TORONTO: Two celebrity chefs/restaurateurs, Vikram Vij and Susur Lee, were named among this year’s RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrants, the people’s choice program that celebrates inspiring Canadian immigrants. Presented by Canadian Immigrant magazine, other winners from the food world included Shasha Navazesh, who founded ShaSha Co., Canada’s leading artisan bakery, and John Chang, proprietor of award-winning Lulu Island Winery.
Nearly all of this year’s winners arrived in their new home country more than a decade ago and made a significant contribution to Canada since their arrival. They’ve built their skills and expertise, and went on to successful endeavours. Several have received international acclaim for achievements in their fields, including cancer researcher Dr. Tak Wah Mak who discovered the T-cell receptor, often described as the “Holy Grail of immunology.”
“There is no limit to what an immigrant can achieve in Canada, and these 25 winners are a testament to that,” says Margaret Jetelina, editor of Canadian Immigrant magazine. “We congratulate the winners, who come from diverse backgrounds and experiences, and thank everyone who nominated or voted for this amazing list of difference-makers.”
The winners were honoured at celebrations in Toronto and in Vancouver. The program is supported by title sponsor RBC Royal Bank and associate sponsor Chevrolet.
Alice Chung, owner of Alive Health Centre in Vancouver, is the first recipient of the RBC Entrepreneur Award for excellence in entrepreneurship. Vikram Vij received the Chevrolet Ingenuity Award for showing exceptional creativity and skill on his road to success.
“Newcomers bring a diversity of talent that helps Canada shine both here and abroad. Today, all of this year’s RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant winners have reached yet another success milestone in their lives and we celebrate their outstanding contributions to their communities,” said Christine Shisler, Director, Multicultural Markets, RBC. “In addition, RBC applauds the entrepreneurial spirit and is a proud partner of many business owners across the country who are making their dreams come true.”
More than 650 nominations were received in less than two months, from which 75 finalists were shortlisted by a diverse judging panel that included several past winners. Over 45,000 online votes were cast, making it the most popular year in the award’s history. The final 25 were chosen based on a combination of votes and a second round of judging.
“The people recognized by the RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards have a true passion for our country, an inventive nature and are an inspiration to many,” said Paul Bailey, Advertising Manager, Chevrolet. “It takes a significant amount of resourcefulness and creativity to come to a new country and break cultural and social barriers to achieve great success. The Chevrolet Ingenuity Award was designed to recognize the efforts of a truly inspirational individual.”
The RBC Top 25 award winners received 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 2015
The RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award winners of 2015 are listed in alphabetical order below and include current city residence and home country in parentheses. Full biographies are available on the Canadian Immigrant (canadianimmigrant.ca/rbctop25) website.
- Tikaram Adhikari (Winnipeg, Manitoba/Bhutan) is a career coach and an active volunteer with the Nepalese and Bhutanese communities.
- Soheila Ansari (Coquitlam, B.C./Iran) is a settlement worker and a regular on Aria TV’s Whiteboard.
- Amrik Singh Aulakh (Surrey, B.C./India) is a dedicated community volunteer and Surrey RCMP Auxiliary Constable.
- Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia (Halifax/Germany) is president and CEO of Digital Nova Scotia, a nonprofit organization.
- Henri Boyi (London, Ontario/Burundi) is a French studies professor at Western University.
- John Chang (Richmond, B.C./Taiwan) is the biggest Canadian exporter of ice wine to Asia.
- Alice Chung (Vancouver /Malaysia ) is a philanthropist and president of Alive Health Centre. Chung has been selected for the RBC Entrepreneur Award.
- Amanda Yeung Collucci (Markham, Ontario/Hong Kong) runs a successful cleaning business and is the first Chinese female to be elected into the City of Markham’s council.
- Ver Cruz (Toronto/Philippines) is president of Vercore International Services, a private training institute that helps immigrants prepare for the job force.
- Bob Dhillon (Calgary/Born in Japan of Indian origin) is a real-estate entrepreneur, whose company, Mainstreet Equity Corp., is the largest landlord in North America.
- Dr. Qais Ghanem (Ottawa/Yemen) is a retired doctor specializing in sleep medicine, who now dedicates his time to creating dialogue around diversity on the radio.
- Sherif Guorgui (Toronto/Egypt) is an internationally trained pharmacist, an entrepreneur, and vice-president of pharmacy at the Ontario Pharmacists Association.
- John Iwaniura (Toronto/Poland of Ukrainian heritage) is president Caravan Logistics, one of the top 50 carriers in Canada. He is also involved in Canada-Ukraine Chamber of Commerce.
- Susur Lee (Toronto/Hong Kong) has been voted as one of the “Ten Chefs of the Millennium” by Food & Wine magazine, and appears on Chopped Canada as a judge.
- Dr. Tak Wah Mak (Toronto/China/Hong Kong) is a renowned researcher and director of the Campbell Family for Breast Cancer Research Institute.
- Dr. Rosemary Moodie (Toronto/Jamaica) is a pediatrician and advocate for women and children.
- Shasha Navazesh (Toronto/Iran) is CEO of ShaSha Co. He is also the founder and president of the Artisan Bakers’ Quality Alliance (ABQA).
- Dr. Dhun Noria (Scarborough, Ontario/India) is Scarborough Hospital’s chief of laboratory medicine and medical director of laboratories.
- Umashanie Reddy (Calgary/South Africa) is executive director of the Calgary Bridge Foundation for Youth.
- Maria Nieves Santos-Greaves (Surrey, B.C./Philippines) is the owner of Surrey Hearing Care, and gives back to the community through free hearing testing via its mobile hearing clinic van.
- Thilak Tennekone (Stratford, P.E.I./Sri Lanka) is a diversity consultant for the Public Service Commission.
- Kim Thúy (Montreal/Vietnam) is an award-winning author. Her first novel, Ru, won the Governor General’s Award for French-language fiction.
- Vikram Vij (Vancouver/India) has appeared on Chopped Canada and Dragons’ Den as a Dragon. He also manufactures his own line of take-home Indian food. Vij has been selected for the Chevrolet Ingenuity Award.
- Dr. Gezahgn Wordofa (Stratford, Ontario/Ethiopia) is a community trailblazer after only four years in Canada, having founded the Multicultural Association of Huron-Perth.
- Ana María Zúniga (North Vancouver/Chile) is president of AZ World Translation and Interpretation Inc., which she grew from a one-woman translation company to an agency working with more than 100 translators.