RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards: Make “Room” for this eclectic mix of Artists, Academics, Entrepreneurs and Community Champions
200 inspiring immigrants have been recognized by their peers for outstanding contribution to Canadian society since the awards’ inception
Room author Emma Donoghue has been named among the 8th annual RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrants, along with several other artists, academics entrepreneurs and champions of many worthy causes. Presented by Canadian Immigrant magazineand sponsored by RBC, this annual awards program celebrates the achievements of inspiring Canadian immigrants.
A true illustration of the diversity Canada represents, this year’s winners originally hail from Ireland to Sri Lanka to Nigeria, and now make their home in communities across Canada. Each winner has made a positive economic, social and cultural impact to Canada, and while many of them are internationally renowned for work in their respective fields, just as many are pillars in their local community.
“This year’s group of 25 winners is an inspiring and eclectic mix that showcases the diverse talent that immigrants bring to Canada,” says Margaret Jetelina, editor of Canadian Immigrantmagazine. “We at Canadian Immigrant magazine are very proud that, over the eight years of this awards program, we have now recognized 200 amazing immigrants as Top 25s. And we have honestly just scratched the surface of immigrant talent in Canada.”
The Top 25 will be honoured at ceremonies in Toronto today, and in Vancouver on June 23. The program is proudly supported by title sponsor RBC Royal Bank. One of the winners will be presented with an additional award by RBC for individual achievement. The awards program is also supported by the Toronto Star, Metro Newspaper, Sing Tao, CBC Toronto and South Asian Focus newspaper.
Christians Izquierdo, owner of IT consultancy DevFacto, is the second annual recipient of the RBC Entrepreneur Award for excellence in entrepreneurship.
“Every winner that we are celebrating today has dared to dream,” said Christine Shisler, senior director, Multicultural Markets, RBC. “Those dreams didn’t end just because they packed a suitcase and arrived in Canada. It was only the beginning. Being recognized as an RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant is a moment to reflect on the journey of patience, persistence and determination. I’m proud to say that RBC has been helping newcomers to Canada for over 145 years and we will continue to honour this legacy.”
Hundreds of nominations were received, from which 75 finalists were shortlisted by a diverse judging panel that included several past winners. Over 50,000 online votes were cast, making it the most popular year in the award’s history. The 25 winners were chosen based on a combination of votes and a second round of judging.
The RBC Top 25 award winners will receive a commemorative plaque and a $500 donation will be made towards a registered Canadian charity of their choice. Winners will also be featured online at canadianimmigrant.ca/rbctop25 and in the July print edition of Canadian Immigrant magazine.
The RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award winners of 2016 are listed in alphabetical order below and include current city residence and home country in parentheses. Full biographies are available on the Canadian Immigrant website.
The RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award winners of 2016:
- Kiran Ahluwalia (Toronto/India) is a two-time JUNO Award-winning composer and singer. She is a classically-trained Indian signer, with a strong contemporary edge, whose latest album,“Sanata: Stillness,” was a hit on World Music Charts.
- Leen Al Zaibak (Toronto/Syria) is senior manager of donor engagement at international charity Free the Children, co-founder of Jusoor, which helps Syrian youth to realize their potential, and a board member of Lifeline Syria.
- Godwin Chan (Richmond Hill/Hong Kong), a lawyer by profession, was the first visible minority councillor in Richmond Hill. Chan is also on the board of directors of the national Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
- Tilak Chawan (St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador/Bhutan) is a settlement worker who helps young newcomers and refugees integrate seamlessly in schools. He also promotes diversity initiatives in communities across the province.
- Queenie Choo (Vancouver/Hong Kong) was named CEO of immigrant settlement organization SUCCESS, after a career as a respected leader in the social and health care industry. Most recently, she was honoured as one of B.C.’s Most Influential Women.
- Igor Dobrovolskiy (Moncton/Ukraine) is founding artistic director of the Atlantic Theatre Ballet of Canada, which is celebrating 15 years. He is an award-winning director and one of Canada’s most prolific choreographers.
- Emma Donoghue (London, Ontario/Ireland) is an international best-selling author known for her award-winning novels such as Room, which was adapted into an Oscar-winning film last year.
- Josephine Etowa (Ottawa/Nigeria) is a full-time associate professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Ottawa and holder of the Marie Des Anges Loyer DaSilva Chair in Public Health Nursing.
- Chandran Fernando (Toronto/Sri Lanka) is founder of Matrix Search Group, a recruitment firm specializing in real estate and property management, which advocates for diversity and inclusion in corporate Canada.
- Dr. Azita Haddadi (Saskatoon/Iran) is a doctor of pharmacy. Her research program at the University of Saskatchewan focuses on novel approaches for cancer treatments. She has won a number of grants and awards for her work.
- Narmin Ismail (Toronto/Kenya) is founder and CEO of the Spark of Hope Foundation, which focuses on providing university-level educational scholarships to women from the developing world.
- Christians Izquierdo (Edmonton/Cuba) is CEO of DevFacto Technologies, one of Western Canada’s leaders for process integration on the Microsoft and Apple platforms for the government, energy, mining and construction verticals. He is this year’s RBC Entrepreneur Award winner.
- Perla Javate (Winnipeg/Philippines) is president of the Philippine Heritage Council of Manitoba, a teacher and the current Filipino community liaison officer for the Winnipeg School Division.
- Jin Jiang (London, Ontario/China) is a professor and NSERC/UNENE Senior Industrial Research Chair at University of Western Ontario, who has made contributions in the area of control, instrumentation and electrical systems for nuclear power plants.
- Ignat (Iggy) Kaneff (Mississauga/Bulgaria) is chairman and CEO of the Kaneff Group of Companies, a real estate development firm building homes and retail and commercial properties, as well as a philanthropist and anchor supporter of Community Living Mississauga.
- Leon Lee (Vancouver/China) is a Peabody Award-winning film director and producer, whose investigative documentary Human Harvest shed light on the topic of illegal organ harvesting.
- Fiona Macfarlane (Vancouver/South Africa) is managing partner (Vancouver and Western Canada) and chief inclusiveness officer at Ernst & Young LLP. She was recently honoured as one of B.C.’s Most Influential Women.
- Mina Mawani (Toronto/Uganda) currently serves as the president and CEO of Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, after building a reputation as a leader for organizations such as Canadian Women’s Foundation and the Aga Khan Council for Canada.
- Renan Orquiza (Mississauga/Philippines), P.Eng, is a project manager at Watters Environmental Group Inc. He serves as the environmental committee chair for Professional Engineers Ontario, and volunteers to promote environmental issues.
- Nasser Rad (Toronto/Iran) is CEO and President of AUTORAMA, one of the largest preowned car dealerships in Toronto, which is known for its “Care to Share – Free Car for People in Need” program.
- Minister Harjit Sajjan (Vancouver/India) is a retired Lieutenant-Colonel in the Canadian Armed Forces and a combat veteran who is today the member of Parliament for Vancouver South and Minister of National Defence.
- Fred Farhad Soofi (Coquitlam/Iran) is the restaurateur behind Pasta Polo andClub Ilia, and is an avid community advocate on affordable housing and heritage preservation.
- Kumaran Thillaindarajah (Fredericton/Sri Lanka) is CEO ofSmart Skin, a startup he founded at the age of 23 creating pressure-sensitive skin technology with a variety of applications.
- Avan Yu (Vancouver/Hong Kong) is one of Canada’s most exciting young pianists, who won his first international piano competition at 14 and has since toured extensively as a soloist with major orchestras around the world.
- Félix Zogning (Montreal/Cameroon) isan academic, author, executive director of the Centre for Business People from Cultural Communities of Quebec, consultant at Omnipole Intelligences, head of the economic desk at Radio RCV International and coordinator of business start-up programs within Im’pacte Affairs.