Filipino community organization Kapit Bisig Centre never expected that moving from a commercial building to a residential space last summer would trigger a string of administrative headaches, forcing them to suspend their activity altogether.
The volunteer-based umbrella group – which includes the Philippine Women Centre, the Philippines-Canada Task Force on Human Rights, Kabataang Montreal (Filipino Youth of Montreal), and SIKLAB (Advance and Uphold the Rights and Welfare of Filipino Migrant Workers) – lost their non-profit status with their switch to a residential address, as stipulated under Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (CDN) by-laws, causing them to incur new booking fees at a community centre where they have hosted events in the past, free of charge.
At last Monday’s CDN borough meeting, Kapit Bisig asked the borough to help them find a new space and resolve their booking fee conflicts. According to Catherine Mourin, a member of the CDN’s Communications department, the borough will not be flexible due to Kapit Bisig’s residential status.
“The permit was denied…by a by-law, because it was located in a residential area. There is nothing that can be done about that,” Mourin said, adding that the borough may not be able to assist Kapit Bisig locate a new space, despite the group’s request.
Kapit Bisig chair person, Joanne Vasquez, was disappointed with the borough’s response, and pointed to the South Asian Women’s Centre (SAWC), which has been provided space by the City since it was founded in 1981, as a model for Kapit Bisig.
Yet Dolores Chu, a founding member and current treasurer of SAWC, doubted a new group would receive the same level of support.
“In our case, a long time ago, we got space,” Chu said. “Since that time, there have been many more grassroots [organizations] coming up. There’s a greater demand for space,”
Mourin confirmed that CDNs resources are spread thin.
“There’s more than 150 partner organizations we are working with, and four of them are Filipino, [including] the Filipino Association of Montreal, the Federation of Canadian Filipinos of Quebec. It’s just difficult to find them space,” Mourin said.
In the meantime, Kapit Bisig is hoping that their $300 booking fees at the community centre 6767 will be waived – since their activities are non-profit in nature.
According to Vasquez and Joy Alcaron, a founding member and current treasurer, before they moved to a residential space, they had never been charged for use of 6767. Returning to 6767 for another event, after they had staged a production of Panoyville free of charge, they were informed that the rules had changed.
“[Suddenly], 6767 [was] saying we’re booking too many rooms, and they’re going to charge. We said we’re part of a community organization that always gets space for free, so why all the sudden do they want us to pay?” said Alarcon. “They said the problem was our address: we were [now] located in a residential area. They were telling me also they will charge us for the past activity.”
Mourin again cited the group’s official status as a reality of the situation.
“Because there’s lots of folks using the community centre, they have a certain fee to pay, there’s no exception,” said Mourin. “The centre has a rate list, and depending on what kind of activity, what kind of group, they all have a certain fee to pay.”
Shutting down operations at Kapit Bisig Centre will have an impact on CDN, as they provide immigration counselling, fair employment information, and youth and women’s programs to the community, which is home to the largest Filipino population in Quebec – with approximately 60 per cent of the province’s population – and is the entry point for most immigrants into the province, according to Vasquez.
“This is the only Little Manila we have in all of Canada. These Filipinos are a large constituency. The City has an obligation to them,” she said.
Kapit Bisig will have another chance to meet with borough councillors on February 24, when CDN’s intercultural commission meets. It is likely, though, that the $300 fee charged by the community centre for use of its space will not be waived by the borough.
For now, Kapit Bisig remains in limbo, though they may continue to organize an inter-college conference this spring that would bring together Filipino university students from all over the island.