Carina Lam shares her story for Asian Heritage Month

Carina Lam

A military reservist of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, Carina Lam is used to travelling around Canada and internationally with her regiment and playing euphonium, a brass instrument, for dignitaries at high-profile events.

“The purpose of a military band is to enhance community relations and boost the morale of the Canadian Armed Forces,” she explains. “The regiment I am part of has a very rich history; it has been around since before Confederation, through both world wars, and now this COVID-19 pandemic.”

It was Sunnybrook’s history as a Veterans hospital that drew Carina to the organization, where she works as a Community Giving Officer at Sunnybrook Foundation.

“I’m so honoured to work at Sunnybrook; it brings all my passions together.”

This past year, Carina was able to bring another passion to her work: improving equity, diversity and inclusion.

Carina became a member of the President’s Anti-Racism Taskforce (PART) at Sunnybrook, which was established to develop and implement an action plan with specific measures to combat racism and ensure Sunnybrook is an inclusive organization for its staff, partners and the communities it serves.

Last summer, when Sunnybrook President and CEO Dr. Andy Smith sent a note to the organization acknowledging systemic racism within healthcare and saying “we need to do better”, Carina says it really struck her.

“I reflected on my day-to-day experiences and it made me realize there have been situations, micro-aggressions and other incidents and I’ve been so hesitant to speak up,” she said. “I’m now finding my voice and using it to contribute to creating and shaping the policies and starting the conversations that will benefit people equitably, to make Sunnybrook a safe space for everyone.”

As a second-generation Chinese-Canadian, Carina has watched the rise in anti-Asian racism and violence during the pandemic with fear and anger.

“It’s something that’s quite difficult to talk about,” she said. “I worry about my grandmother because I am not always around to protect her. Could someone hurt or attack her, just because of the way she looks and who she is? These are things I cannot control and it leaves me confused: how can this be happening now?”

Carina says she has paused to reflect on her own history this Asian Heritage Month.

“It was the idea of my maternal grandfather to bring his family to Canada for a better quality of life. I grew up in Vancouver in a neighbourhood that was mainly immigrants from Hong Kong and China. In grade school, we even spoke Cantonese on the playground. That was, until a teacher told us to stop. Looking back, I think that really impacted the way I have lived my life. I was told I was different and different was bad. I’ve recently been doing a lot of reflection and rebuilding of my identity as a racialized person.”

Carina has been involved in planning an upcoming virtual event for staff about the impacts of anti-Asian racism on mental health.

“I hope with this work, we find comfort, peace and connection because there’s such power and strength in sharing our stories.”

About the author

Alexis Dobranowski

Alexis Dobranowski is a Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.