Shifting the Story: Challenging Stigma

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A unique and powerful experience awaits!

Brave community members will talk to you one-to-one about their experiences with stigma.

Topics Include:

  • mental health
  • substance use
  • disabilities
  • Indigenous experience
  • immigrant experience
  • living unhoused
  • cultural oppression

Sign up for one or more storytellers to listen to their story. Each conversation will be about 15 minutes long.  

Explore your own beliefs and let’s work together to create a strong, inclusive, and healthy community!

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Storyteller Biographies

Brochure with Storyteller's Biographies

One Wheel At A Time - Maninder (She/Her. English, Panjabi)
Woman snuggling with small dog

I am a person with a disability needing a wheelchair to get around. Although I have adjusted well to my situation, I continue to face barriers daily due to accessibility issues and the stigmas attached. I have learned to deal with these situations but I must admit, at times they have really upset me. The world and employers have come a long way in being more inclusive but still we are not all the way there yet.

How Hunger Fed Me - Lama (English/French/Swahili/Kinyarawanda)
Middle age man wearing glasses and smiling.

I grew up in Bujumbura, Capital City of Burundi. My family moved to Bujumbura as political refugees, fleeing persecution because we were born Tutsi. In my family, children received an abundance of love, but the outside world was less accommodating. Rwandans were the last to be hired and first to be fi red. Hunger followed us like the shadow. I still remember hunger pains as they messed up my concentration when I tried to do my homework in the evening. Our diet lacked essential nutrients. Animal protein was expensive. People relied on carbs for fuel. I persevered. At a very young age, I developed the love for reading. I read everything I could lay my hands on. Reading helped me escape to faraway places. I found myself devouring biographies of great men and women, who fascinated me, and allowed me to dream big. “Someday”, I said to myself, “I will rise from hardship and be in a position to help my people”. 

Unhoused Free From Heroin - Tara (She/ Her)
Woman with dark hair

Up until my 40s, I lived a relatively normal life, until a series of choices led me down a path of destruction. I have faced lots of stigma as a result of experiencing homelessness, addicted to fentanyl, losing my children, and mixed up with drug dealers and violence towards myself. Since then I have dug myself out of a hole with help and  support and have never looked back. Ask me what I do now to give back! 

Single Mom Scholar - Ghezal (She/Her. English, Dari, Urdu)
Woman with brown hair

I am a single mother of two and consider myself a scholar who graduated from SFU in 2021 with a degree in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies. My journey has not been easy being a young bride from 
Pakistan, a racial woman with little education, no work experience, limited English, and no community or family support. Some call me a feminist, but I consider myself as someone able to raise a voice against cultural oppression and toxicity and I continue to fight this battle. 

From Addiction To Connection – Phil
Man wearing dark clothing

For 23 years I was a daily opiate user. I was simply living waiting to die. Today I live for every moment and take every breath as a blessing. Today I choose connection over addiction. A poet wrote ”You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop”. Today I am the ocean. I am a peer coordinator in recovery.

Insight To Justice As A Criminal Lawyer–Lisa
Woman with long brown hair

Dr Lisa Monchalin teaches criminology at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. She is also a practicing criminal defense lawyer and an international speaker on justice issues, including at the University of Oxford. She is the author of a book The Colonial Problem: An Indigenous Perspective on Crime and Injustice in Canada, which she has toured nationally and internationally. Lisa is a citizen of the Métis Nation of Ontario and a powwow jingle dress dancer. When she is not teaching, dancing, or in the courthouse, you can find Lisa swimming in mermaid tails, eating raw vegan food, and cold plunging and practicing the latest bio hack with her life partner.

Educator. Reader. Writer. Knitter. Tea Drinker–Sara 
Woman with short hair and glasses

Dr Sara Davidson is a Haida/settler Assistant Professor at Simon Fraser University where she teaches educators (and people who want to become educators) Indigenous education and literacy education. She has written several books for people of all ages about Indigenous education with her father and stepmother. Sara used to be a high school teacher on Haida Gwaii and in Whitehorse. When she is not teaching, Sara is passionate about reading, writing, and listening to stories. Sara resides on unceded Katzie, Kwantlen, and Semiahmoo Territories with her partner and their two dogs. 

From Chaos To Serenity - Aman (Punjabi, Hindi)
Man with beard wearing sunglasses and a safety vest

I am an immigrant from India, a father and a husband. My road to recovery was a long and hard one however in it I became the person that I am today. My past trucking days led me to a path of destruction with substances that almost destroyed my life and that of my family’s. As a result I have experienced homelessness, isolation and almost lost hope of keeping my life together. Today I have recovered, have my family back, working in construction and grateful for the life I have now.

Relapse Is Not Failure! - Daniel
Man with trimmed beard wearing glasses

Daniel is a passionate recovery and harm reduction advocate. Married with two kids, he likes to play poker and chess, spending time in nature and at the gym. Daniel spent many years addicted to opioids. His path to recovery was marked by many ups and downs and benefi ted from both a strong recovery approach and harm reduction principles in tandem. Today Daniel’s message is to offer hope to those who are still struggling with substance use and their loved ones.

Turn A Setback Into A Comeback - Shivani (She/Her. English, Hindi, Panjabi)
Woman with glasses

I am an immigrant from India, Certified Life Coach, Ph.D. in Gerontology, Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and a Registered Clinical Counsellor candidate. My education, language, knowledge and experience as a Professor in India are my strengths, however all of these gems were broken into pieces early in my transition to Canada, by my community. It took me almost two years to come out of it. My journey of coming back more resilient and compassionate for myself, family and community. Today, empowering others to challenge their stigma and introducing them to their strengths has become my purpose.