Debates of the Senate  
2nd Session, 41st Parliament, Volume 149, Issue 60
  Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Era 21 Networking Breakfast for Young Canadians

 Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, on Wednesday May 7, I was honoured to host the tenth annual Era 21 Networking Breakfast for Young Canadians at the Parliamentary Restaurant. It being the tenth anniversary of the event, I was happy that the co-founder and the first patron of the Era 21 event, my friend and former colleague the Honourable Vivienne Poy, was able to attend and deliver a fantastic keynote address to the 100 Grade 11 and 12 students from the Ottawa- Carleton District School Board who were present.

As honourable senators may know, when Senator Poy left the red chamber in 2012 she asked me to take over as the patron of the event. She was really passionate about the value of bringing high school students to Parliament Hill and creating an event that instills in these students, who are approaching the end of high school, her vision of lifelong learning focused on understanding and accepting your own story and heritage, and also the stories of other cultures and ethnic backgrounds.

During her remarks to the crowd, she shared with us that even as she has retired from the Senate she continues to learn about her own heritage. This sort of learning never stops. We should always push to learn more about ourselves and the increasingly diverse and interconnected world around us.

For our young leaders' panel, I was honoured to have two strong female panellists from very different backgrounds deliver some powerful remarks. The first panellist was Kluane Adamek. Kluane is currently working at the Assembly of First Nations and is the Jane Glassco Northern Fellow at the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation. She has recently been named a Global Shaper Ottawa Hub as part of the World Economic Forum, and she was also selected as one of 23 "bold visionaries" as part of the 2014 Bold Vision Women's Leadership Conference.

Coming from a mixed Aboriginal and German background, Kluane didn't connect with her Aboriginal ancestry until she was a teenager. She continues to learn as much as possible of her Aboriginal languages, Southern Tutchone and Tlingit. Kluane's story of struggling with coming to grips with her mixed heritage during her teenage years, which is already a time of insecurity for many young adults, was an inspiring story with which many of the students in the room could probably connect.

Our second panellist was King Kimbit. She is a spoken word artist of Vietnamese heritage and is currently studying pure mathematics at Carleton University. King immediately captivated us all with her brutally honest poems. Her inspiration comes from events unfolding around her, and she shared a poem based on the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida in 2012 and the subsequent trial, to illustrate the darkness of racism and discrimination. Her message was that living in an increasingly diverse community and country, it is important that we possess the ability not to shut down or isolate ourselves when confronted with the negative prejudice of strangers. Instead, we need to have courage and an openness to try to learn as much as possible from each other, and create a shared understanding of one another.

I want to thank these courageous, strong and remarkable young women.

The annual networking breakfast event is a joint Asian Heritage and Black History Month diversity celebration and could not be possible without the Ottawa Asian Heritage Month Society, the J'Nikira Dinqinesh Education Centre, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board and our sponsor, the Royal Bank of Canada.

Additionally, we were graced this year by a wonderful emcee, Puneet Birgi of CPAC. Thanks to CPAC for filming the event for future broadcast. Through CPAC, we will be able to reach out to countless other young people who will be inspired by this year's role models, Kluane Adamek and King Kimbit.