Transcript – Miniseries on Locally engaged staff, episode 1: The unique journey of Wilma Ty-Cañadilla

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Wilma Ty-Cañadilla: So, she comes in and I tell her—you know, she has a good job. I can see she was very sincere with her—with her aim of visiting, and I gave her a visa, and she cried. And she said to me, “You know what ma’am, I am really happy and I’m crying now because, I said this was a sign for me. If I don’t get this visa, maybe it’s the world telling me that I should not be with this person. And you know, Emmanuelle, these little things that—that we think are nothing to us when we do our daily job but mean a lot to the people who we serve [are] something that really [touch] me. 

Welcome to the GAC Files, a podcast about the people, issues and ideas driving Global Affairs Canada. 

Emmanuelle Tremblay: Now in her 19th year as an employee of the Government of Canada, Wilma Ty-Cañadilla is a locally engaged staff member working as designated migration officer at the Canadian embassy in the Philippines, in Manila.  

She started her career at Global Affairs Canada, then moved on to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, which we call IRCC.That’s where she saw how she could make a difference in the lives of many applicants who wish to come to Canada. Since her start as a visa officer, she has played an important role in helping people find better opportunities that would allow them to help their families back home.   

I’m speaking with her today to hear her exciting story. Hi, I’m Emmanuelle Tremblay. Thank you, dear listeners, for tuning in to another podcast about our locally engaged staff here at Global Affairs Canada. So, welcome.  

Welcome, Wilma.  

Wilma Ty-Cañadilla: Hi, Emmanuelle. How are you? 

Emmanuelle Tremblay: I’m well. You?   

Wilma Ty-Cañadilla: I’m well, thanks. Thank you for the invitation. I’m so delighted to be here.   

Emmanuelle Tremblay: Well, thank you for accepting our invitation. So, before we continue, I’d like to note, dear listeners, that this episode is part of our very first miniseries of GAC Files podcasts, which is made up of 3 episodes. As you might expect, the miniseries focuses on locally engaged staff (sometimes we’ll also say LES), a group of employees that, I will remind you, accounts for nearly half of Global Affairs Canada’s workforce and three quarters of the staff at our missions abroad. Finally, to respect Canada’s Official Languages Act, I invite each guest to speak in the language of their choice.  

So, if you’re ready, Wilma, we’ll get started. First, I’m really curious to know how you became a locally engaged staff member at GAC in the mission in Manila.  

Wilma Ty-Cañadilla: Actually, it was a bit of a happy accident. An acquaintance from university visited me one Friday afternoon at the Embassy of France, where I was working. I asked her why she was there at that time, during work hours. She told me that at the Canadian embassy, people got off work at 1:30 p.m. I was also very surprised to learn that LES had the opportunity to work as visa officers there.  

So, I told my friend I wanted to work for the Canadians, and she advised me to submit my CV by email, which I did. A few months later, I received a call telling me there was an opening for a switchboard operator. I went for an interview and an exam, and the rest is history.  

Emmanuelle Tremblay: Great. So, you mentioned earlier that you were interested in the idea of working for Canada. Why?  

Wilma Ty-Cañadilla: When I began working for the Canadian embassy, I saw the values that I wanted to have for myself.  

Like they sayin Canada, there’s this work-life balance, and we hear that all the time outside of the embassy and the places where I worked at, and it’s just a thought. But in Canada, it’s something that we do every day. Like, I like the idea of working, giving your 100% during your work day and then leaving at the end of the day, knowing that you’ve done your work, and now you can concentrate on your family.  

Emmanuelle Tremblay: So, now you switched to English, but earlier, you spoke French, and I was quite impressed to be honest, ’cause it’s not that often that we have people living in the—you know—in Asia speaking French. What brought you to speak French?  

And clearly, you can answer that in French.  

Wilma Ty-Cañadilla: [Laughter] Actually, I majored in French at university, Emmanuelle, and that enabled me to work for the French embassy in Manila, before coming to work for the Canadians. I did an internship in France when I was in university, and I practise my French whenever I can. I have an app: Duolingo. I study a few minutes of French every day. Actually, my daughter is also starting to speak French thanks to Duolingo.  

Emmanuelle Tremblay: And a little birdie told me that during the pandemic you not only continued to learn French, but you also taught it.  

Wilma Ty-Cañadilla: Yes, because at the start of the pandemic, everyone was stuck at home and, although here in Manila, up to that point, we had always thought, there are still small quarantines, but anyway, my boss asked me to do something for the employees who were stuck at home. And I thought, there’s an interest in French at work, obviously, and I started to give little courses in French. Every week, I gave a little course, and now there are people at the embassy who speak French, who say “bonjour” or answer in French when they’re asked.  

Emmanuelle Tremblay: It’s awesome, and so, you’re really promoting Canada’s 2 official languages, even as far away as the Philippines.  

I’d like to ask you, maybe, about one of your most memorable moments as an LES, a locally engaged staff, working in Manila. So, maybe you start with explaining how you got to work for IRCC and then talk about one of your most memorable moments.  

Wilma Ty-Cañadilla: Okay, 3 years into moving [to] the embassy, I became a designated migration officer and, in that job—this current job—I think I found the most fulfilment in the previous jobs that I have had. And if I can say one thing that’s really touched me the most—I guess it’s because it’s something that started really early on in my job—was an interview that I had for someone applying for a tourist visa. And this person wanted to visit their fiancé, and they have been refused 4 times already. So imagine, they’re—they’re going for it for a fifth time. And of course, because it’s the fifth time, I wanted to see them in person to interview them. I wanted to see what—what else does she have to say that will change my mind, you know, because every person has a story to tell.  

So, she comes in and I tell her—you know, she has a good job. I can see she was very sincere with her—with her aim of visiting, and I gave her a visa, and she cried. And she said to me, “You know what ma’am, I am really happy and I’m crying now because this was a sign for me. If I don’t get this visa, maybe it’s the world telling me that I should not be with this person. And the fact that you gave me a visa, maybe it’s a sign that we are meant to be.” 

And—and the funny thing was she said to me, “If we ever do get married, can we invite you?” [laughter] And I said, “Well that is a very lovely thought, but I cannot do that because it would be outside of my—of my work and it’s not allowed.” But she was really thankful. There [are] more stories to tell, but you know, this is something that really touched me at the beginning of my career.  

Emmanuelle Tremblay: Well, that definitely shows that your work makes a difference in people’s lives. And in this case, it wasn’t 3 times the charm, it was—it needed 5 times [laughter].  

Wilma Ty-Cañadilla: But whatever, I think—I think no matter, you know—you play a simple role and it depends on what they’re going to do with their lives later on, right? But at least you made something possible—something that seemed impossible possible.  

Emmanuelle Tremblay: Well with those wonderful stories, no surprise that maybe you’d like to convince other people to, you know, either join the Canadian mission or, you know, your work as a migration officer—and how fulfilling it is for you, right?  

Wilma Ty-Cañadilla: Mm-hmm. I think what I can say for people who want to try to work with Global Affairs Canada is that, “Go for itDon’t get to thinking that it’s an easy job, that it’s all roses. But for me, even if there are good and bad sides, I always look at the good side because I really like the values that Canada has and—and the opportunities it gives to people. Me, sometimes I issue a visa for someone who wants to go visit Banff, or maybe someone who wants to expand their education in Canada—someone who wants to get a work permit to help pay the bills of their parents’ medical hospital bills. It could be something as simple as that, or something as big as someone wanting to reunite with a loved one. And we all know, you know—we can all relate to a loved one because we all have family. And at the end of the day, when you work for something you really believe in, the challenges, they become easier to overcome.  

So, I think it’s the same for any job, and that’s my—my advice to anyone who wants to come work for Global Affairs.  

Go ahead, do it.  

Emmanuelle Tremblay: Thank you, Wilma. I very much appreciate your enthusiasm and dedication, both for your fellow Filipinos and Filipinas and for Canada. It was a real pleasure chatting with you today. And to our listeners, thanks for tuning in to the GAC Files.  

Wilma Ty-Cañadilla: The pleasure was mine, Emmanuelle.  

Emmanuelle Tremblay: In the next episode, I’ll be talking to Maddie Morris, Trade Commissioner, Consulate General of Canada to the United States, in Los Angeles. Stay tuned!   

GAC Files is a production of Global Affairs Canada. All of the opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the individuals and not necessarily that of their employer or Global Affairs Canada. For more information on Global Affairs Canada podcasts, visit  Be sure to subscribe to our podcast. Thank you for listening to the GAC Files.  

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