The Honourable Yonah Martin is a Conservative Senator of British Columbia, appointed by The Right Honourable Stephen Harper in 2009. She is the first Parliamentarian of Korean descent in Canadian history. Currently, she is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (since 2015); and previously served as Deputy Leader of the Government (2013-2015) She is also Co-Chair of Canada Korea Interparliamentary Friendship Group (since 2009), founding Co-Chair of Canada Bulgaria (since 2014); and active on a number of other bilateral and multilateral groups. In 2013, her Senate Public Bill (S-213) received Royal Assent to designate July 27 annually as “Korean War Veterans Day” in Canada. Passionate about mentoring youth and young adults, she established a Parliamentary Internship and Mentoring Program (since 2011); she also supports various youth and young adult initiatives, and speaks to students in schools and forums across the country. Born in Seoul, Korea, Yonah Martin immigrated to Canada in 1972, and has resided in Metro-Vancouver ever since. She has earned a BEd’ 87 and a MEd’ 96, and had a 21-year teaching career (1987-2008) until her appointment to the Senate in 2009. She has been married to Doug Martin for almost 30 years, and they are proud parents of a daughter, Kiana Mi-Sun, who is also a graduate of UBC, BSc’ 17.
Meeting Yonah Martin
What is your most memorable experience from your time in the Faculty of Education at UBC?
I have many wonderful memories of all the hands-on experiences in my courses and practicums. What I recall distinctly was feeling as though I was a fish out of water returning “home” when I first began my Education degree (in my second year) having spent a very long first year in the Faculty of Sciences.
Where has your education from Faculty of Education taken you in your career?
I enjoyed a 21-year career as a teacher (1987-2008) before entering politics. It was an incredibly rich and rewarding career that has allowed me to use much (if not all) of my experience in and out of the classroom in my work as a politician. When people ask how I went from the classroom to politics, I always respond, “It is BECAUSE of the classroom that I can be in politics! Once a teacher, always a teacher!”
Where do issues of inclusion find a place in your life or at work?
In a federation like Canada, there are so many jurisdictional divides and gaps in society that by design or unintentionally exclude certain individuals or segments of our population. Therefore, whether I am reviewing legislation, meeting with or assisting constituents, or working on a project or other, it is my duty as a senator to consider the subject at hand with the most critical lens to bridge systemic gaps and ensure the best possible outcome. As a senator, I try to look at things broadly as well as understand the minutia of the complex matter, to serve Canada and Canadians to the best of my abilities.
Do you have any words of wisdom for current students? Any advice for newly graduated folks?
You have chosen a noble profession. There is nothing more important than teaching and nurturing the dreams of our children and youth, who are the future leaders of our world. As life-long learners, teachers will learn as much (if not more) from the students, as much from the worst of times as the best of times. I hope you will enjoy your teaching careers as much as I did!