senators’ statements — Overseas Korean Politicians Council

December 16, 2020

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition)

Honourable senators, we, as senators, have the privilege of representing our region and province or territory, and as senators of Canada, we represent our great and expansive nation. We are also able to lead bilateral or multilateral parliamentary associations and friendship groups, and work with stakeholders and industry leaders, and advocate for causes and issues that are important to us.

Like all honourable senators, we are part of organizations and groups.

One such group, the Overseas Korean Politicians Council held a virtual conference during the weekend, which I helped to organize. It is a network of legislators of Korean descent from around the world who convened online in multiple time zones; legislators from England, France, Uzbekistan and Russia were online with us long past midnight from their time zones. One participant even called in from his hospital bed. It was historic in the fact that it was an inaugural virtual conference, with the theme Unforgettable 2020: #ONE OKPC.

But what made it truly historic was the attendance of several trailblazing female politicians. A member of the Washington State House of Representatives, the first Korean-American female to be mayor in the United States and President of OKPC, Cindy Ryu; retired three-term minister and an MLA of Northwest Territories, Sandy Lee, the first Korean-Canadian female politician in our history; Member of Parliament for Port Moody—Coquitlam, Anmore & Belcarra, Nelly Shin, the first Korean-Canadian elected to the house in Canadian history; representative-elect for Washington’s 10th congressional district, Marilyn Strickland, and representative-elect of California’s 39th congressional district, Young Kim, two of the first three Korean-American women elected to the U.S. Congress — the third is representative-elect to California’s 48th congressional district, Michelle Steel — five-term member of Parliament of New Zealand Melissa Lee, the first and only Korean in their history; and recently elected leader of the liberal opposition in the Legislative Assembly for the Australian Capital Territory, Elizabeth Lee.

So as the first Korean-Canadian senator, it was a special moment of reckoning to be virtually together with so many of my soul sisters and dozens of current serving politicians from around the world. What we share is the indomitable spirit of our ancestors throughout Korea’s long and dynamic history, who fought, survived, and overcame powerful invaders and oppressors. We are part of a growing diaspora of 7.8 million people around the world, including a national community of more than a quarter-million people across Canada.

Whether in small or large communities, people of Korean descent around the world share the collective history of our courageous and noble ancestors. We have the seventy-fifth anniversary of the national liberation of Korea and the seventieth of the Korean War years, which began this year.

With that, I know that we have Hanukkah until December 18, so I wish the best to all my colleagues who are celebrating, as well as those in Canada and around the world, and blessings of the advent season to everyone. Thank you.