Ottawa Asian Heritage Month

Professor Errol Mendes and Dr. Vincent Lam
Personal Journeys

Ottawa Asian Heritage Month is in full swing. May is jam-packed with activities, films, performances, speakers, cooking demonstrations, readings, and exhibitions in celebration. 

May 6, 2010, two distinguished guest speakers appeared to talk about their lives at the Library and Archives Canada: Dr. Vincent Lam, Emergency Physician, Toronto East General Hospital, Writer and Professor Errol Mendes, University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law.

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“Personal Journeys” focused on the experiences of Dr. Vincent Lam and Professor Errol Mendes  in Canada with their immigrant families. They shared the challenges they faced and the people who most influenced them and shaped their lives.

Their stories reflected paths to success. Host for the evening was CBC Radio’s Michael Bhardwaj. He challenged, “What happens when a new kid shows up with sticky samosas for lunch at an all white school.”

Michael Bhardwaj

Lam said that life isn’t easy for newcomers. Often people are starting over, leaving their old lives behind. He insists, “You have to be persistent and keep on trying in the face of obstacles.” He added that it’s important for everyone to engage in public discourse, write letters to the editor, vote, and state your opinions. Lam spoke about the success of multiculturalism in Canada where immigrants are integrated into society and feel at home. He credits Canada as being a country of flexible thinkers.

Dr. Vincent Lam

Mendes is interested in what unites humanity. He loves Canada because here people from around the world are accepted. “Immigrants helped build this country,” he stressed, “It’s important to teach this in schools.”

Professor Errol Mendes

“Multiculturalism is about helping each other,” Mendes insisted, “and caring about the ones not doing so well.”

Lam was born in London, Ontario into a family from the expatriate Chinese community of Vietnam, but he grew up in Ottawa. As a teenager, he wanted to be a writer. Lam’s first book, “Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures,” won Canada’s most prestigious literary award, the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2006.

Mendes’ background includes living in Asia, Africa, Britain, and the United States. He’s known for his human rights work internationally and is the Editor of Canada’s leading constitutional law journal, “The National Journal of Constitutional Law.”

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