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Human Library

A documentary about Ottawa's Human Library was produced by CBC Ottawa. It originally aired on August 22, 2015. Check it out!


The 2015 Human Library will be taking place on Saturday, February 21, from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

The event, offered in partnership with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Ottawa (CBC Ottawa), Bibliothèque municipale de Gatineau (BMG) and the Ottawa Public Library (OPL), will be held at four locations:

The Human Library was originally launched in Denmark in 2000 as a way to focus on anti-violence, encourage dialogue and build relations. It has grown in popularity with 30 countries taking part in 2012, including Brazil, China, Colombia, Cyprus, Malaysia and South Africa.

The concept

  • An individual accepts to take part in the event as a Book.
  • Book reservations for specific time slots will be available the day of the event at each site.
  • Books get "checked out" for 20 minutes by a Reader, during which they have a one-on-one conversation.
  • Readers can register for only one book at a time. First come, first served.
  • This program is designed for an adult audience. Children may check out certain books with the in-person consent of a parent.
  • This event is not a career fair.

Main branch, 120 Metcalfe (Ottawa)

Title

Description

Audio clip

Afghan Interpreter

English, Dari, Hindi, Pashto, Urdu  

When she was 15, Maryam Sahar Naqibullah worked in Kandahar as the only female interpreter for foreign NGOs, as well as Canadian and American troops. After the Taliban killed her two best friends and kidnapped her brother, she fled to Ottawa under the Afghan Interpreter Immigration Program. Now the 21-year-old is doing a combined honours degree in International Relations and International Security at Carleton University. 

Afghan Interpreter

Canadian Muslim

 

Zijad Delic is no longer able to attend.

   

Imam

English, Urdu, French 

Sikander Hashmi grew up in Montreal but spent much of his adolescence studying at the Al-Rashid Islamic Institute, a muslim seminary in Cornwall. As a news junkie, he also trained in journalism and wrote for publications such as the Toronto Star, the Montreal Gazette and more recently the Kingston Whig-Standard. For four years, Sikander was the imam of the Islamic Centre of Kingston. He currently serves as imam of the Kanata Muslim Association.

Imam

 

CBC TV News Anchor

English, French

 Adrian Harewood is the co-host of CBC News Ottawa Monday to Friday starting at 5 p.m, and host of the late night news each weeknight at 10:55 p.m. He grew up in Ottawa. Adrian first got the broadcasting bug when he volunteered at campus stations CHUO and CKCU here. He is the former host of Ottawa's afternoon radio program All in a Day  and has filled in as host on such well-known programs as As It Happens and Sounds Like Canada. 

CBC TV News Anchor

 

Comedian

English, Gujarati 

When she was a child, Kalyani Pandya's family immigrated to Winnipeg from Uganda after the Idi Amin regime expelled South Asians from the country. As a queer woman, she fulfils her dreams and her mother's worst nightmares, by "giving the family a bad name" while on stage with a microphone. Last year, Kalyani premiered her most recent one-woman show, "The Arrangement, The Marriage, and Me" at the NAC's Fourth Stage. Plans to air her dirty laundry across North America are underway. 

Comedian

Correctional Officer

English, French  

In 1997, Denis Collin began his career as a Correctional Officer. He started off at the L'Orignal Jail and then moved to the Rideau Correctional Treatment Centre in Burritts Rapids. For the past 15 years, he's worked at the maximum security Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre. He serves as the president of OPSEU local 411, representing members at the Innes Road facility.

Correctional Officer

 

Developer

English 

Doug Casey graduated from university with a degree in business, but after he and his wife renovated a couple of houses in the Glebe as a side-project, he decided to start his own development company. For more than 25 years, his firm Charlesfort Developments has specialized in urban infill projects that range from townhouses to condo towers. 

Developer

 

Entrepreneur

English, Mandarin, Shanghainese

About to begin her PhD in Europe, Jane He travelled to Canada to visit her sister on a one-month tourist visa. Upon learning Jane's background in high tech, the immigration officer at the airport convinced her to fill out the forms to extend the visa. After working for Nortel and several start-ups, inspiration struck for own business while buying a house. In the early days of creating her company Signority, Jane toiled in her west-end basement while listening to classical music and Lady Gaga for motivation. Her company now employs 8 people in Ottawa and the United States. 

Entrepreneur

 

Former Drug User

English

Growing up with an absent father, Jordon MacLean never felt like he fit in. He began using drugs in high school and later started dealing marijuanna and cocaine in Vancouver. After 20 years and an overdose, he sought treatment in Ottawa. Now six years sober, Jordon has earned a Social Service Worker college diploma. He's also an organizer with the Campaign for Safer Consumptions Sites in Ottawa and a member of the Drug Users Advocacy League of Ottawa. 

Former Drug User

 

Living with Asperger Syndrome

English

When Jordan Edwards studied at Carleton University, he did well academically, but struggled to meet friends. It wasn't until he was 27, while undergoing treatment for PTSD, that doctors eventually diagnosed him with Asperger Syndrome. Jordan went on to earn his library technician diploma at Algonquin College. He now works as a receptionist at Y's Owl Maclure Centre, and volunteers at the centre's drop-in gaming night for teens on the Autism Spectrum Disorder. Jordan also enjoys swing dancing, swimming and competitive skiing.

Living with Asperger’s Syndrome

Living with PTSD

English, French 

While serving with the Canadian Airborne Regiment in Somalia, Rej Richard was first on the scene after two young boys playing with a live grenade were severely injured. As Rejean rose through the ranks, he buried himself in work. Twenty years later, after contemplating suicide twice and using alcohol to self-medicate, Major Richard finally decided to seek professional treatment for his PTSD. Last year he returned to work as a trainer/advisor with the Administrative Investigation Support Centre.

Living with PTSD

Medical Marijuana User

English

While working a physical job, Shirley's back began to lock-up until eventually she found herself hardly able to move. Two spinal surgeries and a diagnosis of fibromyalgia later, doctors told her she'd have to live with the pain. Over the course of 18 years they prescribed her a long list of different medications. After a bad reaction to OxyContin, she turned to marijuana as a last option. Now, as a licensed user she manages her pain with marijuana and exercise, and has started her own business. 

Medical Marijuana User

Métis Woman

English, Cree 

Jaime Koebel grew up immersed in both Otipemisiwak (Métis) and Nehiyaw (Cree) cultures in Lac La Biche, Alberta. The daughter of a Mission School survivor, Jaime has made it her goal to ignite social, political and cultural change through contemporary Indigenous arts. As an artist, she uses ink to draw on animal hides and creates fish scale renditions of floral beadwork. She also teaches Métis dance with her children in their group Jaime & the Jiglets.  With Indigenous Walks, Jaime leads guided tours through downtown Ottawa, explaining landmarks using an Indigenous lens. 

Métis Woman

Police Officer

English

A deputy chief encouraged Christine Schulz to consider a career in policing while she volunteered as a civilian member of the Ottawa Police's GLBT liason committee. At the age of 35, she became a recruit. For the past 9 years Constable Schulz has worked as a patrol officer, mostly in Central Division, responding to calls ranging from public intoxication to the recent shooting incident on Parliament Hill. 

Police Officer

 

Refugee Sponsor

English

Twenty-five years ago, Aurelia Achor arrived in Canada as a refugee from South Sudan. After getting settled into her new life in Ottawa, she was inspired to sponsor other refugees.  In total, this mother-of-eight has welcomed 27 refugees from South Sudan, Columbia, Bosnia, Kenya and most recently Syria. 

Refugee Sponsor

Sex Worker

English, French 

As a university student, Caroline Newcastle paid for school by working full-time as a bartender. One evening, after hearing her lamenting about the grueling hours, one of her bar patrons suggested she try sex work. At first, Caroline kicked the patron out, but after months of researching the idea she decided to give it a try.  She worked as an indoor sex worker for over four years before recently transitioning into other work. She volunteers with the sex worker advocacy group POWER. 

Sex Worker

 

Urban Inuk

English

Mosha Folger was born in Iqaluit, Nunavut to an Inuk mother and an American father. In 2009, under the name M.O., he self-released his first hip hop album, Eskimocentricity, along with the follow-up String Games. Recently at the imagineNATIVE festival, he premiered his stop-motion film The Big Lemming, which is based on a print by his late-grandfather artist Pudlo Pudlat. The son of a residential school student, Mosha is currently working on Anaana, a personal documentary examining the lasting effects of residential schools.

Urban Inuk

 

Nepean Centrepointe branch, 101 Centrepointe (Ottawa)

Title

Description

Audio clip

Algonquin Spiritual Advisor

English 

For many years, Albert Dumont struggled with an alcohol addiction. But in 1989, after watching a grieving mother confront an impaired driver at the Ottawa Courthouse, he began his road to sobriety. Dumont, a poet, has worked as a spiritual advisor for Aboriginal offenders in the Maximum Security Unit of a federal prison. These days he works with the Parole Board of Canada at Elder Assisted Hearings.  He's the Elder-in-Residence for the RCMP's National Aboriginal Policing Services. 

Algonquin Spiritual Advisor

 

Caribbean Domestic Pioneer  

English

Growing up in Jamaica with an abusive father meant Melissa often took care of her younger siblings. In her late 20's Melissa responded to a newspaper ad recruiting Caribbean women to work as live-in domestic servants. In 1970 during the FLQ crisis Melissa arrived in Ottawa to work for a family in Shirley's Bay. She later became a social worker, supporting women locally, nationally and internationally. These days she is writing a 'transformational memoir' about how she learned to embrace fear as a normal part of life.

Caribbean Domestic Pioneer

 

Cartoonist

English

Tom Fowler has worked as a cartoonist and illustrator in comics, advertising, and film and game design. He has worked for Disney, Simon & Schuster, Wizards of the Coast, Hasbro, MAD, Valiant, Marvel, and DC Comics. His best known comics include the MAD Magazine feature "Monroe","Venom",  "Hulk Season One", the critically acclaimed "Mysterius the Unfathomable", and, most recently, the all-ages series HOWTOONS:[re]IGNITION which teaches kids about the science of energy but also has robot dinosaurs. 

Cartoonist

CBC Video-Journalist

English, Urdu

Kamil Karamali was born in Karachi, Pakistan.  As the political situation there became less stable, the family moved to Vancouver.  It was Kamil's curiosity about his adopted country that ultimately led him to study journalism.  His first job in the field was in northern B.C. Two years ago he joined the team at CBC Ottawa as a video-journalist.  Aside from his work, Kamil is passionate about travel and discovery.  Recently he combined the two, volunteering as a vidoegrapher for the Aga Khan Foundation in northern Pakistan, Mozambique and Tanzania.

CBC Video-Journalist

 

Daughter of a Deportee 

English, French 

Chelby Daigle was raised by her single mom and grew up in a white family, but the colour of Chelby's skin was a daily reminder of her black father, who was deported to Nigeria when she was just a baby. As a young adult, Chelby had a chance encounter at the Embassy of Nigeria in Ottawa that helped launch her search for her absent father. With the help of friends, Chelby crowd-funded her way to Lagos to meet her father again. 

Daughter of a Deportee 

Farmer 

English, Telugu

Originally from Telangana, India, Sudhir Kodati comes from an agricultural background.  While living in Ottawa, he signed up for a community garden plot in Bayshore Park so his daughter could learn about the roots of food. Last year, Sudhir and a friend worked a 1/4 acre of land in Blackburn Hamlet through Just Food's Start-up Farmer program. This year, the Tiller's Haven duo will farm 1/2 an acre of land, hoping to grow more South Asian and Middle Eastern produce. 

Farmer 

 

Foster Parent

English, French  

When Marie Fortier and her husband were transferred to CFB Petawawa from Manitoba, they decided to become foster parents. Over the past 16 years, the now-retired logistics sergeant with the Canadian Armed Forces has cared for close to 40 pre-teen and teenage boys in her home.

Foster Parent

 

Muslim Woman

English

Raised in an era of social activism in Philadelphia, Michelle "Um Nur" Walrond embraced Islam in the late 1960's. Now this convert and great-grandmother leads poverty-elimination campaigns as a member of Ottawa ACORN and the founder of the National Islamic Sisters' Association of Canada. As the mother of a son who was introduced to radicalism here in Ottawa, Michelle is an outspoken opponent of ultra conservative radicalism and what she considers the distorted view of Islam it promotes.  

Muslim Woman

 

 

 

St-Laurent branch, 515 Côté (Ottawa)

Title

Description

Audio clip

CBC Video-Journalist

English, German, bit of Ojibway

Waubgeshig Rice is a Video-Journalist with CBC Ottawa and the author of two books, a book of short stories called Midnight Sweatlodge and his recently published first novel, Legacy. He  grew up in Wasauksing First Nation.  His Anishnaabe background has been a major influence on his story telling career both as a journalist and an author. 

CBC Video-Journalist

 

Child Protection Worker

English, French

Denyse Umutoni arrived in Canada as a refugee from Rwanda where she survived the genocide. As a Francophone she moved to Calgary to learn English. While working at a car wash, a customer who was impressed by her work history in the public service, education and human rights sectors helped her land a job with a social service agency. Now, Denyse works for the Children's Aid Society of Ottawa with experience in a variety of units there, including Volunteer services, Francophone clients, Same Day Response, Foster Care and Violence Against Women teams.

Préposée à la protection de l’enfance

 

 

Former Gang Member

English

When he was 13, Marc Clairoux joined a skinhead gang at his school. During the 17 years he spent with that gang, he became one of its chief recruiters. After the death of several friends and serving three years in prison for a series of assaults, Marc left gang life. Now, as a volunteer, he's begun to share his personal story with youth-at-risk.   

Former Gang Member

 

 

Newcomer Volunteer

English, Taïwanese, Mandarin

Wen Jean Ho was already a trained social worker when she arrived in Ottawa as an immigrant from Taiwan via the United States. She worked many jobs to support her family's new life in Canada. With the goal of understanding Canadians better, she once worked behind the counter of a Tim Horton`s. In 2011, Wen Jean founded the volunteer-run Kanata Chinese Seniors Support Centre. With her car as head office, she helps Chinese seniors integrate into Canadian society through activities such as English conversation classes and community volunteering. 

Newcomer Volunteer

 

Organ Transplant Recipient

English, Arabic

While studying cellular molecular biology at university, a doctor diagnosed Hiba Yusuf with chronic kidney disease. Her youngest brother volunteered one of his kidneys. With school now on hiatus, Hiba began working for the Kidney Research Centre.  Eight years after the transplant, her new kidney stopped functioning fully. After three years of dialysis, Hiba got a call in the middle of the night with the news that a match had been found from a deceased donor. Now she's working towards finishing her degree. 

Organ Transplant Recipient

 

 

Athlète paralympique 

English, French

In 1990, after a bout with cancer, 20-year-old Jean Labonté had his left leg amputated above the knee. While recovering in hospital, he read an article about the emerging sport of sledge hockey. Six years later, Jean was so good he was invited to wear the national team jersey. This four-time Paralympian captained the Canadian team at the 2010 Vancouver Paralympics and carried the Canadian flag at the Opening Ceremonies. He retired from competition later that year.

Athlète paralympique

 

 

Peking Opera Performer

English, French, Cantonese, Mandarin

William Lau's parents always hoped he would study engineering. He decided to pursue a master's degree in dance instead. William specializes in the traditional Chinese theatre called Peking Opera. He plays the lead female characters known as the "Dan." In fact, he's the only person in Canada trained in all four Dan styles. William recently performed at an international cross gender festival in Indonesia.

Interprète d’opéra de Pékin

Taxi Driver

English, Bangla

In 1991, when Shawkot Ali left Bangledesh for Canada, his mother made him promise to remember his place of birth. After twelve years of driving a taxi seven days a week, he saved up money to build a tiny school made out of bamboo and tin in Gopalgonj. Named after his mother, the expanded Maleka Academy now has an enrolment of 550 students. During his downtime on the overnight shift, Shawkot uses email to keep up to date on matters such as attendance, test results, and homework. 

Taxi Driver

 

 

 

Bibliothèque de la Maison-du-Citoyen, 25 rue Laurier (Gatineau)

Titre

Description

Clip audio

Employé de Radio-Canada de jour, lutteur amateur de soir

English, French   

Chroniqueur sportif à Radio-Canada de jour. Gladiateur costumé de soir. Dès l'âge de 7 ans, Guillaume Charbonneau admire ces géants se battrent dans le ring. À 14 ans, il se lance tête première dans la pratique de ce sport, en apparence loufoque cette discipline exige une discipline et une rigueur au quotidien. Guillaume se démarque par sa passion et ses connaissances de la lutte amateur. 

From Soldier to Cartoonist

French

Following in his grandfather’s footsteps, Frédérick Lavergne was still in high school when he joined the Canadian Forces. At age 20, he was sent on a peacekeeping mission to Bosnia-Herzegovina. A few years after his return home, Frédéric completed a bachelor’s degree in animation. Each pencil mark underlies the same obsession: war. His first cartoon strip is an emotional rendering of his time in the Balkans and the injuries that still mark him to this day.

From Christian to Muslim

English, French

She was once a practicing Christian, but at age 18, Myreil Therrien made the decision to convert to Islam. She did not do it for the love of a man but for a love of faith. It was an important choice that not only changed the way she dressed, but also how she related to those close to her. It was a conversion that helped her to be more disciplined and more self-confident.

From Doctor to Auxiliary

English, French

Originally from Haiti, Jalsky Dimanche studied medicine with the intention of being doctor in his home country. Upon completing his studies, he had a difficult choice to make. Jalsky left his country and his dream of becoming a doctor. With great internal fortitude and the support of his family, he embarked on the process of entering the medical field in Canada. Today, he works in the health sector, providing home care services as a client care attendant.

Facilitating Integration

French

Yvette Akoun, Director of the Association des femmes immigrantes de l’Outaouais, left the Ivory Coast to pursue her personal and professional aspirations despite all the hurdles and difficulties that come with the immigration process. Her journey has inspired other women to integrate into Canadian culture. Her determination has given them hope for a future where anything is possible for them.

 

Reader etiquette

In order to participate in the Human Library as a Reader, you must:

  1. Be respectful of the Book at all times.
  2. Understand that the Book can terminate the conversation should the Book feel disrespected or treated inappropriately.
  3. Not record (video, audio or writen), take pictures or interview the Book.
  4. Not ask the Book for personal contact information.
  5. Not seek professional counsel during the conversation.

 

Photos

2014 | 2013 | 2012