A man from Steinbach travelled to Parliament Hill to celebrate Asian Heritage Month at the historic Sir John A. Macdonald Building. 

Kris Ontong is from the Philippines, which is in Southeast Asia. He notes there are only around 1 million Filipino Canadians. 

“So, to be part of a national celebration like that, it's a huge privilege and I'm really grateful that I got the invite, because you have to be invited to get to that one. And of course, the work that I do for the Eastern Region Immigration Partnership is relevant to that celebration.” 

Kris Ontong with Filipino-Canadian Dr. Eileen De Villa, Chief Medical Officer of the City of Toronto.Kris Ontong with Filipino-Canadian Dr. Eileen De Villa, Chief Medical Officer of the City of Toronto. (Photo Submitted)

The theme for Asian Heritage Month 2024 is “Preserving the Past, Embracing the Future: Amplifying Asian Canadian Legacy”. 

The event on May 8th brought together community leaders, dignitaries, and Canadians of Asian heritage from across the country to celebrate the many achievements and contributions of people of Asian origin who have helped shape our country into what it is today. 

“I was so distracted because I was interacting with so many guests from the different cultures and connecting with fellow Filipino Canadians who I'm meeting for the first time, by the way. There were a lot of people there who I've interacted with only virtually because of the pandemic and because they're based in Ottawa.” 

Kris Ontong with Eddie Villarta, the newly-elected president of the Filipino Canadian National Congress.Kris Ontong (right) with Eddie Villarta, the newly elected president of the Filipino Canadian National Congress. (Photo Submitted)

Ontong calls it a surreal experience. 

He says there are 40 Liberal Members of Parliament who are of Asian heritage, “and that’s inspiring when you see it because that shows you how far we’re come from just being newcomers to Canada. And then now they're in that position to be able to help in the decision making for our country and representing our ideas, our values and it all factors into the policies that are being made for our country.” 

Kris Ontong at the podium.A souvenir photo taken after the event. (Photo Submitted)

Ontong says Steinbach is such a welcoming community which is why there is a growing number of immigrants from a variety of countries. 

“Proof of that is Summer in the City because an integral part of Summer in the City is Cultures in the City which celebrates the different cultures that make Steinbach a vibrant community.” 

Cultures are celebrated at Steinbach’s annual summer festival with a stage designated for cultural performances, plus a corridor of cultural cuisine, offering festival goers a variety of food from a number of different countries.

Kris Ontong standing in front of large white letters that spell Ottawa.Kris Ontong at ByWard Market. (Photo Submitted)

Food helps bring people together, Ontong says. With events that celebrate the many cultures present in our community, he says that supports inclusion, which is better than integration. 

When people feel included, they are more likely to contribute to the growth and success of the community, he adds. 

Now that he is back in Steinbach, Ontong is eager to continue his work with Eastman Region Immigration Partnership to further efforts of integration and inclusion, helping immigrants to feel at home in the Southeast.