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CONTENTS Volume 16 Issue 3




PROFILE: Vera Dodic, Toronto Newcomer Office NEWS: Recent studies on immigration and diversity


The 11th annual RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrants of 2019 are announced


Presenting the second Settlement Agency Award


Smells like team spirit: What do the Raptors have to do with it?

above Rola Dagher, president of Cisco Canada, is one of this year’s RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrants.


CAREER COACH: Job interview follow up DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION: Factors to consider when you are looking for a job



IMMIGRATION LAW: Is your spouse in Canada without legal status? WELLNESS: Managing diet and lifestyle for body and mind wellness SUMMER 2019 BUCKET LIST: exploring local community and beyond

We can help with: Settlement services English language classes Visit our website, call or email for more information

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People. News. Information.


Volume 16, Issue 3


Group Publisher Sanjay Agnihotri


Editor Ramya Ramanathan


Editorial Design Terry Lankstead, Anne Nawrocka Courtland Shakespeare Digital Media Developer Kamil Mytnik Sr. Ad Manager Ricky (Kawaljit) Bajaj Tel: 905 273 8170 Assistant Manager Laura Jackman Marketing & Events Jamie Coffin General Inquiries: Circulation/Distribution Inquiries: ISSN 1910-4146 Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the publisher

Publications mail agreement number: 40065097 Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to: 3145 Wolfedale Road Mississauga, Ontario, L5C 3A9 Printed on recycled paper. Toronto Circulation 30,000 copies Vancouver Circulation 15,000 copies Calgary/Edmonton Circulation 5,000 copies Canadian Immigrant is published four times a year in print. Canadian Immigrant welcomes submissions, but is not responsible for unsolicited material. Canadian Immigrant is a publication of Metroland Media Group, a division of Toronto Star Newspapers Limited. Entire contents property of Canadian Immigrant. Toronto 3145 Wolfedale Road, Mississauga Ontario, L5C 3A9 Tel: 905 273 8111, Fax: 905 277 9917


This is home

By Ramya Ramanathan

above Vera Dodic, manager, Toronto Newcomer Office, believes in conveying a “welcome home” message to the City’s newest residents.


era Dodic grew up never imagining that she would live anywhere but in Belgrade, the city where she was born in former Yugoslavia. Having worked with refugees and internally displaced people back home, She experienced first-hand the profound challenges of establishing herself while bringing up a young family, a situation familiar to many immigrants. In 2013, two decades after first moving to Canada, she played a key role in forming the City of Toronto Newcomer Office which she continues to lead. Throughout her career, Dodic has focused on social justice and refugee issues, working in different roles with Save the Children UK and the Canadian Red Cross, before joining the City of Toronto in 2005. What brought you to Canada? Growing up in Belgrade, I enjoyed all the freedom and opportunities that any country could offer. I travelled, studied and planned for a bright future. But, with the political tensions and subsequent wars in former Yugoslavia, all that came to a halt. My country no longer existed, and I was no longer able to afford the basic necessities for my young children. What was even more heartbreaking was the direction my country was headed in. I no longer felt at home in my own city, and lost a sense of belonging. After researching our options and considering a few countries, my husband and I decided to apply for permanent residency in Canada. How has your journey shaped your career choices? After an initial  year in Canada, I accepted a position with Save the Children UK  back in former Yugoslavia. Although I did not want to leave Canada, I wanted to contribute to the developments in my former country in a positive way. For the next few years, I went

CANADIAN IMMIGRANT Volume 16 Issue 3 | 2019

back and worked on a program that saw some 4,000 refugee children reunited with their parents after years of separation. It was very rewarding work, and I know that some of these reunited families ended up in Canada. In 1999, the war came to my doorstep in Belgrade  and I once again had to flee with my family. Arriving in Toronto  again  truly felt like returning home. I then pursued a career with the Canadian Red Cross, where in my final role I was responsible for all programs and services delivered by my agency in Toronto. Tell us about the work you do at the Toronto Newcomer Office I have had the great privilege of leading the development of the City of Toronto’s Newcomer Office since it was established in 2013. My work is at a strategic level to influence change. A lot has been achieved since the Office was formed. There is increased engagement and responsiveness of City divisions to newcomer issues, access to municipal and other services has been improved,

and our collaboration with our community partners as well as other orders of government are now significantly stronger. But what I am the most proud of is the Toronto Newcomer Day. It is an annual event that brings together City divisions, community agencies, other orders of government and newcomers. Since 2015, more than 45,000 people have attended this inspiring, community building event that demonstrates the importance of that “welcome” message to our newest residents. Can you share a special memory about Canada? In 1999, after several sleepless nights with constant sounds of bombs and sirens, an opportunity for us to return to Toronto came up. We packed and within an hour, were on a bus, travelling on dirt roads to avoid bridges and larger cities as  these became bombing  targets. We then flew from Budapest to Toronto. When the immigration officer at Pearson Airport asked if we had anything to report, I tensed up and in low voice said that we don’t have anything to report. She responded with a warm “welcome home.” That “welcome home” epitomized Canada for me, and will continue to inspire and drive my work. What is your advice to newcomers? Aim high and don’t underestimate your skills. This is your home.

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Immigration is key to Canada’s economic growth Canada is facing a labour market crunch. By 2030, all its 9.2 million baby boomers will have reached retirement age – placing the country under economic and fiscal pressure. A recently released report from The Conference Board of Canada, Can’t Go it Alone: Immigration is Key to Canada’s Growth Strategy, evaluates various solutions to help strengthen the country’s labour force and economy. “The report quantifies how immigration is the most powerful fuel to replenish our workforce

numbers,” says Pedro Antunes, chief economist at the board, adding that “These solutions, including  better labour market integration for underrepresented groups, identify how to maintain a growing labour force to stimulate economic activity, as well as the tax revenues required to fund vital social expenditures such as rising health care costs.”

It’s a point of civic pride that the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is one of the most diverse regions in the world. But a recently released report by United  Way  Greater Toronto reveals that deep divides are undermining the promise that “diversity is our strength.” 

The report Rebalancing the Opportunity Equation looks at income trends over the past 35 years, as well as the income gap between young people, immigrants, racialized groups and the rest of the population in Peel, Toronto and York regions. The findings paint a

Highlights of findings from the study include: • Between 2018 and 2040, 13.4 million workers will exit the la-

bour force, far greater than the 11.8 million that will leave Canadian schools to replace them. • Due to its aging population and low fertility rate, Canada  needs new sources of talent to enter the labour force to maintain its high living standards. • Improved participation rates could add 2.2 million workers to the labour force by 2040, including more women, Indigenous people, and persons with disabilities, as well as  $101 billion  to the economy. • Immigration will remain a for-

mative solution, accounting for all of Canada’s  net labour force growth — 3.7 million workers — and one-third of the economic growth rate between 2018 and 2040. The federal immigration minister Ahmed Hussen points out that immigration matters a lot to Canada  and the report    “highlights that our economy depends on immigration and that we continue to make a concerted effort to attract the best talent from around the world to fill labour shortages today and for the future.”

stark picture of who has access to opportunities to succeed, and who does not. In the GTA, it doesn’t matter how long you have been in Canada – the fact that you weren’t born here means that you are earning less. Immigrants, regardless of their years of residency in Canada, have become poorer over time. On average, immigrants in the GTA today are making less than immigrants did in 1980. The income gap between employed immigrants and the Canadian-born population has grown. While in 1980 they had similar incomes, a longstanding immigrant (over 20 years in Canada) in the GTA today is making a similar – or lower -- income than a Canadian-born person was in 1980. The report outlines recommen-

dations that all sectors can act on to ensure that everyone can participate in society, that more people can get ahead, and that everyday costs like childcare and housing are more affordable. “Rebalancing the Opportunity Equation reveals that the promise of diversity and opportunity that we tell ourselves – and sell to the world – doesn’t reflect today’s GTA,” says Daniele Zanotti, president & CEO of the United Way Greater Toronto. “We can’t present a 35-year-old story of opportunity and fairness and pretend it is the same today — it is not.” She added that the findings of the report should not be ignored. “The time is now to rebalance the opportunity equation, harness all the talent our region has to offer, and make the GTA work for everyone.”

Immigrants hit hard by growing income gap

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RBC TOP 25 Canadian Immigrants of 2019

By Margaret Jetelina


ith a decade behind us, it’s incredible to see the continued calibre of nominations we get for the RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards. This year — the awards’ 11th installment — we had such an amazing group of Top 75 finalists, that bringing it down to the Top 25 was no small task. But not only the 25 winners are examples of true nationbuilders, committed to achieving personal success, but also to inspiring others and making an impact in the Canadian community. That’s why we’re so proud to present the ‘Oscars’ of immigrant success to these noteworthy individuals, who represent diverse ethnic communities, cities and professions across Canada. From community leaders to creative types to business minds, the 2019 winners were chosen after an extensive judging and online voting process that saw a record 60,000 votes! From among the Top 25, two winners have also been chosen for special recognitions: the fifth annual RBC Entrepreneur Award and the third annual Youth Award. Thank you to the past winners who formed this year’s judging panel: Mohammed Alsaleh, Loizza Aquino, Bernardo Riveros, Tinashe Mafukidze, Priti Shah and Rana Zaman. Thank you also to everyone who nominated an immigrantserving organization for the second annual Settlement Agency Award, which aims to recognize the impact these agencies have in helping newcomers succeed. See page 26 for this year’s winner! But, first, let’s discover this year’s Top 25!


CANADIAN IMMIGRANT Volume 16 Issue 3 | 2019

Mohd Jamal Alsharif Super volunteer


ohd Jamal Alsharif has been in Canada for just 10 years, but has already made an impressive mark. He is an active super-volunteer in the community and cultural festivals, and is passionate about helping newcomers integrate into Canadian life. Alsharif also speaks six languages, has a PhD in oral and maxillofacial surgery, and is the founder and president of non-profit organization Humans for Peace Institution in Ottawa. But Jordanian-born Alsharif faced struggles like any other newcomer. “Let’s be honest, many immigrants like me arrive in this new country knowing no one and do not know where to ask for help. So, imagine arriving here, unable to speak English. Try getting a job, making friends, or even completing basic tasks like buying food or filling out forms,” he says. “And finding a job, and slowly moving up the ladder is incredibly difficult. I’m a highly qualified oral maxillofacial surgeon, however, I needed too much time, money and effort to

Javier Badillo

Generous filmmaker


alent, generosity and humility are three things that define Javier Badillo and his artistic career in Canada since arriving from Venezuela in 2002. He is an independent film director, musician and youth mentor. Like many immigrant artists, he has struggled. “My biggest struggles were arriving to a new country with almost no connections, while eating up savings. I had to find odd jobs to make ends meet, while upgrading my skills in college. But the worst had to be the feeling of isolation and disconnection. I didn’t meet any Venezuelans for years.” But he pushed forward and focused on his dreams of filmmaking. “I’ve benefited from determination, a general optimism, openness to connecting with people from all walks of life and the ability to learn from a place of disadvantage.” His short films have been showcased in numerous countries including Canada, U.S.A., France, Japan, India and the U.K., where he won the Audience Choice Award (Harrogate Film Festival, 2018) for his comedy Fatal Rhapsody.


In 2019, Badillo completed production of his debut feature film Roads of Ithriyah, a drama following a concussed Syrian militant from the desert battlefield to the streets of Vancouver. It is currently in post-production. While waiting for the film to screen, you might find Badillo helping other filmmakers. In addition to occasionally teaching at a local college, he offers free career mentorship to students, including youth with developmental disabilities, new immigrants, Indigenous youth and low-income youth. Since 2012, he has volunteered as programming director for the annual Vancouver Short Film Festival. When it comes to music, his award-winning Latin-rock band CARACAS has toured southeast Mexico and Western Canada, received airplay internationally and performed alongside Latin Grammy-nominated artists. When not on set or on the stage, Badillo can be found pulling espresso at a neighbourhood coffee shop in East Vancouver, where he lives.

CANADIAN IMMIGRANT Volume 16 Issue 3 | 2019

requalify myself.” So, he turned to helping other newcomers instead. “Volunteering and helping others has become part of my life. My dad once told me ‘People will only remember those who leave footprints after they leave,’” he says. Through Humans for Peace Institution, Alsharif helps refugees settle down, pairs them with local families to improve their language, and connects them with services and employment information. He also leads youth camps, food drives, blood drives and much more. For his many community works, Alsharif received the 2019 Sovereign Medal for Volunteers awarded by the Governor General of Canada. This tops a long list of awards in Ottawa and beyond for his volunteerism. He encourages other newcomers to get involved, too. “This is your new home. Live, build, work, volunteer, love your community and raise your children for the best of our national and international good.”

Celebrating 25 exceptional individuals. Visit

We are proud to congratulate and celebrate the RBCŽ Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award winners. Their stories of perseverance and courage are motivating and inspiring to all Canadians. Thank you to everyone who took the time to nominate and vote for these remarkable individuals. Ž / ™ Trademark(s) of Royal Bank of Canada.

103426 (06/2017)

Selwyn Collaco

Calculating success


orn and raised in Goa, India, Selwyn Collaco immigrated to Canada in 1996 in his 20s with just $700 and a strong will to succeed. His early years as a new immigrant were not easy, but he says hard work, integrity, grit and determination were the keys to his success. It’s a calculation that obviously worked for Collaco; today, he is the chief data officer of the TMX Group, the financial services company that owns and operates the Toronto Stock Exchange, responsible for building out enterprise data capabilities and monetizing analytics. “No matter where you have immigrated from, irrelevant of your position back home, you can always achieve success in Canada by hard work and determination,” says Collaco, who earned an MBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business in Ontario. “But coming to Canada with work experience and education gained abroad meant having to go above and beyond expectations in order to gain the

confidence of my employers.”     While Collaco had confidence in his abilities, he was also open to learning and improving. “A key aspect was being true to myself by being aware of my weaknesses that I needed to work on,” he says. Collaco now shares all these tips to success with others, as a volunteer career mentor and president of the Goan Overseas Association, a not-for-profit volunteer-based community organization. For his volunteer efforts in serving the community, he received a Canada 150 Sesquicentennial Award. “Success is not only a reward, but a responsibility to give back to the greater good of our community,” Collaco says. To newcomers striving for success in Canada, he advises: “Aim for success, but be prepared to work hard and be open to learn from challenges. We are all good at planning for successes, but it is how we react to adversity, and learn from it, which helps define us as well.”

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CANADIAN IMMIGRANT Volume 16 Issue 3 | 2019

Rola Dagher

A leader to follow


ola Dagher is an amazing success story of business leadership in the world of technology, made all the more inspiring because she’s one of only a handful of women — and immigrants — who have achieved such a position. Dagher is president of Cisco Canada, overseeing all facets of its business, including sales operations, engineering, services, finance and marketing. Under her leadership, the Toronto-based Canadian branch of the global technology company consistently ranks among Cisco’s top country revenue producers and serves as a proving ground for some of the company’s most innovative technologies. She says she owes a lot of her success to Canada. “Being Canadian means everything to me,” says Dagher, who came here from Lebanon in the 1990s. “The minute I landed on Canadian soil, I felt a moment of pure hope in this amazing land of opportunity.” But it is what you make of those opportu-

nities that sets someone like Dagher apart. With more than 25 years of technology experience in the server, storage and networking markets, at Dell EMC before Cisco, Dagher also credits the following for her success: “Determination, resilience, passion and the ability to never give up hope.” What further makes Dagher a highly respected leader is the way she brings out the best in others. She has a people-first mindset and brings a strong emphasis on diversity at Cisco, making it her mission to empower and nurture employees regardless of gender, culture, orientation or age. She was recently awarded the 2019 Women in Communications and Technology Woman of the Year Award, presented to a woman executive who has made a significant contribution to the digital industries as well as to the advancement of all women. When asked to share her top tip for other newcomers, the mother of two now-adult children says simply: “Learn it, earn it and return it.”



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Monika Deol Face forward


hen Indian-born Monika Deol was offered an on-air job at CityTV and MuchMusic in Toronto, she was “terrified.” Deol says, “I had never seen someone like me on mainstream TV. But this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and it dawned on me that I had all the tools and it was my job to use them effectively to make my life.” One of those tools was a self-described “killer work ethic” from growing up on a grain and dairy farm in Manitoba as a young immigrant. She also learned resilience as she overcame discrimination as a child and as she entered the modelling and entertainment business. “I decided I was just going to be myself and break a few stereotypes using the incredibly powerful platform that television was then,” says Deol, who became a popular VJ on the TV show Electric Circus. “I was vocal about being an immigrant woman who was ambitious, independent and disciplined.”

Tulsi Dharel

Community connection


ulsi Dharel was born in Nepal, the country of the famed Mount Everest. Immigrating to Canada in 2000 was closer to a walk in the park than a mountain climb for this internationally established marketing professor and consultant. Dharel, who has a PhD in marketing from Devi Ahilya University in India, attributes his successful Canadian integration to networking and making new connections. In fact, it led him to his first Canadian job as a faculty member of Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario. “Networking, networking and networking,” he says, when asked what helped him achieve success in Canada. Since 2007, Dharel has been a marketing professor at Centennial College and was also recently elected as an academic governor of the college. But his successful integration isn’t just about his career. Dharel has made a point of giving back, not only by mentor-


ing young professionals in his field — he was awarded an Intercultural Networking Award from JVS Toronto and Professional Immigrant Networks of TRIEC in 2012 — but also by promoting Nepalese culture in Toronto. For 10 years, he has helped lead the Buddha Jayanti Peace Rally celebration in downtown Toronto. As well, he was the chairperson of the Himalayan Festival at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto, one of the biggest outdoor Nepalese festivals in North America, and served as chairperson of Nepalese Canadian Community Services from 2016 to 2018, to name a few of his community efforts. In 2017, he was given the Outstanding Asian Canadian Award by the Canadian Multicultural Council for his contributions. “Canada is our second home,” says Dharel, who immigrated with his wife, Nira Sharma, and has one son, Sashwat, “but it feels like it is our first home. Canada is so welcoming to all.”

CANADIAN IMMIGRANT Volume 16 Issue 3 | 2019

Her no-holds-barred approach led to more career moves, including a stint as entertainment anchor on CityPulse at Six, host of MuchMusic’s news shows  FAX  and  RapidFAX, and co-host of fashion and style show Ooh La La. Deol was the first news anchor with the inaugural VTV Vancouver News at 6 and anchor on CityPulse News at 11, while also dabbling in film, including a lead role in the 2015 Canadian feature film, Beeba Boys, by Deepa Mehta. Today, Deol is using the reputation she built on air and as a community leader involved in charitable organizations, to embark on a new adventure — as a beauty entrepreneur. Deol, now Vancouver-based, launched her own cosmetics brand STELLAR, which launched in Sephora America in 2017. “I think it’s an immigrant thing, but I’m very adaptable and not afraid of change. I believe in taking risks,” Deol says. “And I’m not afraid to be myself.”

Krittika D’Silva Inspiring scholar


rittika D’Silva is starting an internship at NASA this summer. That’s certainly impressive — and just one of the reasons the Surrey, B.C.-based immigrant is this year’s Top 25 Youth Award winner. Indian-born D’Silva came to Canada in 2004 when she was just eight years old, and she has been making quite an impression ever since. As an undergraduate in bioengineering and computer engineering, she worked in three research labs and designed devices to improve prosthetic sockets for individuals with lower limb amputations, built software for low-resource settings and examined ways to use DNA molecules for longterm data storage. She was then selected as a Gates scholar, sending her to the University of Cambridge, U.K., to pursue her PhD research, which focuses on using spatiotemporal urban mobility modelling to predict changes in cities over time. “My parents instilled in me a deep sense of grit, resilience and a hard-working ethos,

which has helped me persevere,” says D’Silva, who admits she struggled with balancing her Canadian and Indian identities while growing up. “As I grew older, I learned that these don’t conflict with each other and that identity is something that evolves with time.” As her sense of self developed, so did her professional identity. She went to India, where she worked with Microsoft Research to build a mobile application for citizen journalists. She completed two internships at Google, where she learned about scalable digital platforms. More recently, she worked for the United Nations in Indonesia, where she used technology to support policy efforts. That experience has inspired her interest in pursuing a career at the intersection of technology and public policy, specifically in artificial intelligence (AI). “Canada has become a leader in AI worldwide, and I hope to work in public policy to help Canada govern the use and growth of AI,” says the 24-year-old.

Rouba Fattal

For the love of community


ouba Fattal is a remarkable woman— she holds a PhD in political science, is a full-time public servant and a part-time professor at the University of Ottawa and Carleton University — and also one of heart — she’s a devoted wife and mother to three small children, an author of several children’s books, a volunteer and community leader. Combining her brains and community focus, Fattal founded the Kanata-Carleton Small Business Network in 2015, a non-profit organization to help connect and empower small businesses with essential tools, workshops and inspiration to create sustainable jobs in their community. She learned the importance of giving back to your community soon after immigrating from Syria as a teenager in 1994. “A friend invited me to volunteer with him at the Salvation Army. It was my first volunteering experience ever. I met amazing people that day and felt very

good to do something for others,” Fattal says. “I had an ‘a-ha’ moment when I went home to my English-Arabic dictionary to look up the word ‘community,’ and for the first time discovering not only what it means but also how it feels. I’m a strong believer that magic happens when people come together to serve others.” Fattal’s recent efforts have been focused on poverty alleviation and homelessness. She is a board director at the Western Ottawa Community Resource Centre, which runs Chrysalis House, a women’s shelter in Ottawa, and chairs its development committee, advocating for affordable housing within the community. All her efforts have a common thread of promoting inclusiveness, diversity and empowerment. For Fattal, a love for community is what being Canadian is all about. To other newcomers, she says, “Keep an open mind, be positive and patient with yourself because change and success take time. And volunteer as much as you can.” CANADIANIMMIGRANT.CA |


Giacomo Gianniotti Italian dream


iacomo Gianniotti, who just wrapped up his fifth season on television’s hit drama, Grey’s Anatomy, is known for his dreamy Italian character, Dr. Andrew DeLuca, on the show. It’s not a huge stretch, as Gianniotti himself was born in Rome, Italy, before immigrating to Parry Sound, Ontario, as a child in 1994. But it took some time before Gianniotti celebrated his cultural background after immigrating. “​I think for me as any immigrant, the biggest challenge was fitting in. My name was different, and people couldn’t say it. My lunches were different from that of the other kids. Sometimes other kids would overhear me speaking to my family in Italian. These are all things I was picked on and bullied for. I was taught that my differences were my weaknesses, and that I should try to be like everyone else. I made everyone call me Jack, and I would never speak Italian around anyone.”

Ali Ghorbani

Cybersecurity leader


ow that technology has found its way into every aspect of our lives, cybersecurity is a critical research area. And an immigrant from Iran is leading the charge at the University of New Brunswick (UNB), as its Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Cybersecurity. In 2016, Ali Ghorbani also established the Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity, a training, research and development, and entrepreneurial unit with more than 50 researchers and graduate students. Ghorbani came to Canada with his wife, Mahin, and three children in 1991, after holding a variety of positions in academia. “I immigrated to Canada at a slightly older age, so integration to the community was not as easy as I thought it would be,” he admits. “As a new immigrant, you are not being taken seriously, so to get the attention and respect of co-workers and the management, I had to work almost twice as much.” But hard work really pays off in Cana-


da, he adds, and Ghorbani never gave up, focusing on being positive, bold and persistent. “I also knew that success could only come if I surround myself with smart people and work with those who are more intelligent and more knowledgeable than me.” He served as the dean of the computer science faculty at UNB for nine years until 2017. He is also the co-founder of the Privacy, Security, Trust Network in Canada and organizes its annual international conference. The busy researcher is also the co-inventor of three awarded patents in the field of network security and web intelligence and has published a book and more than 270 peer-reviewed articles. Ghorbani has also found business applications for his research. Some of his technologies have been adopted by hightech companies, and he co-founded two startups, Sentrant Security and EyesOver Technologies, winning him the 2017 Startup Canada Senior Entrepreneur Award.

CANADIAN IMMIGRANT Volume 16 Issue 3 | 2019

But, as he got older, the arts helped him own his cultural roots. “I realized that it was my uniqueness, my individuality and my culture that made me special. I realized how rich my culture was and was so proud to be Italian. The more I opened myself up and became my authentic self, the more doors would open for me.” And open they have! In addition to his starring role on Grey’s, Gianniotti’s film credits include the Jesse Owens biopic Race, opposite Jeremy Irons and William Hurt. He can also be seen in his independent feature Acquainted, which he starred in and executive produced with his own production company. A graduate of the Theatre Performance Program of Humber College in Toronto, Gianniotti advises other immigrants to: “Be yourself. Bring us all the beautiful gifts and riches your country’s culture has to offer and become that which you have always dreamed of.”

Devesh Gupta Legal eagle


ndian-born Devesh Gupta is a young lawyer who was only called to the bar in 2012, but has already made tremendous strides in the profession since then. He arrived in Canada as a teenager and went to law school at the University of Western Ontario before he landed work at a prestigious Bay Street firm, Thomson Rogers. He then moved to a personal injury firm in Mississauga. But he had always envisioned opening his own law practice and, in 2016, started Prudent Law, specializing in residential and commercial real estate, corporate law and civil litigation. “My career journey took me through a few different sizes and types of legal organizations. Although I enjoyed and learned a lot from each, I realized that my true calling was to run my own practice,” he says. “Prudent Law is now one of the fastest-growing law firms in Mississauga

with five staff members.” he says. In his second year, Gupta transacted more than $200 million of commercial real estate and opened a satellite office at a brokerage to handle the growing workload. In 2019, the firm won a Consumer Choice Award in the GTA. When asked his secret to business growth, he offers three: “First, patience. You need to be patient to get through the rough patches. And dedication to one’s goals and objectives is critical for success. Finally, appetite for risk — this is a big one. From leaving a stable salary to starting a new firm, to risking all of my profits to hire new team members, my appetite for risk has allowed me to choose growth over stability.” In the community, Gupta not only provides legal advice to non-profit Panorama India and the Indo-Canada Harmony Forum, he can be heard on the radio weekly providing legal updates.

Devina Kaur Divine self


evina Kaur wants to inspire you to become your “divine self.” As the founder of the Sexy Brilliant Global Revolution, Kaur is on a mission to empower people to love themselves, from the inside out. Born and raised in rural India, Kaur struggled to reconcile her traditional upbringing with how she felt and how she looked — her authentic self. After a lifetime of being told she was “too fat, too loud, too ambitious” — which happens to be the title of her upcoming new book — her world fell apart in her 30s when her arranged marriage ended. And, despite having a successful career in the financial industry, she did not feel fulfilled professionally. “For this reason, I quit. I knew in my heart that I wanted to work for myself, so I put all of my energy into starting up my own professional dog-walking and pet-sitting business,” says the Montrealbased single mother. “Then, after my di-

vorce, I coped with low self-esteem, stress and loneliness. I began to speak publicly about the challenges I experienced, which eventually developed into Sexy Brilliant.” Today, Kaur shares her message of selflove in her new book, video series, courses, her extensive social media channels and in television appearances. “I have been incredibly fortunate and have been able to build a strong, loving and generous community of like-minded people who support each other through the Sexy Brilliant movement,” says Kaur. “Right now, I am working on a TV show that will bring me closer to the community I have created as I will be travelling the world to meet and interview people who embody what it means to be Sexy Brilliant.” What does it mean to Kaur? “In order to live our best lives, we must accept all parts of ourselves, including anything negative, in order to love ourselves back to our fullest potential.” CANADIANIMMIGRANT.CA |


Nizar Ladak

Paying it forward


ratitude and giving back have defined much of Nizar Ladak’s personal and professional life since he came to Canada as a refugee in 1973. These values have framed his business leadership style, too, in an impressive health care management career helping lead organizations such as Health Quality Ontario, North York General Hospital and Canadian Institute for Health Information. He has focused on mentoring and developing diverse teams. Today, Ladak serves as president and CEO of Compute Ontario, where he leads a team that brings together scientific, technical and policy-making communities using big data with access to advanced research computing (supercomputers). It’s a long way from fleeing Uganda after South Asians were expelled from the African country by President Idi Amin. “When we arrived in Canada, we only had the clothes on our backs, a few mementos and legal documents like birth certificates. My father and mother went door to door seek-

Philip Lee, C.M., O.M.

Journey to Lieutenant-Governor


apping off a successful career and years spent serving his community in Winnipeg, Philip Lee, who was born in Hong Kong, served as Manitoba’s 24th LieutenantGovernor from 2009 to 2015. It’s the type of achievement that results from years of hard work and relationship-building. Lee shows us how it’s done. After coming to Canada to study at the University of Manitoba, Lee began his career with the City of Winnipeg as a research chemist in 1967, producing several research reports pertaining to the Shoal Lake Quality Studies. He retired in 2005 as branch head chemist. “From the time I was a little boy, I was taught to work very hard by my father, Sam. He devoted each night to sit with me to teach me life lessons. He encouraged me to work hard in school and business, never complain and always give back,” says Lee. Following this advice, Lee not only worked hard but became a key volunteer in the community. He was a member of the Human


Rights Council of Manitoba, the Multiculturalism Council of Canada, among many other boards and involvements. He was also part of the team of volunteers behind the construction of important landmarks like the Chinese Gate and Garden. “When you participate in community service, you find common ground with others,” Lee says. “When I became involved, multiculturalism was still not an officially accepted policy in Canada. We were not seen or treated as equals. The late Charlie Foo, an elder in the Chinese Canadian community, mentored me to make in-roads with government officials, community leaders and members of other ethnocultural communities,” Lee says, adding that his fluency in English was seen as an asset in making those connections. Today, at age 75, the Order of Canada recipient is still a board member of the Winnipeg Chinese Cultural and Community Centre and chair of the Winnipeg Chinatown Development Corporation. Still, always giving back!

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ing work so that they could house, clothe and educate their three children. It was through Canada’s support services that my siblings and I are where we are today,” says Ladak, who was able to pursue higher education, thanks to grants and bursaries. “We are evidence that Canada’s social net does work and can produce proud Canadians that happily give back to others.” When it came time to choose a career, Ladak says, “I chose the one thing that is as Canadian as the maple leaf — publicly funded and administered health care.” And his mantra became “pay it forward,” says Ladak, who also serves on the board of directors of ENCQOR, a $500 million public-private collaboration to develop a 5G corridor between Quebec and Ontario. “Canadian society is built upon the values of a hand-up, not a handout. This is the philosophy that guides my professional activities, mentorship, leadership, volunteer work and philanthropic activities.”

Marquis Lung

Kicking counsellor


hen Marquis Lung was just six years old, he started to learn kung fu from his father in Hong Kong. By 16, he was teaching it himself to martial arts students. The art of kung fu and guiding youth have remained important parts of his life as an immigrant in Canada. Lung came to Canada in 1978 as a student, graduated from the University of Manitoba in 1985 and worked as a family and youth counsellor in Sioux Lookout, Ontario. After moving to Vancouver in 1988, he got hired by immigrant-serving agency SUCCESS, working as a family and youth counsellor. Lung also started a very successful mentorship program by recruiting university students to help new immigrant children and youth. He knows firsthand the struggles newcomer kids face. “My biggest struggles were learning a new language and culture, and experiencing racism,” he says. “But I tried so hard to do well in high school and university, so I

could establish a career.” By 1990, his work refocused on youth exclusively, first at SUCCESS as a youth employment counsellor, then as a youth development programmer at Killarney Community Centre, before landing at the Burnaby School District as a safe school specialist in 1994 until today. He’s become quite the local expert, presenting workshops on youth issues, plus guest hosting on AM1320 radio and being interviewed in local Chinese newspapers and television. And the single dad of three young adults of his own hasn’t forgotten his kung fu! Lung, in fact, started his own kung fu school 25 years ago, now at six different community centres in Vancouver, Burnaby and Coquitlam. “I love teaching children and youth traditional kung fu! Watching them becoming more confident, healthy and respectful is a very rewarding experience,” says Lung, who won the title of Martial Artist of the Year by Wushu Canada.

Iqbal Malek Honest grocer


qbal Malek came to Canada from India in 1971 with just $7 in his pocket. He worked long hours at various jobs, starting off in Barrie, Ontario, as a stock clerk, newspaper boy, dishwasher, shipper and receiver, packer, factory labourer and more. He then worked for six years for Laura Secord making chocolates, while going to school in the evening to learn English. He was setting himself up for bigger things. By 1984, he opened his first business, a tuck shop in an apartment building. His second business was a Pakistani/Indian restaurant on Gerrard Street in Toronto. Over the years, he noticed that consumers from his Muslim community were looking for Halal-certified groceries, poultry and meat — halal means “permissible” in Arabic. He did a lot of research, met manufacturers and started selling halal products wholesale store to store. The growing interest in his products led Malek into the retail side of the grocery business,

opening Iqbal Halal Foods. It’s 25+ years later, and Iqbal Halal Foods has more than 200 employees in its wholesale division and two supermarkets, one in mid-town Toronto and one in Mississauga. They are opening a third supermarket location in the east end. Malek is a hard-working, honest CEO, according to his team, and he credits them right back. “I have been very fortunate to get to partner with some of the best talented businessmen in the industry,” according to Malek. “[My] partners have been very supportive and stood by my decisions, leading to success in the business.” They also give back, sponsoring nonprofit and service organizations like the police department, hospitals, public schools, youth sports and science programs, and more. Malek prays for the “strength and knowledge to continue doing good work for the Muslim communities and to keep contributing toward the economy of Canada.” CANADIANIMMIGRANT.CA |


Sam Mod

Tech success


n six short years, Indian-born Sam Mod has gone from newcomer student to Canadian tech success story. While studying for an MBA at the University of Victoria, the ambitious young entrepreneur co-founded app company FreshWorks Studio with a business partner, Rohit Boolchandani. Mod admits it was hard to juggle both his studies and a new business. “I moved to Canada in 2013 and was very new to the culture. In fact, this was the first time I had travelled internationally in my life. My intention was to get a job here so I can pay my tuition fees. However, the plan changed when I started the entrepreneurial journey and then I struggled to get going on many fronts. I had no network or connections, no money, no peers or support group and essentially had a lot of failures in the beginning.” Today, he serves as CEO of the growing design and development company,

Brenda Okorogba Young leader


renda Okorogba is many things — an emerging leader, an influencer, a youth educator, a community builder — and she’s been doing it all so well since arriving to Canada just six years ago. Born in Nigeria, Okorogba came to Canada in 2013 and says she faced three main challenges: “culture shock, cold weather and lack of access to certain job opportunities.” While working toward her bachelor of science degree at the University of Manitoba, Okorogba realized she needed to do more to put herself out there, despite those barriers. “I learned to go out of my comfort zone to network with people by attending workshops, summits and youth impact hubs. This has really helped me improve my communication, interpersonal and leadership skills.” Now she shares those lessons by empowering other youth.         Currently, Okorogba is the STEMscholars lead and grant co-ordinator with the STEMHub Foundation. She also manages Momentswithbren Scholarship Series and Skills


Training, which she founded to empower people with the tools and resources they need for professional and personal development. Her focus is on matching students with scholarships, freelance jobs, e-learning and mentorship opportunities. She has helped students gain more than $2.2 million in scholarships in Canada, Africa and across the world. She has also been involved with many non-profit organizations, including Black Women Honors and Empowerment where she ensures young women feel safe, educated, heard and empowered to be agents of change in their lives and the world. She adds that her interest is to work with youth, both women and men, and use her skills and experience to “help guide them through the job market, help them access quality education, get mental health resources and build their career.” The advice she has for these youth? “Utilize every learning and networking opportunity. And be confident in your skills and who you are as a person.”

CANADIAN IMMIGRANT Volume 16 Issue 3 | 2019

which has offices in Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton and Seattle, and 56 employees. FreshWorks has built more than 85 applications for an impressive list of clients, including complex projects in Blockchain and AI. “I live by the motto: ‘Persistence trumps everything,’” Mod says. “The early failures humbled us and we believe in humility. When the going is tough, you got to do what you have to do. I was resilient, persistent and patient. These attributes coupled with my technical skills and education helped me overcome struggles and achieve success.” Mod has come a long way and was named a Top 30 Under 30 last year by BC Business magazine. “As a Canadian, I feel like there is a tremendous opportunity in business here and the sky is the limit. Companies like Slack and Shopify are living examples of the kind of impact Canadian companies can make on the world.”

Maryam Sadeghi Bright CEO


aryam Sadeghi came to Canada from Iran to get her PhD in computing science in medical image analysis at Simon Fraser University, an area of study combining technology and medicine. When she received a scholarship from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research  in dermatology, it led her on a path to becoming the co-founder and CEO of MetaOptima Technology in Vancouver in 2012. “In my post-doctoral program, there was an opportunity to work for a company and I had the $30,000 scholarship to put toward this position,” says Sadeghi. But when she tried to negotiate a better salary, she was shut down. “Even with all my education, training, expertise, hard work and the scholarship money, I was told that post-docs are just not paid well in Canada. I mentioned that I may start my own business then. The CEO said that I don’t have the capital as a new grad to start a business. That conversation ig-

nited this fire inside me to prove that I know what I’m talking about.” She decided to start her company that night, convincing her husband, Majid Razmara, to join her, and started taking online courses to teach herself the business side of her work. “That decision I made was a game changer,” says Sadeghi, who was also director of the Digital Health Hub (Innovation Boulevard) from 2013 to 2015. As new entrepreneurs, they commercialized two technologies, MoleScope dermoscope and DermEngine platform, to aid with a better diagnosis and treatment decisions for skin cancer and other skin, hair and nail diseases. Recently, her company was listed as a “Ready to Rocket” business in the area of digital health. “We have a unique ecosystem in Canada to set the stage for your success. If you are good at what you do and you work hard, you will be successful!”

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Gelaine Santiago

Fostering Filipino culture with fashion


elaine Santiago wants to share the old with the new. As co-founder of Cambio & Co., an ethical fashion retailer based in Toronto, she aims to foster appreciation for Filipino culture and heritage among the younger generation of Filipinos in the diaspora. “Every piece is sustainably designed and handcrafted in the Philippines by fairly paid Filipino craftspeople, entrepreneurs and Indigenous artisans,” explains Santiago. “And, in addition to educating youth about the preservation of Filipino traditions, we also educate them about the impact of the fashion industry on water quality and global health. By sharing the stories of our products, how they are made, and the people who make our pieces, we not only promote entrepreneurship and cultural pride, but we also promote sustainable consumption and civic engagement.” Santiago was only 25 years old when she founded Cambio & Co. with her husband in 2015. Since then, the business has been grow-

ing exponentially with clients across Canada, the U.S.A., Europe and Australia. Although she had little experience in business, Santiago is now also working as a marketing consultant, helping other ethical brands share their stories and grow their brands. She also has an interest in the non-profit and social enterprise sphere, which started in her college days at the University of Guelph in Ontario. After university, she was a volunteer recruitment co-ordinator at the Sentinel Project, a Toronto-based NGO focused on preventing mass atrocities around the world. She later became a member of its board of directors, the organization’s youngest at the age of 24. In 2012, Santiago co-founded her own nonprofit ChooseSocial.PH, a digital platform connecting Filipinos in the diaspora with social enterprises in the Philippines. This platform has become so successful that it has been incorporated as a key resource for major educational institutions in the Philippines.

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CANADIAN IMMIGRANT Volume 16 Issue 3 | 2019

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Wali Shah

Voice of a generation


ali Shah is well on his way to becoming the voice of his generation. Through his spoken word poetry, he is inspiring youth in Toronto, across Canada and beyond with themes of diversity, antibullying, mental health and more. An underlying message to his work? Be true to yourself. It’s something Shah himself had to fight for.. Shah was only three when his family immigrated from Pakistan, but integration was a struggle. “A big challenge was figuring out how to make my parents happy while fitting into the Western world,” Shah says. They had a vision of success for him — “being a lawyer, doctor or engineer” — that he didn’t share. “They saw the world one way, and I saw it another way.” By 15 years old, Shah was labelled atrisk at school. That’s when a high school teacher introduced him to spoken word poetry. Shah was, at heart, an artist, and

poetry, influenced by hip hop and rap, became his calling. “My parents said to me, ‘You’re telling us we came to Canada so that you can waste your life?’” Shah’s teacher, on the other hand, encouraged his poetry, telling him he had lots of potential — indeed, a gift. “I thought, ‘Maybe I can do this.’” So, he started to share his stories, booking volunteer gigs at schools just to get exposure. Now, at just 24 years old, Shah is doing this full time, flying across Canada to perform paid gigs and working with the corporate world, including collaborations with Bell’s Let’s Talk campaign, the Canadian Football League, WeDay and TEDx. Shah has become the success story his parents had hoped for, just on his terms. As for the big goal? “I want to the be the poet laureate of Canada,” Shah says. “Why not me? — the first Pakistani Muslim poet laureate of Canada.”



Kimberlee Shelley-Ajibolade Breaking barriers


amaican-born Kimberlee ShelleyAjibolade is determined to break barriers, overcome stereotypes, and be a positive community leader and successful human resources professional. She was only 27 when she was offered the branch manager position at Universal Staffing Inc. in Brampton — the youngest and only Black female branch manager in the company’s history to be hired at any location. She was also named the Black Canadian Queen Ambassador Brampton in 2017, and a Woman on Fire Community Activist Award Winner and Brampton 40 Under 40 recipient in 2018. Today, at age 30, she’s the district manager for Black Women Honors and Empowerment – Brampton Chapter and is a member of the city’s Black History Month committee. In fact, she was selected to host Brampton’s first Official Black History Month Flag Raising Ceremony on February 1, 2019. Her latest honour was the United Way of GTA

Jane Shin

Diverse leader


t the age of 16, Jane Jae Kyung Shin was diagnosed with a rare and serious blood disorder. The South Korean newcomer was grateful to be treated back to full health at B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver. It was an experience that inspired her to give back to Canada’s “fair and generous society.” At the same time, she saw her parents struggle with integration. “It arguably took longer and was tougher than it could have been,” she says. “But we grew closer as a family. And we became aware of so many wonderful programs for settlement and retraining support. Ultimately,  we developed more empathy and more civic commitment to do our share.” Shin has certainly done her part. After studying  cell biology and genetics at the University of British Columbia, and receiving an international medical doctorate, Shin taught at Vancouver Community College and the British Columbia Institute of Technology. In 2013,  Shin ran in the provincial elec-


tion in the riding of Burnaby-Lougheed. With her victory, she became the first Canadian of Korean descent to be elected to a provincial legislative assembly. She served a number of roles in Opposition, including in the portfolios of immigration and multiculturalism. After her time in public office, Shin returned to Vancouver Community College and now serves as its associate vice president of student success. Passionate about helping immigrants, she is also currently a board member of DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society, a settlement agency in Surrey. The busy Shin has also gone back to school, currently finishing a master of education and starting a second PhD this September. Her strategy for success? “I tell myself, ‘If it gets too hard, I can always quit tomorrow, but not  today.’ I have always committed to getting through and giving it my best, just for today. And, yes, those todays really add up.”

CANADIAN IMMIGRANT Volume 16 Issue 3 | 2019

Community Leadership Award. Seeing all these successes so early in her life, you might think everything just comes easy to Shelley-Ajibolade. But, while she may make it look seamless, her achievements are the result of a lot of hard work and perseverance after coming to Canada at just 14 years old. “My biggest struggle was coming away from my mom, family and friends, and adapting to a new culture and system,” she says. “But I knew that this country accepts and promotes diversity and that anyone can succeed with hard work.” She shares this message with other immigrants, women and diverse Canadians as both a career mentor and as a volunteer for her local church. “I say work hard, stay motivated and focused, and get involved in your community. In doing so, it will open doors for you and help you to succeed,” says Shelley-Ajibolade, who was also ordained as a minister in her church this June.

Dr. Nhung Tran-Davies Benevolent doctor


r. Nhung Tran-Davies is a physician, author, mother of three and an advocate for social justice through education. Born in Vietnam, the youngest of six children, she was only five when she and her family came to Canada in 1979 after eight months in a Malaysian refugee camp. They landed in Edmonton, and life was tough, with cultural clashes, posttraumatic stresses and her mom having to work up to three jobs. “If we weren’t wearing second-hand clothes, we were wearing clothes our mom had sewn. In fact, I didn’t purchase my first pair of new jeans until medical school. I wasn’t in piano lessons or sports because we couldn’t afford it … but I had my books and my pencils.” Education became her path to success. She completed a medical doctorate degree in 2002 from the University of Alberta. During her residency, she travelled to Gambia, Africa, where she worked as a volunteer at the local clinic

and for the HIV/AIDS Peer Health Education Program. Today, she’s a family doctor in Calmar, Alberta. But, with a desire to do more, she founded the Children of Vietnam Benevolent Foundation in 2013 to help give hope and opportunities to impoverished children in Vietnam through love, education and the provision of basic needs. “By never forgetting where I come from — from war and poverty — I remain grounded and humble in all that I do. That is why I pay forward all the goodness that has touched my life.” In 2016, she gathered friends to help sponsor and settle two Syrian refugee families. “Having myself been sponsored to Canada as a child refugee from the Vietnam War, I did not fully appreciate my sponsors until I stepped into their shoes,” she says. Tran-Davies also loves to write children’s stories, with proceeds unsurprisingly going to charity.

Samra Zafar Being brave


fter a decade of abuse as a child bride who came to Canada from Pakistan in a forced marriage, Samra Zafar escaped with her two daughters. She had been putting herself through university at the time and came across a sign outside the counselling centre. “The sign had a few questions: ‘Do you feel intimidated and afraid? Are you walking on eggshells? Do you feel you’ve lost your voice?’ I answered yes to all those questions.” Zafar made an appointment with a counsellor. “I learned that what was happening to me was not my fault. I learned of my rights in Canada as a woman and a human being. That knowledge gave me the courage to walk away from the abuse and create a new life for myself and my daughters.” Zafar eventually received a master’s in economics and embarked on a successful career in banking. But she also felt compelled to share her story with

others. Mississauga-based Zafar’s TEDx speech was named an all-time top 10 talk on gender-based violence, and her first book, A Good Wife, became a bestseller. She also founded Brave Beginnings, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting abuse survivors. “Everything I do, from speaking to mentoring, is to pay forward the support I received in my own journey,” says Zafar. “Even the smallest actions on our part can have a life-changing impact on others. I see that in the messages I receive. A man writing to me from Pakistan said, ‘I have a 17-year-old daughter whose wedding is next month and I’ve decided to cancel it and send her to school.’ A university student approaching me after a speech saying, ‘I’m going to the police right now to report my abuser and put the shame where it belongs.’ “These are the messages that keep me going,” Zafar says. “They keep me empowered to live with purpose.” CANADIANIMMIGRANT.CA |


Presenting the second Settlement Agency Award winner: Brampton Multicultural Community Centre


or the second year, Canadian Immigrant and RBC wanted to recognize the amazing work immigrant settlement agencies are doing to help newcomers integrate and succeed in Canada with the Settlement Agency Award. Readers nominated settlement agencies from across the country for this national award concurrent with the RBC Top 25 awards, and, after an online voting process, one agency received the votes to rise to the top — Brampton Multicultural Community Centre (BMC). “We are so excited about this award,” says Dima Amad, director of programs and services at BMC. “This is a recognition of all our work all these years and, most importantly, it is a vote of confidence from the community we serve.” Established in 1987 as a non-profit organization to aid newcomers in Canada with their settlement process, BMC offers a wide range of services, often partnering with other service providers and like-minded organizations, especially in the Peel Region of the Greater Toronto Area. “We don’t claim to know everything about everything. We realize the importance of strategic tie-ups with other organizations in the newcomer space who bring their own expertise to the table. They make us stronger as a service provider and we are able to create some very effective programming in the community,” says Amad.


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The organization, known for its work with newcomer youth, recently organized a hackathon in partnership with the faculty of engineering at McMaster University. Another significant project that’s underway is the Youth Leadership Project, Volunteer for Change (V4C), which aims to enhance the participation of immigrant and visible minority youth in social action. BMC also offers a range of programs and services including their employment services, which assist internationally trained newcomers with the job search process. Their Mind Your Health program, a culturally sensitive and linguistically appropriate

program for those experiencing mental health challenges, is as timely as it is relevant. With such diverse programming and accessibility (they are in almost every corner of Peel, in community centres, schools and libraries), it’s no surprise that BMC is taking the Settlement Agency Award home this year. “I think our values are reflected in the culture of our organization. From the senior management to the front office staff, we are all empathetic to the immigrant experience. In fact, 99 per cent of our staff came to Canada as immigrants, so we know their pain and hopes, and understand their journey,” says Amad. “We feel that so many of our stakeholders voted for us for this award because they know we go above and beyond.” Amad encourages newcomers to take advantage of the free services offered by BMC that will make their process of establishing themselves in Canada easier. “Make sure you meet new people, immerse yourselves in your communities, engage in your children’s schooling and make your voice heard. You have a lot to offer, so offer it with confidence,” she says.

PUBLIC NOTICE The Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (“ICCRC”) is the national regulatory body that serves and protects the public by overseeing licensed Canadian immigration and citizenship consultants and international student advisors. ICCRC’s federal mandate stems from the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) and the Citizenship Act. To ensure ongoing consumer protection, the Council administers a complaints and discipline process to ensure that its consultants and advisors comply with ICCRC’s Codes of Ethics and Regulations. Below is a list of Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (“RCICs”) who are currently subject to a suspension or revocation as a result of a disciplinary action. If you have any concerns about these individuals or any of our other members, we encourage you to contact us via our website with the information. This list was current at the time of publication and is subject to change. To see the most up-to-date list please visit ICCRC’s website.

Member Name

License# Company Name


Disciplinary Action

Effective Date

Artem Djukic


SOKO Immigration Services

Mississauga, ON

Interim Suspension


Cem Turetken


ACG Immigration and Recruitment Services Inc.

Toronto, ON



Oleksandr Arbetov


ARIS Consultants Immigration Inc. Vancouver, BC Revocation


Robert Proulx


Robert Proulx Consultant



Sunita Manhas


Simple Immigration Solutions Inc. Calgary, AB



Blainville, QC

Smells like team spirit

Steve Russell/TorStar

What do the Raptors have to do with it?


By Ramya Ramanathan

he share of immigrants in Canada has reached its highest level in almost a century – nearly 22 percent of the population, with the country welcoming 1.2 million new immigrants between 2011 and 2016 alone, according to the latest census numbers. And, new arrivals are always faced with challenges no matter how prepared we think we are. We have to learn the ways of a new society, find our place in it and explore opportunities to grow and become a part of it, and perhaps even develop an adjusted identity in this new milieu. Change, they say, can be full of new learnings but it can definitely be fun. Beyond just policy discussions around how best to make integration happen, the process starts in neighbourhoods where people come face to face with each other, relationships are established and the human spirit is able to connect us beyond our differences.

Sports is common ground Sports has a way of breaking down barriers and fostering positive connections. While integration may not be the primary reason newcomers decide to get involved in sports – whether to cheer, volunteer or play on the field – those who participate are more likely to find common ground to connect with others. The recent NBA playoffs is a stellar example – people from all cultures and communities from across the country rallied around the Toronto


CANADIAN IMMIGRANT Volume 16 Issue 3 | 2019

Raptors as they ultimately made history winning the NBA championship. The infectious fandom spread to newcomers as well. Says Indian-born Mohit A, “I’ve been in Canada only 14 months now, but I was feeling the vibe. I was cheering for the Raptors.” Often, people gravitate towards their own leagues and favourite sports from back home. Keeping those differences aside, coming together in the spirit of the game helps build more inclusive communities and provide a greater sense of belonging to transform our lives and make inroads into the communities we live in. Ask Torontonian Rafal G who moved to Canada with his parents as a teenager over two decades ago: “I do play sport but don’t usually follow any or basketball but I am happy the Raptors won. Yay Canada!” he cheers. “I feel like we all have something more in common, something to cheer about together – whether with co-workers or even socially.”

A sea of emotion These connections go much beyond the field. Nancy M has a big sign in support of the Raptors outside her office door. “Soccer is the game I follow. Being here, I feel the passion and belonging to my adopted home. Of late, I have been following basketball and the Raptors.” She moved to Canada from Italy over a decade ago, “Things like this bring the whole country together. Everybody is behind one single thought for Canada and who we are. I am proud of them,” she says.

For Steffen H who has lived in Canada for 13 years it was too exciting to not watch the Raptors. “I started following basketball with all the hype going on. Watching the game, I am surprised about how emotional I got. I even got a (cable) subscription to watch them. I watched documentaries about basketball, learned more about the players, and got really involved in the sport.” He even braved the crowds and took his son to watch the Raptors NBA Championship parade in downtown Toronto.

The changing landscape The changing demographics in Canada is impacting the sports being viewed and played. While hockey is generally considered the most popular sport in Canada, studies have found that it is not the most common sport among the youth anymore. Sports like swimming and soccer are becoming more popular. In addition, newcomers are bringing in their own sporting traditions whether it is cricket, badminton or table tennis. Studies have identified reasons for changes as newcomers being completely unfamiliar with certain sports, the perception of some sports as too aggressive (especially hockey), lack of opportunities to play informal pickup games or even just the lack of information. While sport won’t alone be enough to promote integration, it surely is a start. For now, let’s give kudos to Canadian James Naismith credited with founding the modern basketball game and soak in some “We The North” spirit.

Raptors fan and immigrant success story Mohamad Fakih revels in the team’s success left Mohamed Fakih, president & CEO, Paramount Fine Foods (right) with Raptors superfan Nav Bhatia (left) praying each in their own way for the Raptors to win. Both are past winners of the RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards.

What does supporting the Raptors mean to you? Supporting the Raptors means supporting a team that represents a diverse community. You feel more than welcomed; you feel accepted. It’s a beautiful feeling, people from all backgrounds celebrating and cheering together. We are even able to stand shoulder to shoulder and pray in our diverse ways to support a city and a country that has accepted us and brought us together. We become what we celebrate. When we celebrate the Raptors we are more alike than we are different. We must focus more on the things that join us than the things that divide us. As immigrants we look for ways to fit in and be part of the community. It means a lot to me that I belong and the love I have for the city of Toronto makes me support them, it’s what makes me proud.

What do you believe is the impact of sport in building community? I understand how important it is for immigrant communities to get involved in sport. Sport is especially important to our youth, and we bring all youth – immigrant and non-immigrant – together under the roof of the Paramount Fine Foods Centre (in Mississauga). Sports unite and attract youth and what attracts youth attracts families.

What does being Canadian mean to you? There is no limitation. This is a country that is giving us a hundred percent opportunity. The same rules apply to the people who came ages ago and those who came five days ago. It’s very important that we give great appreciation to a country and society that provided the opportunity and that should be front and centre in the way we build our life, culture, business and a company. I come from a country of war and for someone like me Canada is an

Photo Courtesy: M.Fakih

oasis with almost magical qualities. A country of rights and freedom, that brings families together from different backgrounds. Seeing people at the Raptors games, cheering and celebrating together and taking pride in this place we call home, that’s what it means to be Canadian.

What message do you have for newcomers? For the people who want to come here and succeed, don’t put one leg here and one leg there (in your homeland). Once you are here, keep your focus here and be more engaged in the community. You need to show up, volunteer, and become part of the community – whether it is through sports, or showing up to events, or befriending people from different backgrounds. Ask yourselves some important questions. How many people do you know from different backgrounds? Are you inclusive enough? It is very important that we send a message that we love this county.



Careers & Education career coach

Job interview follow up

Six steps to writing the perfect post-interview thank you note


e are all aware of the importance of sending a thank you note after an interview. A thank you note is just one of many considerations in a job interview process that could tip the scales in your favour. The obvious reason is that it’s just plain, good manners. Plus, it helps you get your name in front of the hiring team one more time and leave a positive impression. So what goes into the perfect post-interview thank you note?

did]. Through this project, I learned the most important elements of any business are the clients we serve...”

Show appreciation. Demonstrate initiative. Gain the edge.

“As we discussed during the interview, I counsel fresh graduates with their career goals. One of the programs I am passionate about is…” ------------------------------------

Ideally, a good note should cover the following: • Show appreciation for their time and thank the interviewer(s) • Reinforce that you appreciate their helpful gesture • Mention something specific you talked about or missed in the interview • Address any issues or gaps that may have come up during the interview • Demonstrate that you are willing to go the extra mile • Invite them to contact you if they have any questions or need further clarifications Here are six tips that will help polish your thank you note, demonstrate your passion and prove that you have your heart in the right place.


Start with a ‘thank you’

Your post-interview thank you note should tell the hiring manager why their time invested was well worth it. Leave an indelible impression by starting with a thank you and end with emphasizing how your skills perfectly fit the job.

For instance: “Dear ________, It was a pleasure meeting with you. Thank you for the opportunity to interview for



Reveal a new facet

Hiring managers always want to know you better. Include a few elements you left out in the interview. Think back to the interview and the answers you provided. Take time to include a sentence to expand on an answer or category.

For instance:

[Position] at your organization. I believe my five years of accounting experience and related skills will serve to …”


Show that you care

Why be just another name in the file when you can use your thank you note to show you actually care? Mention something that came up in the interview or a mutual interest you know of and make it personal, nice and respectful.

For instance: “Jeff, thank you for taking the time to explain [the piece of advice you offered on…]. I would love to discuss more methods to…”


Be more willing

Use this time to show that you know a little about the company. Remember key points from the interview and reiterate them. You can also ask questions, learn about the company’s social initiatives and expand upon these services and even offer suggestions.

For instance: “I was excited to learn that your organization engages with newcomer settlement groups by encouraging members to volunteer. I share similar values and plan to contribute by…”

CANADIAN IMMIGRANT Volume 16 Issue 3 | 2019


Demonstrate enthusiasm

Hiring managers want to hire happy, excited candidates. Regardless of the job title, demonstrate your enthusiasm all the way through from the cover letter to the interview, and later through the thank you note.

For instance: “Your organization’s involvement with [movement, charity, cause, etc.] really inspires me. I am excited because my experience in this field perfectly matches…”


Show that you are the perfect fit

Always give them a reason to believe that you’re a perfect fit and aligned with their values and philosophy. You could apply your core beliefs to those found on the company’s mission statement and show how you’ve applied these principles and values to your career and life.

For instance: “In my previous role as [position], I applied my knowledge of [area of expertise] by [explain what you

Sample thank you note: Dear ________, Thank you for taking the time to meet with me yesterday about the ______ position at your organization. It was a pleasure speaking with you, and I really enjoyed hearing all the details you shared about the opportunity. The role certainly sounds exciting, and it’s a role I believe I would excel in, thanks to my experience and skills. The information you shared about __________ sounded particularly interesting. I am confident that my skills will allow me to come in and succeed in this role, and it’s a position I’d be excited to take on. I look forward to hearing from you about next steps. Please don’t hesitate to contact me in the meantime if you have any questions. Thank you again, and I hope to hear from you soon. Best Regards, (Your Name)

Murali Murthy is an acclaimed public speaker, life coach and best-selling author of The ACE Principle, The ACE Awakening, The ACE Abundance and You Are HIRED!. He is also chairperson of CAMP Networking Canada. Learn how he can help unlock your magic at

careers and education T i p s f o r S e tt l i n g i n Fa s t e r

Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace


Three factors to consider when you are looking for a job

ith finding employment being one of the top priorities for new immigrants, it’s important to consider several factors when you are job hunting – including looking for an environment where you feel welcomed and supported. This is an important consideration given that we spend a lot of time on a daily basis in our workplace. Here are three factors to keep in mind in identifying organizations that support diversity and inclusion:


Ask questions

When interviewing for a role, use this opportunity to ask questions about the company’s culture and its philosophy on diversity and inclusion. While you would likely spend most of the interview with the hiring manager discussing the role at hand, often a member of the human resources team will prescreen you before you meet with

you have done your due diligence in getting to know the company.


the hiring manager, and they will be able to address questions about corporate culture and values. Tip: It is good to learn about the company overall, not just the specific role.


Do your research

Some companies may have been recognized for their diversity efforts or are affiliated with an organization that supports workplace diversity, which can lend you some insight on their commitment to diversity and inclusion and their

investment in these initiatives. Try seeking assistance from settlement agencies offering employment services to learn more about the employers you’re interested in. Tip: Bringing knowledge and insights from the research you’ve done before the interview could work in your favour and demonstrate that

Understand their philanthropic efforts

Companies that stand for a cause often provide support in the form of charitable giving or encouraging employees to volunteer their time and expertise for good causes. Understanding a company’s philanthropic priorities will lend insight into the causes they support and their involvement in the community. Tip: Consider volunteering for a cause that’s close to you. It’s not only fulfilling on a personal level but will also help build a network with those who share a common interest.

Ivy Chiu is the senior director, cultural markets, at RBC. Once a newcomer herself, Chiu is interested in helping newcomers integrate to life in Canada. Are you new to Canada or know someone who is? Visit for more advice.


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I m m i g r at i o n L aw

Is your spouse in Canada without legal status?


Sponsoring a spouse or common-law partner without immigration status in Canada

t is common knowledge that Canadian citizens or permanent residents can sponsor their spouses or common-law partners living abroad, or, in Canada as legal visitors, workers or students. What is less known is that they can also apply for spousal sponsorship for their partners living in Canada without legal status.

The policy In 2005, Canada established a public policy which required Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to process permanent residence applications for the spouses and common-law partners of Canadian citizens and permanent residents who live in Canada without legal immigration status. The policy was put in place to facilitate family reunification and inland processing, and to prevent hardship due to family separation. Lack of legal immigration status includes people who overstayed visas or permits, those who worked or studied without government authorization, entered the country without required visas and/or valid passports. The most typical situation involves people who travelled to Canada, became romantically involved with a Canadian, and then forgot that they needed to leave Canada by the end of their authorized stay period. It also frequently occurs from negligence where people submit incomplete forms or incorrect fee payments for extension of legal status. The policy does not extend to those who were previously deported and returned to Canada without authorization, those who entered Canada with fraudulent or improperly obtained passports or visas and those who are facing deportation for reasons such as misrepresentation or criminality.

The process People submitting sponsorship

applications under the policy need to meet all immigration requirements, other than having legal status in Canada. They need to show that their relationship is genuine and not for immigration purposes, and also that they are not inadmissible to Canada. Applicants – both the sponsor and the one being sponsored – should understand that the general misrepresentation provisions of Canadian immigration legislation apply to their sponsorship applications. Those who commit material misrepresentations will be removed from Canada and banned from returning for five years. It is important that applicants understand that they need not hide the fact that they are in Canada without status in their immigration ap-

plications, or omit unauthorized work. Unlike other applicants under the Spouse or Common-Law Partner in Canada Class, those applying for permanent residency under the public policy are not eligible to receive two-year open work permits during the processing of the sponsorship application.

A note of caution: deferring removal If an individual applies for permanent residency under the public policy, and they are subsequently

discovered by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to be in Canada without status, the CBSA will grant a 60-day deferral of removal. While this may not seem like a long deferral, in practice, IRCC prioritizes the processing of files once they are notified by CBSA that the administrative referral of removal has started. The deferral of removal will not apply in certain cases. Most importantly, if someone has submitted their immigration application, and CBSA subsequently detains them for being in Canada without status, then the CBSA will defer their removal. If the CBSA discovers someone to be in Canada without status, determines that they are removal ready, and also determines that they have not yet submitted a sponsorship application, then they will not receive a deferral of removal. The deferral of removal will not apply to those who are: • Inadmissible for security, human or international rights violations, serious criminality, criminality and organized criminality; • Those who have criminal charges pending; • Those who have outstanding warrants for removal; and • Those who have previously hindered or delayed removal. These instances are rare. It is far more likely that a family will be separated, and a person removed from Canada, because they did not submit their applications before they were discovered to be in Canada without status. Hopefully, the more publicized the policy is, the more people will apply before it is too late.

Steven Meurrens is an immigration lawyer with Larlee Rosenberg in Vancouver. Contact him at 604-681-9887, by email at, or visit his blog at CANADIANIMMIGRANT.CA |


settlement wellness

To your health


Managing diet and lifestyle for body and mind wellness

tress. The fact is that stress is neither good nor bad for us. Too little of it and we are not motivated to grow, or change. Too much stress and our body’s natural defence systems weaken, draining our energy and immune function, leaving us vulnerable to ill health – physical and mental ill health. With an epidemic of chronic diseases in our society today, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s as well as mental health and stress-related disorders, the impact on individuals, families and employers is devastating. According to a recent study, a staggering $2.5 trillion is spent on healthcare globally each year. While your genetic makeup can be a reason, research attributes only a small percentage to such biological causes. Good nutrition and a healthy, active lifestyle can delay the onset of many chronic diseases, even if you have a family history of the illness. Managing nutrition and lifestyle choices are important in creating a long and healthy life.

Combine a healthy diet with an active lifestyle When you regularly eat a diet that consists mainly of processed food (junk food), refined sugars and carbohydrates (think ‘white’ or ‘beige’ foods) you will create disease in the body and mind. Poor quality food offers little nutritional benefit and deprives our body of the essential vitamins, minerals and enzymes that our body and mind need to function well. Processed foods also add more toxins to the body which reduce our tolerance for stress, drain our energy, and negatively impact our focus, patience and motivation. You sleep poorly, you can’t think clearly (often referred to as ‘brain fog’), are more likely to feel anxious and gain weight. Likewise, when you spend too many hours being inactive, or deskbound, our health deteriorates and puts us at increased risk


of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. Making good choices about the food you buy and eat, and making time for fresh air and exercise can prevent many of these illnesses. In the short term, you will be rewarded with more energy, clarity, motivation and peace of mind – all of which will help you as you build your life in Canada.

Manage your mind A very important part of the lifestyle factor is how you manage your mind and the way you think. Every action and every decision starts with a thought. When setbacks and challenges occur in your life, do you get trapped in a cycle of negative thinking, criticizing, blaming, justifying, allowing the situation to consume or overwhelm you? If so, how does this make you feel? What impact does that have on others around you? Is this way of dealing with the situation helpful? Does it move you forward? Usually the response is no, not at all. Maybe you can stand back, and get some perspective on the issue, before deciding what to do about it (which could include doing nothing). When problems

CANADIAN IMMIGRANT Volume 16 Issue 3 | 2019

arise, or events unfold that are unexpected and unwelcome, do you focus your time and energy on what you can do about it? Are you able to ‘let go’ of things that you can do nothing about, or that don’t really matter? This doesn’t mean that things don’t bother you, or you don’t show emotion. You simply focus on being proactive; thinking about how you will respond to whatever has happened, rather than getting stuck, going around in circles and getting nowhere. It’s this type of thinking that will enable you to find solutions, attract others to you, and help you find the resources you need to create the life you want. Naturally, you will be unable to change some of the things you will feel unhappy about, and wish were different. If this is the case, the best thing you can do, as far as your health and wellbeing are concerned, is to accept the situation, learn from it (as appropriate), and give yourself permission to move on, within a reasonable time peri-

od. The alternative is to keep heaping stress onto yourself by constantly focusing on your concerns, and yet doing nothing differently to influence the situation or change the way you think and feel.

Think about your attitude “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity” – Albert Einstein. Whatever your approach to the challenges that life throws at you, it’s how you think about what happens to you, not the event or circumstance itself that makes the difference. It’s helpful to remember that while you do not have control over these inevitable setbacks, you do have control within these circumstances. You are in control of you and that starts with what’s happening in your head. This is the only place a negative or positive thought exists. When was the last time you thought about the way you think? How might your attitude be affecting your physical and mental health?

Hazel Morley has worked as a trainer, facilitator and coach for more than 25 years, in England and after immigrating to Canada in 2009. After her own personal health crisis, she shifted gears to focus on strategies for enjoying optimal health.



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Summer 2019

bucket list: exploring local community and beyond By Baisakhi Roy


ew immigrants to Canada can look forward to a hot, hot summer full of fun activities with the family, especially with the young ones. This is also the perfect time and opportunity to get to know your neighbours and the community at large.

Explore your neighbourhood Summer is short – eight weeks and some change. Keep this in mind when you are planning your day-to-day schedule, especially


CANADIAN IMMIGRANT Volume 16 Issue 3 | 2019

with young children. Every day doesn’t have to be a trip to Canada’s Wonderland or the Water Park in Granville Island – you can simply start by getting to know your neighbourhood better while enjoying nature around you. Hiking through your neighbourhood trails is not only a healthy activity to enjoy with the entire family but also a way to familiarize yourself with your new surroundings. And here’s a fun way to incorporate technology into your adventure. Try geocaching – a

cool outdoor treasure hunting game using GPSenabled devices where participants navigate direction on the app and try to find the geocache (container) hidden at a particular location.

Soak up the local culture Get your kids together with their neighbourhood pals and hit the local museums, libraries and free events in the summer. Major museums like the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in Toronto, the Royal

BC Museum in Vancouver, and not to mention Alberta’s Royal Tyrrell for dinosaur enthusiasts, offer great summer discounts to their regular and specialized programming. And there are the hidden gems – the neighbourhood museums which have documented the history of the community and city you are living in. Summer is also when all the multicultural festivals and events happen around the country. From carnival-like outdoor events such as the Ribfest (great food, live music and games) to parades like Caribana, a stunning showcase of Caribbean music, cuisine and culture, there’s something for everyone. Invite your new friends and neighbours to join your family for a perfect day out while making some great connections. “Going to the CNE is our summer tradition but there are so many great local events we try to participate in as a family. I have been meaning to talk to my local councillor about organizing a street festival since it would give us an opportunity to mingle with some more of our neighbours – we’re in a big neighbourhood of at least 10 or 15 streets,” says Indian-born Veena N from Levi Creek neighbourhood in Mississauga.

See what’s on offer at your local library The public library system is not only a treasure trove for books and audio-visual material but also hosts excellent events like the Conversation Circle Programs geared toward newcomers. While the young ones read and play,

you make new connections and can bond over shared experiences of being new immigrants in Canada. “Sometimes all you want is to have a chat about the day-to-day things in life. Much of a new immigrant’s life, at least in the first few years revolves around finding accommodation or employment or ESL services,” says Polish-born Liliana K, a resident of Oakville, Ontario. “But in a conversation circle, there’s so much more to talk about – your shared interests, hobbies, life experiences. I’ve met some interesting people at my sessions and I feel a few of them will be friends for life.”

Go digital to make new friends Do some research online and join social media groups so you can attend events in real life. If your neighbourhood has a Facebook page, join it. You can engage in online conversations and find interesting activities to join. If you enjoy a specific activity like hiking, find out if there is a group in your neighbourhood that organizes regular get-togethers. You can also do a google search to see if your local community centre is organizing a community potluck, barbeque or other events in the summer. Settlement agencies also offer information online about the recreational programming services they offer to newcomers (in the summer and throughout the year.) Look at your city’s events calendar to keep track of the networking or community-building

activities of interest to you. Get your social hat on and attend to make more connections.

Learn a skill or sport Not a great swimmer? Not to worry. There are swimming lessons available for all skill levels at the local community centre. And if you have kids who want nothing more than to paddle about in the pool, it’s a perfect play date for them with their friends while you share a cuppa with their parents. If you are an expert swimmer, volunteering at a summer swim camp or at the local pool as a lifeguard, is one of the ways to network within the community and get to know more families who share your interests. Learning to swim is right up there with learning to drive in the life skills list, especially for a newcomer in Canada. Nothing like snow-free roads when you’re learning to drive! Being able to drive affords you the freedom to go wherever you please, whenever you please. Who knows, with enough practice you might emerge a certified license holder by the time fall rolls up and even plan a short road trip with friends. Bonus? You could be the one to volunteer to take up the next carpool when school reopens in September or to the train station to go to work!

Immerse yourself in Canadiana Speaking of road trips, if you are confident

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of your driving skills, there’s nothing more exhilarating or more Canadian than exploring Canada! The country is a stunning smorgasbord of mountains, lakes, boreal forests and provincial parks. Your first jaunt doesn’t have to be a cross-country trip. And, if you don’t have your license yet, explore other options like trains or buses that could take you there! Pick the nearest natural wonder and head there with a couple of other families. Make it a day trip or an overnight one; the more adventurous ones can also attempt to pitch a tent in one of the numerous provincial parks that abound in diverse and rich flora. From personal experience, there are few things as peaceful as the sound of raindrops pattering down on a tent, while camped right in the middle of the great Canadian wilderness. When you become a seasoned camper over the span of a few summers, you can try portaging your kayak around a river to go to another stretch of land! If you prefer a more indoor vibe, a trip to Ottawa, to the Canadian parliament is educational and as Canadian an experience as it can get. And don’t forget to pick up a gooey beaver tail to munch on your way there! With contributions from Ramya Ramanathan


CANADIAN IMMIGRANT Volume 16 Issue 3 | 2019


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Profile for Canadian Immigrant

Canadian Immigrant - July 2019  

Announcing the RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award winners!

Canadian Immigrant - July 2019  

Announcing the RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award winners!