A word from our 2021 cohort

Speech - in the form of questions - presented by the 2021 cohort, on the occasion of the Foundation's 20th anniversary celebrations (November 18, 2022)


Cohorte 2021 - 20e anniversaire / 2021 Cohort - 20th anniversary



Voici mes questions sur l’identité, en franglais:
Inspirée de notre thème scientifique et du livre “Entretiens” d’Emmanuel Kattan, mentor 2021, a few probing questions on identity: 
What is the role of culture in the development of our collective identity, and that of our individual identity? Is a homogeneous collective identity possible, or are fragmented varying singular identities brought together to form a heterogeneous sense of collectivism - and this, towards a vision that’s much larger than the sum of its individual parts? Is this what we define as diversity?
Can identity be imposed or pressured into a group, particularly if said identity is perceived to be fading? Or as the book l’Entretiens states - do the ideas become “véritablement puissant, non lorsqu’on les impose aux autres, mais lorsqu’on les absorbes, lorsqu’on les laisse nous transformer et faire naitre en nous de nouvelles prises sur le réel”? 
Can identity fade or disappear? Or does one’s identity evolve overtime - perhaps because identity is fluid and not stagnant nor fixed - and it changes to reflect needs, and power dynamics in a constantly moving society? 
Can identity be neatly categorized? If so, what am I? Who am I? A Canadian, a Nepali, a Québecoise - are these identities separate, or am I a combination of all, layered into one another?
Et dernière question, est-ce qu’on choisi notre identité? Ou est qu’elle demeure une question, et c’est ca ce qui fait sa force, cette ouverture, cette incertitude - that allows for growth? 


"If we don't begin by imagining the perfect society, how shall we create one?"

Je commence avec cette citation d’Isabel Allende, l’écrivaine vivante la plus lue en espagnol, pour diriger nos questions à propos de la culture. 

I believe fully in multiculturalism in relation to a perfect society, but in the context of these brave spaces, I ask you:

Can all cultures co-exist peacefully? 

How does a person, a community, or an organization belong to more than one conflicting cultural identity at once?

Pouvons-nous choisir la culture à laquelle nous appartenons? To what extent is culture socially constructed versus an innate personal affirmation. 

What makes one culture more attractive, more palatable, or more dominant than another?

Then, having answered the above, what are the levers by which we can create change culture and work towards that perfect society?


How important is language as a composite of identity ?
What is the situation for multilingual persons?

Can you identify with a language whose speakers do not want to accept you?

What is the situation when there is a single language but many identities (e.g. English, Spanish, Portuguese, French)?

Can one change language identity?

What is the role of dialects in identity and culture?

Can one have a sense of identity with an ancestral language which one does not know?


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Jasmine Mah

  • Scholar 2021
Jasmine Mah is a resident doctor who is passionate about caring for older adults. She holds an MD from the University of Ottawa and an MSc from the…
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Julius Grey

  • Mentor 2021
Julius Grey is a renowned lawyer with more than 40 years of experience and practice in several areas of law, notably in human rights and freedom and…
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Prativa Baral

  • Scholar 2021
Prativa is an epidemiologist, a social scientist, and a doctoral student at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
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Lorna Williams

  • Fellow 2021
Dr. Lorna Wanosts’a7 Williams is the first director of the University of Victoria's Indigenous education program