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Lecture Series: People Make History

The "People Make History" annual lecture series, supported by Mary J. Stedman, invites witnesses and participants of historic events or movements to tell their stories. By sharing their memories, they bring history alive and make critical links between past and contemporary times.

Past Lectures

Winter 2018: Andy Barber, Ron Kirk and Mike Vencel, “From Korea and Beyond: Life Aboard Canadian Warships in the Cold War”

Andrew Barber joined the Navy at HMCS Donnacona in 1951. He served in the Korean War and participated in the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Upon discharge, he worked for Northern Telecom-Nortel Networks and Taxsave. Barber is vice-president of Haida Volunteers, secretary of the Burl-Oak Naval Veteran Association, co-chairman of the Veterans Committee of the Halton Naval Veterans Association, recording secretary of the Korea Veterans Association Unit 26 in Hamilton, and a member of the Royal Canadian Legion at the Streetsville Mississauga Branch 139.

Ron Kirk enlisted in the Royal Canadian Navy in 1951 at the age of 17. He served in the Korean War and was present for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II as part of the Commonwealth Fleet. After his return from Korea, Kirk has done a lot of volunteer work as a member of the Horseshoe Hockey Association as an executive, treasurer of the Korea War Veterans Association Unit 26 in Hamilton, treasurer of the Burl-Oaks Naval Veterans, member of the Friends of HMCS Haida, member of Hamilton Vintage Signals, and a duty veteran at citizenship ceremonies.

Mike Vencel join the Royal Canadian Navy in 1957 at age 17. He went to the destroyer HMCS Assiniboine to get on the job training in the electrical branch and was present at a radio-transmitting branch during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Vencel has been a member of multiple veteran’s and military history groups including the Burl-Oak Naval Veterans, the Royal Hamilton Military Institute, and the Veteran’s Committee at the Halton Naval Veterans Club, Friends of HMCS Haida, and the HMCS Haida National Historic Site.

Fall 2017: Yola Grant and Yolisa Dalamba, “Anti-Apartheid Activism in South Africa and Canada”

Yola Grant was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica. Later as a law student in Toronto, Yola’s studies focused on poverty law, discrimination, human rights, labour and constitutional law. She immersed herself in the anti-apartheid movement and feminist organizations, assuming lead roles as a public speaker and event organizer. Most notably, she was the co-chairperson of the Anti-Apartheid Coalition of Toronto that organized massive demonstrations, fund-raisers and conferences. Grant is renowned for her work in combating discrimination based on race and gender and is a prominent figure within Canada’s Black and Caribbean communities.

Yolisa Dalamba was born in South Africa, and grew up during the anti-Apartheid movement. She became heavily influenced by the Black Consciousness movement, and has been a grassroots activist and educator for more than 30 years in Canada and internationally. She has travelled throughout Southern Africa doing AIDS education work in countries like Zambia, Botswana and Namibia at the height of the AIDS crisis during the 1990s. Dalamba’s work as an educator continued when she was an instructor at the Africentric Learning Institute in Nova Scotia since its inception for more than six years. She is also the executive director of FACE (Friends of Africentric Education), a new organization aimed at supporting the Africentric education movement.

Winter 2017: Setsuko Thurlow, “Confronting the Nuclear Age: A Hiroshima Survivor Remembers”

Setsuko Thurlow is a peace activist and nuclear disarmament campaigner, as well as a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing in 1945. At the age of 13, she was present during the explosion of first atomic bomb over the city of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. After the war, she studied social work in Japan, the United States and Canada. She moved to Toronto in 1962, with her husband and two sons, where she worked for decades as a social worker. Thurlow initiated many anti-nuclear activities to bring awareness about nuclear issues in the past and present. In 2016, she received the Arms Control Person of the Year Award from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. In 2017, Thurlow won the Nobel Peace Prize for her advocacy and continued work in this field.

Fall 2016: Pinchas Gutter, “The Holocaust: Wartime Horrors, Remembrance, and Testimony”

Pinchas Gutter is a Holocaust survivor and educator who has dedicated his life to informing the public of the atrocities committed during the Second World War by the Nazi government. His entire family was incarcerated in the Warsaw ghetto before being deported to a death camp where the Nazis murdered his parents and twin sister. Gutter survived slave labour and six concentration camps. After surviving the war, Gutter lived in Britain and South Africa before settling in Canada in 1985. Gutter is an honorary full-time cantor in the Kiever Synagogue and an educator with the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre in Toronto.