Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 5, 2005
Pallard sticks up for newcomers
Local parishioner honoured for helping sponsor 500 refugees
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Afrantic Leticia Cables made a last-minute telephone call soon after she heard Josephine Pallard might save her.
"I had nowhere to go," Cables said.
It was 1999 when Cables grabbed international headlines as the Filipina nanny who found sanctuary in St. Anthony's Church, defying an immigration order to deport her because she was working more than one job.
"The Church is sacred," Cables said recently. "They couldn't come in."
But someone had to arrange the desperate details to let Cables in while holding the wolves at bay and that person was Pallard.
"She called me at 11:30 p.m. and said she was being deported at midnight. She was crying," Pallard said. "I did not know who she was, but I told her she must get out of her house and come with me."
Pallard immediately called (former Nelson, B.C.) Bishop Emmett Doyle who was living in the church at the time. He told Pallard that the pastor Father Emmett Crough was out of town and that he could not make the decision to provide sanctuary.
But the diminutive Pallard insisted it was an emergency. "I told him it was a life-or-death situation."
Doyle relented, telling Pallard he would leave the matter in her hands.
"I asked for his prayers and blessings. Then the whole world came to know about her."
Cables lived in St. Anthony's Church for six months before she agreed to be deported on the condition that she could re-apply for admission to Canada. Three months after her deportation, she was back in Edmonton.
Cables represents one of numerous success stories that can be attributed to Pallard's volunteer efforts since she arrived in Edmonton in 1967 from her native Philippines as a 22-year-old.
For her dedicated service, Pallard was one of six Canadian women presented with Governor General's Awards in Ottawa last month. The award commemorates the Persons Case which recognized the five Alberta women who fought in 1928 to have women declared "persons" and therefore eligible to sit in the Senate.
"I am very honoured to receive the award. It is a very humbling experience," Pallard said. "I have always said that if you free and empower the human spirit, you can make a difference."
Although Cables quickly returned to Canada after her deportation, she had to wait another three years for her husband and two children to arrive. She now works as an administrative assistant for Changing Together: A Centre for Immigration Woman - a non-denominational organization Pallard helped establish in 1984.
Growing up in Baguio City in northern Philippines, Pallard learned early in her life to fight against social injustice. Her mother was from the north, where people were generally passive, accepting the islands' natural offerings.
But her father was a calloused fisherman from the south who taught his daughter to defend her beliefs. The eldest of eight children, Pallard became increasingly upset with the dictatorship run by Ferdinand Marcos. She became known locally as a youth leader.
"I was an advocate in many ways. Coming from a Third World country, you come to know that development and peace is important. You have to learn this to help other people."
In 1967, Pallard left the Philippines for Edmonton to further her education. She found that breaking the language barrier was a major benefit for other immigrants. Eventually, she was able to bring her entire family to Edmonton.
Pallard was well educated and spoke English fluently when she arrived on a snowy October day wearing only a thin, cotton outfit.
With few resources, she set up a meagre English as a Second Language class around her kitchen table for a small group of Lebanese women she had met.
From 1971 to 1975, while attending the University of Alberta, Pallard volunteered to help foreign students become proficient in English.
She started helping refugees in 1978 when Archbishop Joseph MacNeil made a plea that Catholic Social Services and the parishes attempt to bring refugees to the archdiocese.
That was when Alice Colak met Pallard. She instantly admired her sincerity. "Josephine has an amazing commitment to immigrants, refugees and her community. She really is a wonderful resource for our city. She has never said 'no' to anyone," said Colak, director of immigration and settlement services with CSS. Along with Paulette Johnson, Colak administers the refugee sponsorship program on behalf of the archdiocese. "Josephine is someone to rely upon to find an answer."
Since 1978, Pallard has chaired St. Anthony's effort to sponsor refugees. The committee has sponsored more than 500 people from Vietnam, Poland, Bosnia, Croatia, Albania, Iraq, Algeria, Africa, El Salvador, Chile and Nicaragua, helping them establish their finances, housing, food, medical and educational requirements to become self-reliant.
She does it because it's something Mother Teresa would do.
"I have always tried to epitomize Mother Teresa who said 'I don't do great things. I only do small things with great passion.'
"Coming from a poor family of eight children, my parents said I must always be with my brothers and sisters. There must be passion. There must be empathy with respect and responsibility," she said. "If I start this at home with a big family, I'll definitely bring it to others."
Pallard was a voice for a growing Filipino community, speaking out against family violence, mail-order brides and sex trafficking. In 1984, she founded Changing Together, a centre whose aim was to find a gathering place where new immigrant women could share their experiences and provide each other with moral support.
Pallard is founder and president of the International and Heritage Languages Association, working with the U of A, Grant MacEwan College and Lakeland College to upgrade women whose credentials are not recognized in Alberta.
The association continues to be a springboard for women, getting them out of minimal jobs into undergraduate and post-secondary education. Many of the women have gone on to become teachers, researchers and consultants on social justice issues.
"There are affluent women in their old country who cannot do it here. It can be humiliating in some ways for those who are highly established."
Amazingly, Pallard finds time to volunteer with a youth group she founded in 1998. The Saranay Youth and Adult Rondalla (string) Ensemble teaches children to play musical instruments indigenous to the Philippines. She also conducts workshops and seminars on conflict resolution, bullying and youth leadership.
Pallard is an elementary school teacher in the Elk Island Public School Division. She has been married to Ray Pallard for 33 years. They have one daughter.
"One thing about Josephine, she helps everybody. I try to support her as much as I can," Ray said. "We often get calls from people out of the blue because I think she is perceived as some kind of a miracle worker. We try to help them, if we can."
If a person offers to repay their kindness, the Pallards ask that they "pay it forward" to help someone else instead.