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Five questions, 10 answers: let's make prejudice, inequality history

Élana Camille Saimovici
- Élana Camille Saimovici

Chantale Cormier, 23,  orthodontic hygienist in Riverview, N.B.

1. Which leader, celebrity or political figure has been most influential in your life, why?

Angelina Jolie. She’s a celebrity who uses her platform to bring issues, like poverty, to the forefront. She goes to the front line and works with the communities. As a famous person, she doesn’t just focus on the big topic in the news because that’s what everybody else is talking about. She’s really working to help others. So for someone to use their money to help others rather than an extravagant vacation, it’s really incredible.

2. What social, environmental or economic issue are you most concerned about?

Child health care. It’s easy to pick – child advocacy and health. In my case I’ll interact with patients, kids included, where you can tell that they’re not getting the healthy foods and drinks in their system. And in the kids’ cases you know it’s not their fault. It’s a difficult thing to deal with on all sides.

3. What is one specific change you hope to see in your lifetime?

Prejudices again other people.  Living in a smaller town, it’s easier to see — homophobia, racism, more. As a young, white woman I don’t have all of that. But I’d love to see every individual be who they are, not judged for gender, race, or who they are. Every person is a person.

4. What is the biggest success or proudest moment in your life so far?

Landing dream job. I got my job about six months after graduation. It was completely unexpected. I had an interview in the fall – it felt so close yet so far away. I waited for months, for the job. As a struggling student turning away job after job offer was hard, but I just had this gut feeling about the interview. Four months later I heard back. When I got the call I was sobbing, shaking I was so excited. To truly know that you are so meant to do something is incredible. And it’s so rewarding to be able to wake up every morning and be able to say “wow I actually want to go to work.”

5. What is one thing you hope to accomplish or experience?

Be genuinely happy. I spend so much time worrying, so one of my resolutions was to be genuinely happy. I want to get to the point where I can be in the moment and enjoy what is going on around me, what I’ve got going for me and live my life to the fullest.

Moyna Matheson, 47, owner and operator of Samuel’s Coffee House in Summerside, P.E.I.

1. Which leader, celebrity or political figure has been most influential in your life, why?

Mother Theresa. Regardless of your background, or where you stand on religion, she was a true leader in the sense that she was doing. She was a doer. She wasn’t someone who talked the talk, she was in the trenches. Her acts of kindness, generosity and the sense of care and respect she gave to everybody – I believe that if you can live your life to emulate that even just a little bit you’re doing the right thing, in your personal life and your business life. At the end of the day, showing kindness and respect and empathy to others should be the foundation of every decision you make in your life.

I could relate to her because she wasn’t this figure, she was so human and seeing that love and care she showed for others was really inspiring.

2. What social, environmental or economic issue are you most concerned about?

Health care. One could say that all of the important issues go together. If we don’t have a strong economy we don’t have the foundation to pay for healthcare, if we have issues with our environment we have issues with our health. I feel that the health is the very thing your give to each and every human and that you have to have access to it. Without it, we have nothing. Nothing else really matters. We are at a level of crisis in that area and that we really need to demand for that when we’re looking at the other issues – that we equal and accessible healthcare system for all. You can look at it at a national level but I think P.E.I. – and being in this coffee house and hearing people’s stories – the very people who are supposed to be providing us health care don’t have health themselves. Our doctors, nurses and frontline workers are getting burned out. So looking at the patient and there’s this person, who may not have a supportive family, who have been on a six-month wait list, you see what that does to them. Their finances, their marriage, everything.

Matheson keeps that in mind while dealing with her own staffers and customers.

“You might make the person who’s down and out, who you know is suffering from something visibly seen or invisibly seen, like they matter. I always tell my crew that you are not just a server. You have the ability to alter that person’s life in that five minutes that you wait on them and that five minutes could be the only compassionate act they receive that day or human interaction. So no matter what level of work you are in, coffee shop, bank, whatever, you have the ability to fill a space.

3. What is one specific change you hope to see in your lifetime?

Ability to talk about things like they’ve been around forever – eradicate the “oh you had to deal with that?”

There are so many different changes that we could see. When we, history when we think that our generation didn’t have to live the wars of past that we hear about, or that we see those “National Geographic” articles where they have the signs from the civil rights era for African Americans, you know there’s all this talk about equality of women, and the access to same opportunities – but in my life time I’d like to see that my these aren’t issues for my grandchildren so it’s a “really you guys had to talk about that?” The things that we deal with now, aren’t on the table, that they can be like “I can’t imagine this even being an issue.”

In other words, making things like gender equality, pay parity and other topics that are on the news daily a non-issue.

“So they’re not always looking around their table, for an equal amount of you know, male, females, access to jobs and wages, income levels, it’s a thing of the past that never existed in their lifetime.”

Sometimes you’ll wonder, was I asked to do this because I was a woman, or because I was the best for that role. So, then you start to question it – am I just the 20 per cent that they need to show that they care? Wouldn’t it be nice if that didn’t even enter our minds someday. Rather we were looked at for what we brought to the table not because we’re that 20 per cent.

4. What is the biggest success or proudest moment in your life so far?

Working side-by-side with her kids. Every parent says – their children, but I’m going to fast-forward it a bit to a day of seeing my two children work in the business I created. They were very young when I started the business, they were six and eight, so there was a lot of sacrifice There were missed times with them. Now they both work here, and when I look back I think – they didn’t miss anything, they were watching the entire time. And what they’ve learned from this journey that I’m on, seeing now that I have the ability to not only employ them but others, and seeing all the valuable skills – my son can see his mother own a business and my daughter can see that I can choose whatever path that I want to be on and then continue to work by my side. Now everything else is gravy, she said with a chuckle.

5 What is one thing you hope to accomplish or experience?

Visit Quebec. I have never been Quebec. It’s a simple goal! My mother put me in French-immersion for the very purpose so that I could take her to Quebec, but we never went. I’m so close and I’ve never been there. I’d take my daughter, and you know since it was a journey I was supposed to take with my mother, but we never got that opportunity, we’d kind of allow a spiritual way for mom to have that journey. We’d try the food at the cafes, enjoy the culture and then bring it back with us.

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1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

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