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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

First Filipino Justice of the Peace in Canada retires

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The first Filipino to be appointed Justice of the Peace in Toronto, Canada, and who worked in the downtown and Scarborough courts handling cases for 25 years, exits the majestic doors of the courts he has served this February 2020. Canadian Justices of the Peace are given until they are 75 years old to serve in the Canadian government. Since he enjoyed his job as magistrate, he has maxed out his retirement age and will say goodbye to his colleagues and friends this February 2020 just before his 75th birthday on May 22, 2020.

This Justice of the Peace who lived his life in Toronto, Ontario happens to be my oldest brother, Delano V. Europa. Our father got his first name from the great American President Delano Roosevelt. My husband Ric Pinca and I were in Ontario for a short vacation last November and we requested to watch the proceedings of his court. It was our opportunity to watch this man we admired so much. Entering the court was a breeze as my brother advised the Caucasian guards that his family from the Philippines was coming. The guards were supposed to examine our bags and us as a whole but I heard a guard say “they are the family of his worship Delano Europa.”

But Justice of the Peace Europa recounts those days when he was a new immigrant in Canada. He was already a lawyer in the Philippines and Municipal Judge but he started at the bottom in Canada, so to speak, in a chocolate factory where he had to mix a cauldron of boiling hot chocolate with other blue collar workers.

He recounts: “The foreman was not happy with my work and he said look at that man over there, he did not go to school but he does a better work than you.” And my brother retorted: “That is why I went to school, so I get a better job.” In Canada you have to have a job experience before you can get in “the higher workforce.” So my brother transferred to being a park attendant where he studied languages and to studied law subjects at night to add to his Philippine law experience. He had to study law and take up the bar in Toronto to qualify as a lawyer there. Fortunately, he passed the bar exams of Toronto. He worked as a lawyer and later as Justice of the Peace in the downtown Toronto court where there were a lot of cases.

Yes, he is addressed as His Worship in a court dominated by whites. We had a wonderful time watching him at work in a Scarborough court populated by lawyers, prosecutors and stenographers. He presided over bail cases in a long black robe with a silky shirt inside.

People stood up and bowed when he entered the court and called him His Worship. It was a very formal proceeding with very quiet surroundings. Police was in every corner guarding the court. The prosecutor and lawyers stayed on the last table next to the audience. The next table was occupied by stenographers taking notes and Justice Europa stayed in a throne-like stage. In all the court discussions, Europa, the Justice of the Peace gets to say the last word.

As the court opened, the name of the person going to be arraigned was announced by the police. The handcuffs of the prisoner were unlocked when he entered the glass structure that separated him from the rest of humanity.

There was human drama in the courtroom. Dignified, well-poised parents came to rescue their children from prison. A professor from the University of Toronto and his equally sedate wife calmly listened to the prosecutor as he narrated how their son went through the streets of Toronto, driving under the influence (DUI) of liquor. A young man in his 20s, his parents willingly paid for his bail that Justice of the Peace Europa required which was CDN$ 1,000 dollars. If the son commits the same crime, the bail money gets forfeited and the son returns to jail. The freed son quietly approached his parents and hugged his parents as a way of saying thanks.

Next in line was a 35-year-old man who was brought to court and his handcuffs were unlocked when he entered the glass structure. His crime was shoplifting and he had done it several times. When his mother was called, she refused to post bail as she was admonished to see to it that her son did not do it again. The mother said she could not possibly restrain him from his shoplifting as he was an adult and that he did not live with them anymore. The prosecutor recommended no bail and Justice of the Peace Europa agreed with him. The son pleaded with his parents saying he had no one else but them who can save him from prison. The parents turned their backs and left the room. These are some of the things we saw in my brother’s court in Canada. My husband and I were elated to see him make wise decisions.

What this meant to us was that we saw a member of our family in a good position in Canadian society. He is the first Filipino justice of the peace who was appointed in Toronto. His daughter and son-in-law are also doing good. Seeing all these, we are very happy for them, and makes us believe that the Filipino can make the best of life where ever he is.

The author is a former president of Europa Public Relations. She is now retired.


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