Friday, October 5, 2012

An Excellent Day in Ottawa

October 2nd, 2012, I woke up at 5:30 am, packed my bags at the hotel and later met my group to walk to Parliament Hill. We went through security, got our ID tags and had breakfast in the Parliamentary Restaurant. Met MP Olivia Chow from Toronto and Minister Peter Gordon MacKay. Chatted with two young aides who work with politicians. I asked one of them if he had seen The Ides of March, starring George Clooney. He said that it was horrendous and gave a very bad view of politics and politicians. I laughed. "I'm sure it's not really like that," I said.

I had to leave the breakfast presentation early to take part in an interview with Dr. Karen Cohen, the chair of Mental Illness Awareness Week. The CTV Canada AM interview was with host Marcie Ien who was in another studio in Toronto. So I didn't actually see her, but only heard her voice through a speaker in my left ear. It was very exciting to be on national TV. They showed my artwork and featured my book.

Walking back to Centre Block, I was stopped by a fellow who worked for a pharmaceutical company who recognized me and gave me his card. Ah, a bit of stardom.

After that I met with Dr. John Higenbottam, co-chair of the Canadian Alliance on Mental Health and Mental Illness, and MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay (Delta-Richmond East) to discuss CAMIMH's message and recommendations. I gave her a copy of my memoir which she said she would read. She congratulated us on the good work we are doing to reduce stigma.

I then met the other Faces and a few others to be in a photo-op with Bob Rae, the leader of the Liberal Party. He shared with us and us with him.

After a buffet lunch, I met with MP Don Davies (Vancouver- Kingsway, BC) and Meagan Hatch. Davies was genuinely interested in what we had to say. We took some photos and I was introduced to Thomas Mulcair, the Leader of the Opposition. Davies gave us a bit of a tour. He was glad to receive my book too and called me a 'double threat,' artist and writer.

After a brief press conference in the Charles Lynch Room, we took a short break then went through security again to observe part of a session in the House of Commons. When someone gave a speech, there was applause, but I did notice a bit of jeering.

On the Centre Block steps, I was stopped by another woman who said she had seen me on Canada AM that morning.

A group of us took taxis and arrived at Rideau Hall. The 5 Faces and Dr. Cohen met with the Governor General's wife Sharon Johnston and a couple of her aides. Her Excellency wanted to know what we would say to parents or caregivers of people with mental illness. Each of us shared our story and I gave her a copy of my memoir too. I told her my father Gordon Yuen was knighted and had received the Order of St. John in 2004, before he passed away.

We then met the Governor General David Lloyd Johnston and other people connected with CAMIMH. We had a photo outside then were seated in a dining area for a roundtable discussion about mental health issues and where do we go from here.


The meeting went overtime, so I was worried about catching my flight back to Vancouver. Chantal and I were to fly out at the same time. We were excused to catch our flights and Her Excellency hugged us goodbye. We waited for the taxi which finally came and headed off to the airport. Once I arrived, I nervously stood in the security check lineup for 15 minutes. The flight was delayed so I was at the gate in plenty of time.

I got into Vancouver close to 10 pm. All in all, it was a very exciting, wonderful experience.

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