Members of Edmonton’s Filipino community say the local consular office is not doing its job at a time when its services are needed most.
About 500 people have signed an online petition demanding the Alberta office be upgraded from an honorary consular office to an official one citing complaints over the quality of services and office hours.
“It’s really a reflection of the frustration our community, particularly the Filipino community,” said Marco Luciano, the director of Migrante Alberta, an organization that supports temporary foreign workers.
The office in Edmonton is run by volunteers and is open three days a week, four hours a day. The main difference in the services offered between an honorary consular office and an official one is that the honorary office cannot issue passports.
There are about 100,000 Filipinos living in Alberta with the nearest official consular office located in Vancouver.
“Currently the Filipinos here need to go to Vancouver to spend hundred of hundreds of dollars just to get a passport, a $69 passport,” Luciano said.
He says the Edmonton office’s limited hours pose problems for those travelling from outside of Edmonton.
“Some people from Fort McMurray or the North, outside of big cities and Edmonton need to travel very, very far and when they get here there’s no office or they’re closed without notice.”
Luciano said the creation of an official consular office requires the support of the Filipino government, which he said his organization has been lobbying for.
“We need a better consular service in Alberta immediately in the light of the recent removal of temporary foreign workers,” he said.
On April 1 permits for temporary foreign workers who have been in Canada for more than four years expired, putting potentially more pressure on the honorary consular office to help workers from the Philippines.
The person listed as the “head of mission” of the Edmonton honorary consular office, Esmeralda Agbulos, did not return phone calls from CBC but someone from her office confirmed Agbulos volunteers her time and does not get paid for her work.
On May 5 officials from the consular office in Vancouver will be in Alberta as part of an outreach program. People from the Filipino community can apply for passports or have them renewed at that time.