Canadian Senator Yonah Martin at OSS Academy in Maple Ridge.

Canadian Senator Yonah Martin at OSS Academy in Maple Ridge.

Senator visits Maple Ridge academy

Yonah Martin first Canadian of Korean descent to serve in the Senate of Canada.

Canadian Senator Yonah Martin told a group of Korean students in Maple Ridge this month that when she first came to Canada, she couldn’t speak English.

But she eventually graduated from the University of B.C., majoring in that language.

“It really touched my students, who were all from Korea as international students, because since they left Korea, they have been adjusting in the new environment, Canada and even they are learning English to use it  fluently as their first language,” said Jamie Kim of the OSS Academy in Maple Ridge.

Every month the school has a guest speaker. This month it was Martin, a Conservative senator from B.C.

Martin was appointed by the former Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2009. She is the first Canadian of Korean descent to serve in the Senate of Canada and the first Korean-Canadian parliamentarian in Canadian history.

Senator Martin is currently the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, acclaimed in November 2015. She previously served as the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate (2013-2015); and as the Deputy Whip of the Government (2011-2013).

She has also held the post of co-chair of the Canada Korea Inter-Parliamentary Group since 2009, and chairs the newly established International Parliamentary Coalition for Victims of Sexual Slavery.

Two notable achievements in Parliament to date: the passage of her Senate Public Bill (Korean War Veterans Day Act) in June 2013; and the key role she played, as co-chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Group and Sponsor of the Bill in the Senate, in the successful passage and implementation (on Jan. 1, 2015) of the historic Canada Korea Free Trade Agreement.

Martin received a Bachelor of Education in 1987 from the University of British Columbia, and was a teacher for 21 years (1987-2008).

She earned a master of education in curriculum and Instruction in 1996.

Born in Seoul, South Korea, Martin immigrated to Canada in 1972. In 2003, she co-founded the C3 Korean Canadian Society, a non-profit community organization that aims to “bridge communities”.

Sen Martin serves as Honorary Patron of C3, in addition to serving on several regional, national and international boards and advisory councils.

In recognition of her community service in the Tri-Cities region, Martin was awarded the 2004 Spirit of Community Award for Cultural Harmony. She was also awarded the Order of Civil Merit Moran Medal in 2009 by the president of the Republic of Korea for outstanding leadership and work in advancing the rights of overseas Koreans.

In 2012, Martin received the Queen Elizabeth the Second Diamond Jubilee Medal, awarded by Governor General David Johnston.

In 2015, Martin was honoured as one of UBC’s top Education 100 Alumni.

Martin encouraged OSS students not to give up easily even though they are having difficulty. And she emphasized that they need to set their priorities straight, to study hard and do their homework first.

She reminded them to be global readers, like her.