Ottawa·Racism in the Valley

Granddaughter of Pembroke assault victim tackles racism in her community

After her grandmother’s assault in August, Carleton journalism student Cindy Tran is partnering up with a community group to tell the stories of people of colour in Pembroke, Ont., and hopes to eventually work with high school students.

Cindy Tran hopes to partner with high school students to bring BIPOC stories online

Cindy Tran, a master of journalism candidate at Carleton University, is interviewing and writing stories of people of colour in Pembroke, Ont., after her grandmother was assaulted this summer. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Racism in the Valley is a series of stories stemming from a violent assault on an 80-year-old woman in Pembroke, Ont., earlier this year. CBC Ottawa spoke to Black, Indigenous and people of colour in the region about their experiences, and to local leaders to find out what's being done.

Nearly four months after teenagers assaulted her 80-year-old grandmother in Pembroke, Ont., Carleton journalism student Cindy Tran is tackling racism in her own community, one word at a time.

"It honestly just baffled me," said Tran, a first-year master of journalism candidate who recently started interviewing people of colour about racism.

Tran is teaming up with the Local Immigration Partnership (LIP) — community groups funded by the federal government that strive to create a welcoming environment for newcomers — to tell the stories of people in Pembroke, and eventually across the Ottawa Valley, and bring them online. 

The project stemmed from a heartbreaking incident: Tran's grandmother, Nga Doan, was assaulted by several teenagers on Aug. 20. Tran told CBC at the time that the teens shouted racial slurs, threw eggs at the house and a rock at Doan's head, sending her to hospital. In October, OPP charged three teenagers with assault with a weapon.

Cindy Tran's younger sister, right, poses with her 80-year-old grandmother Nga Doan. Doan was assaulted by teens in August. (Supplied by Cindy Tran)

Since starting the storytelling project, Tran said she realized racism is systemic in her city of about 14,000.

"It's not just what I've experienced. It's what other people of colour have experienced," she said. "It leads me to believe that it is a larger community issue than many seem to want to admit."

Inspired anti-racism task force

Shortly after the incident, Tran wrote a piece on her personal blog about the racism her family has lived through.

Marja Huis, project manager for the LIP of Renfrew and Lanark, said she came across Tran's blog and was "deeply moved and touched."

Huis sent Tran an email the next day. 

"I felt this was a moment, a very precious moment, to be able to do something," said Huis. 

WATCH | Tran says incident gave her more perspective on media's coverage of people of colour:

‘There are so many things that people sweep under the rug’

CBC News Ottawa

8 months ago
Cindy Tran, whose grandmother was targeted in a racist attack in August, says the incident has given her perspective and a renewed passion for telling the stories of people of colour. 1:26

The local LIP has recently set up an anti-racism task force, led entirely by community members, to come up with practical ways to "resist racism" and encourage people to be more inclusive.

Huis said she hired Tran to work with her team.

"She is the reason why we created it," said Huis. "It was time for us."

Working with high school students

Tran said she never learned about other cultures or racism as a student in Pembroke.

As Tran collects stories of people of colour and allies in her community for the LIP project, she said she eventually wants to recruit local high school students to help her conduct interviews and write stories.

The first few stories are scheduled to be published on her website in February and eventually on LIP's website, said Tran.

"Hopefully the things that we can do with LIP can better Pembroke ... [and] the Ottawa Valley as well."

After her grandmother was assaulted in August, Carleton journalism student Cindy Tran is partnering up with a community group to tell the stories of people of colour in Pembroke, and eventually across the Ottawa Valley. 10:42


Priscilla Ki Sun Hwang


Priscilla Ki Sun Hwang is a reporter with CBC News based in Ottawa. She's worked with the investigative unit, CBC Toronto, and CBC North in Yellowknife, Whitehorse and Iqaluit. Before joining the CBC in 2016, she travelled across the Middle East and North Africa to share people's stories. She has a Master of Journalism from Carleton University and speaks Korean, Tunisian Arabic, and dabbles at classical Arabic and French. Want to contact her? Email or @prisksh on Twitter.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now