/CHUO).

Despite the long travels of the day, the kids’ excitement didn’t falter. The day had started for them at 4 am, waking up to catch school buses to Union Station.

Then, they caught a Via Rail train to the capital. TCBC has been doing these trips for around twenty-five years. They’re now partnered with Via Rail for the annual journey for the kids.

“These messages resonate from deep, and they’re going to remember that experience the rest of their lives,” says Vladimir Jean-Pierre, senior manager at Via Rail.

“Coming to a train, being served, coming to Ottawa you see the Prime Minister telling them how important they are, Greg Fergus telling them how important they are,” he adds.

Jean-Pierre has been coming on these trips for around 14 years. He was asked to come along for management but quickly recognized the impact it had on the kids.

“The minute we arrived, I was hooked,” he says. “The kids eyes, the ‘wow’ effect in their face from the minute they arrived to the minute they returned was to me, that I was in the right place.”

TCBC itself has existed since 1983, founded by Rick Gosling. When it first started, he says there were about eight or nine kids eating pancake breakfasts.

Over the past forty years, they’ve expanded to serve 221,000 meals in a school term, according to Gosling.

The recipes are chosen by volunteer team leaders of the community to reflect the cultures of the kids eating there.

Gosling says they’ve been asked to expand into lunch, too, in the growth of food insecurity in Canada.

“We’re trying to address those needs,” he says. “We’re a small organization, we’re all volunteers, so we can only expand so much at a time. But the demand is just so huge and we’re trying to help as many children as we possibly can.”

Gosling, Jean-Pierre, and the many volunteers of TCBC aim to create an environment where these youths are treated with respect.

Instead of tossing the kids an apple to eat, they’ll cut it up and portion it for them. They make sure that they’re addressing everyone by their first names and asking them how they’re doing.

“They’re all kids, and they all benefit from this interaction. The interaction on the train, they get to respect each other, to know each other,” says Gosling.

It’s also an aspect of their annual event planning. TCBCs events offer opportunities to the kids to learn and share unique experiences, like celebrating Black History month in the House of Commons with Zanana Akande and Greg Fergus.

“That’s what this is truly all about, is educating the broader community to the contributions of the Black community,” says Gosling.

Listen to CHUO’s coverage of TCBCs visit as heard on The Mosaic:

The Children’s Breakfast Club visits Parliament

Lauren Roulston

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Arya Gunde • Feb. 12, 2024

(Photo courtesy of Asif A. Ali/ACO).

Feb. 7, 2024, The AIDS Committee of Ottawa (ACO) held a series of events to commemorate National Afro-Caribbean Black HIV/AIDS Day at their Main Street office.

The day started with a human library, where members spoke about their experiences relating to specific topics such as HIV stigma, treatment shots, healthcare and racism.

There was a variety of speakers for each of these subjects with many overlapping themes. Freedom was an important one, as many expressed the ways they feel shackled by the diagnosis.

(Photo courtesy of Asif A. Ali/ACO).

It was powerful to hear them describing the fight to find peace and happiness after testing positive. One woman put it in simple terms, “HIV patients are not dying, they still have a life to live.”

One speaker explained she contracted the virus through an extremely traumatic experience. She’s reminded of this experience every day when she takes her medication.

Other attendees recounted the difficulties of carrying pills everywhere, taking them at social events, or having nosy friends who discover their condition by snooping through cupboards.

As of 2020, almost 63,000 Canadians live with HIV, according to HIV estimates. Fortunately, treatment is changing.

Since 2020, Canada has allowed the use of injections for long-lasting HIV treatment. The injections are taken every two months, freeing patients from the daily burden of a pill.

Dawn Molot, the ACO’s in-house nurse confirmed the injections are a growing trend amongst the community. She says this is in part due to recent OHIP coverage.

The only side effect Molot noted was pain in the injection site. While the current injection is delivered every two months, there is hope that a six-month treatment will be widely available soon.

The ACO event introduced guest speakers for presentations. Professor Patrick O’Byrne from the University of Ottawa introduced “GetaKit.” The organization sends people self-test kits to detect sexually transmitted infections.

According to their website, “GetaKit is a University of Ottawa study to evaluate an online assessment and mail-out system for sexual health services, including testing and prevention.”

GetaKit partners with non-profit organizations and municipal leadership to distribute their kits. This includes Indigenous communities, where new HIV infections are over-represented in Canada.

Professor O’Byrne said the service is available from Cornwall to Peterborough to North Bay, forming a triangle that covers much of Eastern Ontario. He says Peele, Hamilton, York, and Simcoe Muskoka regions will be the next to sign on.

Sam Gujral presented next, speaking about fighting barriers to PrEP access with the PrEP clinic. PrEP is a preventative pill taken by those who have a higher chance of encountering HIV. More information on PrEP can be found here.

(Photo courtesy of Asif A. Ali/ACO).

The night concluded with a free dinner open to all attendees.

As HIV spreads in Canada, this event serves as an important reminder of humanity. It came with the affirmation that a diagnosis cannot define someone.

Ottawa committee breaks down barriers on National Afro-Caribbean Black HIV/AIDS Day

Arya Gunde

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Arya Gunde • Dec. 20, 2023

The flag of Argentina against a blue sky (Angelica Reyes/UNSPLASH).


Javier Milei stands in front of a presentation board wearing a suit and a navy blue tie. “Afuera!” he hollers, ripping off a blue tag labeled ‘Department for Sport and Tourism.’ “Afuera!” rang out again, with Milei tearing the ‘Department for Culture’ from the board this time. The President’s voice sounds passionate and angry in the video that circulated TikTok, ending with an authoritative message: “the thievery of politics is over. Long live liberty!”

The recent election of Milei has thrust change in the air for Argentina’s 45 million residents, but what this means for the future of the once-prosperous nation is up for debate.

Comments on Milei’s personal social media pages are half filled with love and hope, while another side braces for doom and despair. Either way, his ability to invoke a strong emotional reaction has drawn global intrigue.

Milei’s general election win in November came at a challenging time in Argentine society. Citizens were keen to send a message with their votes, electing a self-proclaimed anarcho-capitalist as a symbol of change against the status quo.

Milei is an economics professor who gained notoriety in the 2010s for his extreme stances and wild antics. His flagrancy, coupled with his distinguished position as an author and lecturer, made him a frequent guest on Argentine television. There, he would aggressively advocate his opinions while insulting opponents during debates.

Milei entered politics in 2021, running for the lower house of the Argentine Congress with the libertarian party. He established the coalition La Libertad Avanza (Freedom Advances) and continued advocating for far-right free-market reforms. In the 2023 election, his Presidential race won the highest vote percentage since Argentina’s transition to democracy in 1983.

Milei’s promises to cut political corruption are celebrated by a population that doesn’t trust the political class. However, Milei’s sudden rise and aspirations to reduce government spending while privatizing services have prompted skepticism from some.

Lee Fang writes in The Intercept that right-wing libertarian movements funded by billionaires from around the world are growing in Latin America to push foreign capitalist interests. He says one group in particular is at the root of the problem: the United States-based Atlas Network.

Atlas Network

Ariel Goldstein, a researcher at the University of Buenos Aires, describes the Atlas Network as a “pro-free-market think tank” that’s recently shed its culturally conservative ideology to influence a larger share of the Latin American population.

Roberto Salinas-Leon, the Atlas Network director of the Centre for Latin America denounces this belief. In an interview with CHUO, he states that the Atlas Network is not as nefarious as is depicted in the media.

Salinas-Leon explains that the network is a non-profit organization that simply secures grants through private parties and distributes them to around 500 think tanks worldwide for various initiatives. He says these grants are small compared to those provided by the likes of George Soros, and invites people to explore the Atlas Network website to learn about its work.

He claims narratives presented by Fang about Koch Brothers and State Department funding are blatantly false or misleading.

Salinas-Leon revealed that many of the Atlas Network’s partners work with people near Milei, but the network was never directly connected to his campaign. It’s not shocking, as think tanks are centres for policy research and data analysis routinely used by politicians. Leon says Milei’s rise and win surprised everyone, including the Atlas Network.

Background and Peronism

Milei’s rise to power is understandable when gauged with the proper context. Argentina’s economic mismanagement goes back decades. Since 1946, the country has taken a “developmentalist” approach to economics, deterring trade and focusing on maintaining domestic industries and social conditions.

The approach was vastly popular when it was introduced and blossomed under the leadership of President Juan Perón, leading to the creation of the term “Peronism.”

Salinas-Leon asserts that Peronism is a special brand of populism that shifts ideology to perpetuate power.

“Peronism has governed 16 of the last 20 years in Argentina, it is a powerful structure in Argentinian politics. It has been like that since 1945,” says Goldstein, noting the relevance of the ideology.

“[Peron was] doling out subsidiaries to special groups that [became] political constituencies,” says Salinas-Leon.

Argentina’s strategy of printing money to finance state-backed industries led to hyperinflation. In the ’90s, the Government placed an economic straitjacket on Argentina by tying the Argentine peso (ARS) to a US dollar peg (printing one peso for every dollar in reserve).

Salinas-Leon says this worked out in good economic times but crashed when the US raised interest rates or faced a recession.

To sustain reserves, Argentina started taking on debt from international lenders such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF). After abandoning the dollar peg in 2001, Argentina’s peso rapidly sunk in value, forcing the country to take on even more debt to function.

Goldstein says the last Peronist government of Alberto Fernandez faced a catastrophic economic crisis. Fernandez’s reign started shortly after Argentina secured a $57 billion loan from the IMF in 2018. The loan was designed to help then-President Mauricio Macri’s market-friendly government avoid high inflation and a gaping budget deficit.

“Macri pretended to give some strength to the Argentine situation by taking that debt, but finally it put the country in a very conditioned situation,” says Goldstein.

The “conditioned situation” he mentions is when the IMF began to dictate Argentine economic policy. Goldstein describes it as “severely restricting the capabilities of the state to elaborate autonomy” after taking the loan.

In 2022, under Fernandez, the IMF issued another loan to refinance $44 billion still owed from the previous programme, making Argentina the IMF’s biggest debtor. Inflation rose to over 140 per cent and 4 out of every 10 people were considered under the poverty line.

Goldstein says this instability is what led to an outsider being elected in Milei.

Proposed Changes

One of Milei’s promises is to dollarize the Argentine economy, abandoning the peso entirely. “People [don’t] trust historically in Argentina in our coin, the peso. So always when people think there is going to be a crisis, they start to buy dollars,” says Goldstein.

Salinas-Leon says this phenomenon is due to hyperinflation. Because goods depreciate slower than the peso, “consumption becomes a form of saving, and that’s a horrendous distortion. [So] the dollar becomes as good as gold.”

Argentina placed restrictions on the amount of dollars individuals could buy to curve an increase in exchange prices. However, demand remained high, creating a booming black market for currency exchange. Leon claims that as of Dec. 12, the exchange rate on the black market for dollars is around 1000 pesos, almost triple the official exchange rate of around 366 ARS.

Goldstein says dollarization will “certainly not be easy,” which Milei acknowledges as well. The new president’s most important promise is to cut government spending and boost private enterprise in Argentina.

In his maiden speech on Dec. 10, Milei said a fiscal adjustment of 5 per cent of gross domestic product will impact the state but not the private sector. Salinas-Leon says the idea works well in textbooks but that “implementation is going to be very difficult.”

He explains that what Milei means is streamlining taxes on the private sector while cutting bureaucracy and transforming bureaucratic bodies into “incorporated corporations.” Goldstein is wary of Milei’s claims, stating “Milei pretends to eliminate a lot of ministries but at the same time he… creates a very big ministry with all of the ministers.”

Goldstein points to the newly established Ministry of Human Capital as an example of this. It combines the ministries of Labour, Employment and Social Security, Education, Culture, and Social Development.

Thus, Argentina is in for a painful adjustment period. Milei himself admits that the situation will get worse before getting better.

On Milei’s statement, Goldstein says, “he expects a combination of recession and high inflation…we can expect more unemployment…more poverty [and] a decline of wages.”

He adds that Milei has not placed any restriction on spending on the Ministry of Human Capital as a method of curbing the oncoming economic disparity. Salinas-Leon says he’s interested in seeing what kind of social safety net the Government will offer since 40 per cent of citizens are already in poverty.

He estimates that Milei has around one year before public trust in his leadership runs out.

Looking Ahead

Milei is planning to open Argentina to international trade. Salinas-Leon and Goldstein both recognize the potential for growth in this move.

They highlight the fact that Argentina is known for its “unicorns,” startup companies with a value of over $1 billion. However, there are looming concerns that foreign investment may destroy local industry.

Argentina’s industries are protected by heavy unionization and subsidies. Trade and foreign investment would open the market to foreign capital, undermining domestic business.

Surprisingly, Salinas-Leon is all for regulation when it comes to foreign investment. He says Argentina has to open up to trade to modernize its economy, but it can follow a Nordic model to “protect the outcome of the national economy.”

For him, Argentina’s approach of only producing products for a domestic market is “ridiculous” and it is time for the country to build on its “competitive advantages [and] vast resources.”

The road ahead for Argentina is long, treacherous, and filled with uncertainty. Goldstein notes that Milei has a minority in Congress, making it difficult for him to even implement any significant change.

Younger populations remain hopeful for Milei, who’s garnered a significant following on social media with over two million followers on TikTok.

So far, it’s clear that Argentines are tired of the status quo and ready for change, even if it means endorsing someone completely outside the ballpark of a traditional politician as president.

“The most clear [thing] about Milei’s government is we have to wait to see what happens,” says Goldstein.

What Argentina’s New President Means For the Country’s Future

Arya Gunde

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