Growing Filipino community in Meadow Lake

Saskatchewan population at all-time high

By Mac Christie

Saskatchewan’s population has hit an all-time high of 1,057,884, in large part due to international migration, which has also impacted Meadow Lake in the form of a growing Filipino community.

There is a long history of Filipino immigration in Meadow Lake, starting in 1982 when Rosita Sawatsky arrived from the Philippines.

Seven years later, in early December, Elvie Johnson arrived in town after meeting her husband Les through an exchange of letters and photographs.

“I was feeling like my decision may have been a mistake because all I was seeing was white snow,” Johnson said with a laugh, referring to her drive from Saskatoon to Meadow Lake. “I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, there are no people in this place.’”

When she arrived it was minus-42 and she had never seen snow before.

“I was shocked,” she added. “It was quite a bit different than the country I came from, but I’m used to it now.”

Although Saskatchewan was shockingly different than her homeland, Johnson, who now lives in Glaslyn, said she feels blessed to live in Canada.

“I am lucky to belong to this country,” she said. “It’s a really nice place.”

In fact, Johnson brought some of her family to Saskatchewan in 2007, as part of the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program. The program allows people with skills and abilities that fit the province’s needs, or people with a Saskatchewan resident as a relative to immigrate more quickly.

The program is bringing people of Filipino origin with specific skill sets to the province, such as Irving Berlin.

Berlin, 33, a meat cutter at Schwings Meating Place, was a butcher in the Philippines and came to Canada in March 2009.

Six months later the rest of his family, wife Rhoda and children Danavin and Chester arrived.
Berlin noted there are increased number of Filipinos arriving in Meadow Lake.

“There’s an influx of Filipinos right now,” he said. “They’re getting more and more by the day and month.”

He noted they’re arriving for jobs, much like he did.

“When I came over, I was the 26th Filipino in town,” he added. “In less than three years there are around 250.”

Berlin said Filipinos are hard workers, and are coming to Canada because it’s hard to get a job at home.

“The Philippines has around 88-90 million people, and the Philippines is smaller than Saskatchewan,” he noted. “The government can’t provide jobs for them all, so they’re leaving for greener pastures.”

He helps those that are newly arrived to town adjust, and also provides names to people in the community who are looking to hire Filipino workers.

While the weather is drastically different, Berlin said there isn’t a language barrier because English is the number two language in the Philippines and is taught at school.

“As long as you do research and come prepared, it’s good,” he explained.

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