Human Library books talk to CBC Ottawa

Ottawa residents will once again get a chance to sit down with one of 40 human "books" available to be signed out at libraries across the city.

National Human Library Day

On Jan. 26, National Human Library Day invites Canadians to interact with people they might not otherwise meet.

View for registration information, an interactive map and videos and slideshows featuring "books" from across the country, including Ottawa.

Ottawa residents will once again get a chance to sit down with one of 40 human "books" available to be signed out at libraries across the city.

The Human Library, to be held on Saturday, Jan. 26, between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., allows people to check out a person for a 20-minute conversation.

It is the second year in a row CBC Ottawa and the Ottawa Public Library have partnered to present the event.

This year's event will be held at five Ottawa Public Library locations:

Check out CBC Ottawa's event page for more about The Human Library event near you.

  • Main Library at 120 Metcalfe St.
  • Hazeldean branch at 50 Castlefrank Rd.
  • Alta Vista branch at 2516 Alta Vista Dr.
  • North Gloucester branch at 2036 Ogilvie Rd.
  • Ruth E. Dickinson branch at 100 Malvern Dr.

CBC Ottawa will be highlighting the stories of several of the human "books" leading up the event.

Listen to the stories of the people we interviewed last week.

Here is a preview of people we will be talking to this week:

Mon, Jan. 21

Algonquin spiritual advisor

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, now works as a spiritual advisor for Aboriginal offenders in the Maximum Security Unit of a federal prison.

He'll be appearing on Jan. 26. at the Ruth E. Dickinson library at 100 Malvern Dr.

Listen | Dumont describes his search for answers and the courtroom moment that helped him turn his life around.

Muslim Woman

Kauthar Mohamed is a restauranteur who helped found the local group Voices of Muslim Youth. Through VOMY, Kauthar organizes town hall meetings ranging from mental health to election engagement that aim to develop youth leaders in the Muslim community.

She will be appearing Jan. 26 at the Main Library at 120 Metcalfe St.

Listen | Mohamed describes some of the stereotypes she faces, as well as how she learned to speak with Allah.

Tues., Jan. 22


In 1967, Luke Campbell left Jamaica to train as a chef at Algonquin College.  After graduation he worked for several hotels, but figured his black skin got in the way of advancement.  He wound up knocking on the doors of several embassies to offer his catering services. Soon, he began catering for diplomats, senators, and even prime ministers. These days he is often credited with bringing Jamaican cuisine to Ottawa.

He will be appearing Jan. 26 at the Alta Vista library at 2516 Alta Vista Dr.

ListenCampbell recalls his first job in Jamaica in the food industry, his first job in Ottawa and how his own restaurant became a local institution.

Former gang member

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 sharing his personal story with youth-at-risk.

He will be appearing Jan. 26 at the Main Library at 120 Metcalfe St.

ListenClairoux talks about what led to him joining a gang.

Listen | Clairoux describes recruiting new members for the gang and how he turned to an unlikely group for help.

Wed., Jan. 23

Police officer

As a boy, Const. Jeffrey Eva-Gonzalez's family moved to Canada to escape political persecution in Nicaragua. Here in Ottawa, a police officer shot his gang-involved eldest brother after he failed to put down his knife. Eva-Gonzalez lost a second brother to violence when a stranger attacked him with a knife on a escalator at Bayshore Shopping Centre. Now, Constable Eva-Gonzalez works for the Ottawa Police's D.A.R.T. unit, monitoring whether gang members follow court-ordered conditions.

He will be appearing Jan. 26 at the Hazeldean library at 50 Castlefrank Rd.

Listen | Eva-Gonzalez talks about his family's arrival in Canada from Nicaragua and the moment that turned his life upside down.

High school teacher

Growing up in Ottawa, Adrienne Coddett got used to being one of the only black students in her school. It wasn't until she attended the predominantly black Howard University that she felt a sense of belonging in a classroom. Now she teaches Law and Social Sciences, and through her community organization 3 Dreads and a Bald Head, she puts on the annual Black Youth Conference.

She'll be appearing on Jan. 26. at the Ruth E. Dickinson library at 100 Malvern Dr.

Listen | Wander into Room 216 at Woodroffe High School to hear how Coddett applies the "new 3 Rs" in her law class.

Thur., Jan. 24

Drug user

After a traumatic childhood, Sean LeBlanc moved to the east-coast to go to university. When his pregnant partner drowned, Sean turned to drugs for solace. He spent seven years dependant on drugs. Now he's weaning himself off heroin through a methadone program.  Sean is the chair of an Ottawa non-profit group that advocates for harm reduction and the education of drug users.

He will be appearing Jan. 26 at the Main Library at 120 Metcalfe St.

Listen | LeBlanc describes the stigma around problematic drug use and how the actions of a 13-year-old girl almost made him cry.

Recovering compulsive gambler

When his parents fought at home, Ken played pinball at the corner store to escape. As he got older, he gambled to escape reality until he was on the verge of losing his house and family. Ten years ago, he headed to his cottage with the intention of ending his life, but an unlikely knock on the door became one of the catalysts that set Ken on the road to recovery.

He will be appearing Jan. 26 at the Alta Vista library at 2516 Alta Vista Dr.

Listen | Ken describes how as a child he learned to use gambling to escape reality, how his gambling progressed as an adult and how an unlikely knock at the door helped him turn his life around.

Fri., Jan. 25


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.

He will be appearing Jan. 26 at the Main Library at 120 Metcalfe St.

Listen | Casey reflects on why, when it comes to condos, some people have a fear of heights, then he explains why builders tend to avoid three-bedroom units. 


Born in Nicaragua, Martha Chaves survived both the Managua Earthquake and the start of the Sandinista Revolution. Her parents sent her to Canada as a political refugee.  Since then she's felt uprooted, cold and confused about her identity, which she figures makes her a true Canadian citizen. She tours the country as a headliner for Yuk Yuk's Comedy Club and this year celebrates 20 years in stand-up comedy.

War veteran

In 2007, while patrolling a farmer's field in Afghanistan as a sniper team leader, Master Corporal Jody Mitic stepped on a landmine. The explosions blew off his foot, and injured his other leg, making a double amputation necessary. After returning to Canada for rehabilitation, Jody reconnected with one of the medics who came to his aid. Now the couple has two children.

Both Martha and Jody will be appearing Jan. 26 at the North Gloucester library at 2036 Ogilvie Rd.

ListenNorth Gloucester Library branchmates Chaves (a pacifist) and Mitic (a sniper) meet for the first time in Studio 12 and Alan gets caught in their comedic crossfire.

Sat., Jan. 26

Mixed Martial Arts fighter

Nick Denis a.k.a. "The Ninja of Love" has won three King of the Cage titles and competed in Japan at the Sengoku Championship. He dropped out of his final year of his PhD in biochemistry to pursue MMA full-time. He landed a five-fight contract with the UFC. Recently, after two fights, he decided to retire from the sport because of his concerns about potential brain damage.

He will be appearing Jan. 26 at the North Gloucester library at 2036 Ogilvie Rd.

Listen | Sat., Jan. 26 on In Town and Out.