In our city’s history, immigrants have always played an important role. They build our economic prosperity, diversify our culture, contribute to our social vitality.

Jim Watson
Mayor of Ottawa
All the WOW events that I went to were great – WOW does give a sense of a community trying to improve its attraction and retention!

Caroline Andrew
Professor, University of Ottawa
Canada has been shaped by people who came from all over the world to build this country. WOW offers a platform for us to celebrate this history and the future it will help…

Alex Munter, Chair of the OLIP Council and President and CEO of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre
The City of Ottawa will continue to play a lead role in the implementation of the Ottawa Immigration Strategy, just as we did in the founding of OLIP.

Steve Desroches
City Councillor and Deputy Mayor of Ottawa
I was happy to see integration to Algonquin territory and indigenous culture related programming in 2014 WOW. Please continue to involve local Aboriginal organisations and…

Linda Manning
WOW 2014 participant, Senior Fellow, University of Ottawa
The target beneficiary of the work of OLIP is the whole community. In this short period we have planted together important seeds for Ottawa’s development.  

Dick Stewart
OLIP Council
We are very pleased to have done the “Opportunity Cost of Not Investing in Interpretation” report – it is so important to have clarity on these challenges and…

Hindia Mohamoud, Director, OLIP
OLIP helps to unite and share scarce resources for greater impact by working together in the field of student education.

Walter Piovesan
Associate Director of Education, Ottawa Carleton District School Board
The WOW seminar on immigrant women’s nutrition and health was a step in the right direction towards closing the gap between academic researchers and service providers.

Josephine Etowa
Associate Professor, School of Nursing, University of Ottawa
The Ottawa Chinese Community Service Centre is so happy to have joined the OLIP Health and Wellbeing Sector Table. It is clear that OLIP cares about immigrants and refugees and…

Wendy Tang, Ottawa Chinese Community Service Centre

Medicine – Poem by Jamaal Jackson Rogers for Welcoming Ottawa Week 2018

June 19, 2018


By Jamaal Jackson Rogers, Ottawa’s English-language Poet Laureate
This poem was written for Welcoming Ottawa Week (WOW) 2018 and performed at the WOW launch on June 18, 2018

She said, “Our diversity is our medicine.”

She said, “Our diversity is our medicine.”

Gathering all the beauty in the world in one unifying sentence

And how could I challenge her? When I have sampled a taste of utopian togetherness; trading in a lens of ignorance for a culture of multiple expressions, narratives and languages

When I was younger, I never spoke about how intense I studied the human condition

Hoping to make sense of complex emotions show by world travelers and globetrotters that would eventually settle on Canadian soil

Watching moments of contemplation flash like brainstorms only to transform into revolutionary actions

Actions that would ultimately alter my understanding of what it feels to know when one is home

My earliest memoirs begin with my father’s Guyanese shoulders embracing my mother in moonlight shuffle

As if they had memorized a famous routine from a champion figure skating couple

When he would halt his waltz to kneel to the ground and tuck us in under blankets that warmed our bodies from the bone cold floor

Those were days when we first arrived to Ottawa

Shelters becoming natural habitats until this glowing city of growing  capital helped us back on our feet

In these days of decades past I would meet faces attached to stories that carried history from all across earth’s marvelous landscapes

It was on Elmira Drive and Iris street where I crossed cultures from everywhere

I found lodging in the communities that shared the same longing as me

Spoken in a language of triumph and resiliency

Witnessed in the silent pride of a Cambodian man’s smile

Who hides the pain of all that he and his wife left behind to find new hope in a country that promises a better life

He shows no teeth but his grin is chin high and his eyes beam with glory, as if the future told him that eventually, it would all be worth the journey

A language that reflects the ancient family lineage recited from a Somali mothers call for her children playing chase in the twilight of August’s eve

As if tribe and siblings had the same meaning, she sings out names from the corner of her mouth like I’ve never heard before,

Samatar, Abdi Fatah, Muhammad, Nasra

And all at once I can taste the camel milk flow from the horn of Africa

Sweeping peninsulas to exotic islands in the Caribbean

Where Haitian diasporic doorsteps play zouk and kompa

And elders hands fry fish and chicken drumsticks

Sizzling stoves blowing smoke through windows that would invite the auditory senses into a euphoria of nostalgia and hospitality

When the Creole escapes from their throats

You can hear the resistance still chanting freedom songs from motherland mixed with the chance to start a new renaissance on the frontiers of a liberated land

It didn’t take much for us to celebrate the everyday

And when special occasions came

Ceremonies to honour joyous commemorations

We danced the Lebanese Dabke as if it was taught to us through breathe and lung rituals that match the rhythm of the sacred loud and tabla

Or at least watched in awe as men with frames the size of goal posts dipped low and leaped beyond whatever struggles their fellow countrymen faced back home

All that I was searching for

From subtle sunrise, midday sunshine and moving well beyond the shimmering sunset

Could be captured in these intense interactions of harmonious rapture

A place where my heart could be embedded in the art of solidarity

And my understanding of our collective Canadian identity unraveled in that single moment of affinity

When she said to me, “Our diversity is our medicine”

I will never know what memories she carried beneath her skin that would lead her to share such welcoming empathy

An indigenous woman who spoke truth beyond her own history of trauma that has robbed her of her rightful claim to reconcile home

Maybe it was her native traditions that reminded her that we are one once we defeat the walls of ignorance and isolation

But in one unifying sentence

With wisdom beyond my experience

She showed me

That if we ever want to know how deep our beauty and empathy resides, we shall see it in the hope, the healing, the stories, the joy, that lies in a newcomers eyes.