It's that famous saying "don't judge a book by its cover." The same metaphor could be applied to people, encouraging you to look beyond preconceived stereotypes to the person beneath. That's the purpose of the Human Library project. Rather than taking a book off the shelf, you spend time with a person - a human 'book' - in hopes that your conversation will be enlightening and sometimes even inspiring.
On Saturday, Jan. 26 from noon until 5 p.m., CBC Sudbury and the Greater Sudbury Public Library will hold its first-ever Human Library event to allow people in the community to meet one of the human 'books.' The books are 10 local residents from all different walks of life and are available for loans of 15 minutes each at the South End branch of the Sudbury library. Below are the 'books' that will be participating in this unique experience.
Sean Venedam began playing hockey with the Sudbury Wolves in 1993. Following that, he became a minor league pro with the East Coast Hockey League in the United States, playing with the Bakersfield Condors in California. In February 2008 he suffered a compound leg fracture, an injury that ended his professional career and led to nine surgeries over the next four years. In 2011, after struggling with medical complications and walking on crutches, Sean had his right leg amputated below his knee. Learning to skate again after his amputation, Sean became a member of the Canadian Amputee Hockey Committee’s national team, and played for Canada at the Standing Amputee Ice Hockey World Championship in Finland.
John Moore lived in Sault Ste. Marie when he faced a criminal charge that changed his life. In 1979, he was convicted of second degree murder for the killing of a local taxi driver. He spent the next 10 years in a maximum security federal penitentiary and remains on lifetime parole. Today, John continues to advocate for his innocence, saying he was not at the scene of the murder and that his Aboriginal background led him to face discrimination in the legal system.
Denise is a former prostitute who began working the streets at the age of 12. Denise currently works with the local group Project P.E.A.C.E. (Peers offering Education, Advocacy, campaigning for Choice and Equality) to support sex workers with everything from ending addictions to filing police reports.
Len Frappier struggled with an addiction to speed, before coming down from his final high to pursue a diploma at Cambrian College to become a Native child and family worker. Len is now the co-ordinator of The Point Needle Exchange in Sudbury’s downtown and is currently advocating for the city to get its own supervised injection site.
Markus Schwabe has been the host of Morning North in northeastern Ontario since 1996. He got his start with CBC as a part-time researcher in his hometown of Regina, Sask. One of his favourite interviews was done during his time at CBC in Prince George, B.C. when he interviewed an 80-year-old man about a beaver that was determined to attack him. Markus lives in Sudbury with his wife and four children, whom he frequently speaks of on the radio.
John Beaucage has been involved in First Nations leadership at a local, provincial and national level. He was chief of Wasauksing First Nation near Parry Sound for eight years, before becoming Grand Council Chief of the Anishinabek Nation (Union of Ontario Indians) in 2004. A short time later, John ran for leadership of the national Assembly of First Nations, losing to current chief Shawn Atleo. John currently lives in Wasauksing First Nation where he remains involved in the community through his role as chief councillor.
Dr. Michael Persinger has been a neuroscience professor at Laurentian University since 1971. His interests aren’t strictly science related – he’s also fascinated by the way neuroscience and the brain are influenced by social sciences, religion, arts, and humanities. Dr. Persinger received international media attention for one of his research projects, touted by many as “the God Helmet,” in which a person’s temporal lobes are stimulated to replicate the feeling of having another presence in the room. Dr. Persinger is a dynamic personality who can talk about everything from his collection of human brains to the cultural significance of the show, The Big Bang Theory.
Dr. Rob Lepage has been working in Sudbury emergency departments for more than two decades. In addition to working as an E.R. physician, Dr. Lepage is also the director of medical services for the emergency department at Health Sciences North. His 22 years on the job means he’s chalked full of stories – tragedies, happy endings, and bizarre medical encounters. Dr. Lepage has also taught as an assistant professor at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine.
Rita O’Link has lived in Sudbury all her life and says she had feelings all her life that she was different. She came out of the closet as a transgendered woman five years ago. She is a parent, grandparent, and church-goer, and wants people to know she’s just the ordinary woman who lives next door. Rita still lives a “blended life” with her family, where she remains as the male expression of herself. She says the biggest challenges she’s had to face as a transgendered woman are the misconceptions and worries that come with how she feels she’s going to be viewed in the community.
Glen Duffy got involved with mine rescue in 1999. He was inspired to volunteer after hearing stories of his grandfather’s time in mine rescue, working during such incidents as the infamous McIntyre Mine fire in Timmins in 1965. In addition to his 14 years in mine rescue, Glen is also a volunteer firefighter, meaning he’s done as many rescues above ground as below. Outside of his volunteer duties, Glen serves as the superintendent of safety with Vale operations in Sudbury.