Pamulitika: The political participation of Filipinos in Canada

Winnipeg City councillor Mike Pagtakhan ends his political career after four consecutive terms. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

First Update:  6:56 AM, October 13, 2018

Second update: 3:56 PM., October 13, 2018



Engaging  in the political process


By Ted Alcuitas

First of a series.

As municipal elections start to kick in today with advance votings, it is time to look at how our political involvement developed over the years.

It was 37 years ago that Filipinos elected the first member of a provincial legislative assembly in Manitoba.

Conrad Santos

Conrad Santos,a university professor, was elected as an NDP in 1981 and served for five terms before stepping down in 2007.

First Filipino politician Conrad Santos dies at 81

Alex Chiu

Santos’ election was followed in 1985 by Alex Chiu as a City councillor in Markham, Ontario. He served for ten terms and decided to call it quits this year.

Three years later in 1988, Filipinos broke ground with the election of the first Filipino member of Parliament.

Dr. Rey Pagtakhan from Winnipeg, Manitoba was elected in 1988 as a Liberal. Pagtakhan served for four terms until 2004. He held several  cabinet ministerial positions  under the Chretien and Martin governments including Minister of Veterans Affairs.

Three generations of Manitoba politicians: Incumbent Conservative MLA Jon Reyes (centre) is flanked by  former MLA Cris Aglugub (1999-2007)  on the left and former Member of Parliament, Dr. Rey Pagtakhan., (1988-2004). (Jon Reyes FB Photo)


From that auspicious  beginning 37 years ago, Filipinos are now in all political arenas from federal, provincial and municipal.

Filipino politicians have been elected and aspire to be from as far north as Yellowknife and The Yukon to the west coast of British Columbia, Manitoba and Ontario.

Part 1

Winnipeg, Manitoba

Election date: October 24, 2018

We begin our political series in Winnipeg, Manitoba where the seeds were planted in 1981.

Winnipeg lost its longest-serving City councillor when Mike Pagtakhan announced in June  that he is retiring from politics after four terms. First elected in 2002 to represent Point Douglas,  the 47-year old father of three, surprised everyone  with his announcement.

“It was obviously a very … tough decision, an emotional decision,” Pagtakhan said after the moving announcement, CBC News reported.

“You never really know when it’s time to go, but part of me, I’ve made a decision. I’ll be passing the torch to someone else.”

The nephew of Dr. Rey Pagtakhan( the first and only Filipino to be elected to Parliament)  Pagtakhan said he hopes to “continue mentoring young children in the cadets and return to pottery and his other artistic hobbies”.

Although coy about his future political plans, Pagtakhan hasn’t totally ruled out a future in politics.

“I don’t think you say ‘never’ to anything,” Pagtakhan told CBC News.

He  served as Chair of Downtown Development, Heritage and Riverbank Management and was Deputy Speaker,  Deputy Mayor, Chair of Protection & Community Services, Chair of the Winnipeg Housing Steering Committee, Youth Ambassador, Acting Deputy Mayor, Secretary of Urban Aboriginal Initiatives, and  Chair of the Citizens Equity Committee. He served as director in a number of organizations including, the Exchange District BIZ, the Winnipeg Public Library Board, the Winnipeg Arts Council, the Fred Douglas Foundation, and the Winnipeg Housing & Rehabilitation Corporation.

Before entering politics he worked at Manitoba Hydro as a Specifications & Contracts Officer.

He graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Arts (BA), and  finished  his Certified Professional Purchaser (CPP) designation from the Purchasing Management Association of Canada, and his Certified in Management (CIM) diploma from the Canadian Institute of Management.


Here are the  two Filipinos running for School Trustees.


A mother of four, Legaspi is not only a Registered Nurse but also a martial arts enthusiast and instructor with a 4th degree black belt which according to her, she earned “through hardwork, diligence, & passion”.

A native of Meycauayan, Bulacan, she  teaches the Philippine martial art form Sikaran at her own school, Winnipeg Sikaran Arnis Academy which she founded with her husband in 2004.

She studied nursing at the University of the Philippines and St. Mary’s College of Meycauayan.

Legaspi is an Event Promoter at 71 Lab Rats Events and Productions.

Some of her election platform:

She plans to  have an affordable child care in our division that can operate longer hours to help parents with shift work
> Safety for our children and community

>I would like to see a better street sign to remind motorists of the 30km school zone
> I believe in the strength & beauty of a community through multicultural diversity.


Sangalang is a Legislative Assistant of NDP MLA Flor Marcelino. He could not provide any other information to at press time.

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