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About RBC > Media Newsroom > News Releases > Celebrity entrepreneur, ballet director, womens activist, boy genius and an everyday hero among the winners of the 2014 RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant awards

Celebrity entrepreneur, ballet director, women's activist, boy genius and an everyday hero among the winners of the 2014 RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant awards


Dragons’ Den’s Arlene Dickinson, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal’s Gradimir Pankov along with 23 other inspiring immigrants are the 2014 recipients


TORONTO, June 24, 2014 -  South African-born celebrity entrepreneur Arlene Dickinson of Dragon’s Den has been named one of this year’s RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrants for not only her achievements, but her philanthropy as well. Other winners of the sixth annual RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant awards, presented by Canadian Immigrant magazine, include Macedonian-born Gradimir Pankov, artistic director of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, Ugandan-born Farah Mohamed, president and CEO of the G(irls)20 Summit in Toronto, Indian-born child prodigy Sarthak Sinha of Calgary, and Bangladesh-born Manwar Khan, an everyday hero who intervened in a violent attack in Edmonton. The awards celebrate the inspiring stories and achievements of these and other notable immigrants to Canada.

“Every year, we have yet another amazing group of 25 winners. This year’s 25 are as diverse as they are interesting,” says Margaret Jetelina, editor of Canadian Immigrant Magazine. “Thanks to the people who nominated and voted for them, we have uncovered the inspiring stories of artists, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, volunteers and activists from across the country who are truly making Canada a better place.”

More than 630 nominations were received in just two months, from which 75 finalists were shortlisted by a diverse judging panel, including several past winners. More than 40,000 votes were cast online, making it the most popular year in the award’s history. The final 25 were chosen based on a combination of votes and a second round of judging.

The award winners will be honoured at an awards ceremony in Toronto on June 24 and on June 26 in Vancouver. The program is proudly supported by title sponsor RBC Royal Bank and associate sponsor Chevrolet. The awards program is also supported by the Toronto Star, Metro Newspaper, Sing Tao, CBC Toronto and South Asian Focus.

“This year’s winners truly exemplify the Canadian dream and are real examples of opportunity and diversity right here in Canada,” said Christine Shisler, director, Multicultural Markets, RBC. “These awards do more than just recognize 25 of the best. The RBC Top 25 Immigrant awards create a community for all Canadians who have been recognized as inspirational by their peers. Whether they are new to Canada, or celebrating 20 years in this country, we recognize all of the nominees and winners for their outstanding contributions and for making a difference.”

For the second year, associate sponsor Chevrolet will recognize one of the 25 winners with the Chevrolet Ingenuity Award for showing exceptional creativity and skill on their road to success. The winner will be announced at the Toronto ceremony.

“The people recognized by the RBC Top 25 Immigrant Awards have a true passion for our country, an inventive nature and are an inspiration to many,” said Paul Bailey, Advertising Manager, Chevrolet. “It takes a significant amount of resourcefulness and creativity to come to a new country and break cultural and social barriers to achieve great success. The Chevrolet Ingenuity Award was designed to recognize the efforts of a truly inspirational individual.”

Each of the RBC Top 25 award winners will receive a commemorative plaque and a $500 donation will be made towards a registered Canadian charity of their choice. Winners will also be featured on and in the July print edition of Canadian Immigrant Magazine.

The RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award winners of 2014 (in alphabetical order):

Vivian Abboud (Edmonton/Lebanon) is a senior manager with Alberta Education, a business owner (Viva Café), an EdD candidate, and a community advocate who played a key role in the development of the Women of Advocacy Voice of Edmonton WAVE.

Akram Al-otumi (Halifax /Yemen) was an international student who turned his experiences into an innovative business, the Azal Student Agency to support immigrants and students in their transition.

Dalal Al-Waheidi (Toronto/Palestine) is executive director of global We Day, where she is spearheading the We Day-Free The Children’s signature domestic program.

Naval Bajaj (Brampton/India) is an entrepreneur, the youngest elected president of the Indo Canada Chamber of Commerce (ICCC), and has led two trade missions to India.

Amit Chakma (London, ON /Bangladesh) is Western University’s 10th president and vice chancellor, and a passionate advocate of post-secondary education, especially for the important role international students play in Canada.

Shala Chandani (Vancouver /Tanzania) has been serving the Canadian Ismaili Muslim community as a volunteer for more than 20 years, dedicating many hours per week, and working full time as an HR professional.

Senthi Chelliah (Markham, ON / Sri Lanka) is a fixture in Toronto’s Tamil community, having started a telephone hotline service and later a business directory, Tamils’ Guide.

Arlene Dickinson (Vancouver/South Africa) is a successful entrepreneur and venture capitalist, a regular on TV’s Dragons’ Den and a philanthropist who helps causes such as Breakfast Clubs of Canada.

Alan Diner (Toronto/South Africa) is a lawyer who dedicates much of his time to mentoring immigrants, young lawyers and doing pro-bono work for refugees. He was recently appointed a federal court judge.

Nassreen Filsoof (Vancouver/Iran) is a nurse by profession and owner of a long-term health care facility, as well as president and CEO of the Canadian Iranian Foundation, with a mission to facilitate the integration of new immigrants.

Roberto Hausman (Toronto/Uruguay) was nominated as one of the 10 most influential Hispanics in Canada, is the founder and director of the Canadian Law Enforcement Training College, and the founder of the charity Needy Children Assistance.

Mobina Jaffer (Vancouver/Uganda) was the first woman of South Asian heritage to be appointed to the Canadian Senate. She represents the province of British Columbia in the Senate, where she chairs the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights.

Manwar Khan (Edmonton/Bangladesh) is an Alberta public service employee who tried to intervene in a violent attack at a train station that ended in a tragic death. He is now using his experience to create awareness against violence.

Dr. Surinder Singh Khurana (Mississauga/India) is a successful, internationally trained dentist who today helps others through their licensing process as the director of the Ontario Simulation Training Centre (OSTC) for Foreign-Trained Dentists.

Peter Mielzynski (Burlington, ON /Poland) is one of the pioneers of the Ontario wine industry whose hard work and vision have changed the business of winemaking in Canada.

Gentil Misigaro (Winnipeg/Congo) is a talented musician, producer, and performer who has contributed his time and talents toward teaching at-risk children free music programs via the charitable organization Status4 Inc.

Farah Mohamed (Toronto/Uganda) is president and CEO of the G(irls)20 Summit, an annual international event that brings together young women ahead of the G20 Summit to find ways to bring economic empowerment to women around the world.

Gradimir Pankov (Montreal/Macedonia) is artistic director of Les Grands Ballets de Montréal, a Canadian dance company he has taken to new global heights under his leadership.

Alberto Rodil (Toronto/Philippines) is an immigrant settlement worker at Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office who brings hope to thousands of his newcomer clients in Canada, particularly seniors, through his work.

Sarthak Sinha (Calgary/India) is a high school student doing research at a graduate level in the sciences, and has been recognized for his “genius” with several awards.

Julie Suen (Richmond Hill, ON/Hong Kong) is president and CEO of Canadian Chinese Radio, using her role in the media to promote equality and racial harmony. She is also an active community volunteer and fundraiser for various causes.

Ilse Treurnicht (Toronto/South Africa) is CEO of the MaRS Discovery District, a leading innovation centre that strives to position Canada as a leader in the innovation economy.

John Volken (Surrey, BC/Germany) is the successful entrepreneur behind the United Furniture Warehouse, who now focuses on his philanthropic foundation, helping recovering addicts and children in poverty.

James Wang (Burnaby/China) is vice-president of Canadian Overseas Holdings, a senior advisor with Canada Export Centre, and a school trustee in Burnaby, working to benefit children in the public school system.

Dr. Anna Wolak (Vancouver/Philippines) is a family physician who has demonstrated strong leadership within the medical community, including involvement in UBC Medical School educational planning committees.

About Canadian Immigrant and
Attracting more than 400,000 readers each month and over 100,000 visitors every month online, Canadian Immigrant is distributed in Toronto and Vancouver and helps new Canadians build a successful life and home in Canada. Its mandate to inform, educate and motivate provides content for newcomers looking for information on careers, education and settling-in to culture and business. Our website,, offers daily editorial, forums, tools and resources to help newcomers across Canada. Canadian Immigrant is a division of Metroland Media Group Limited, a dynamic media company with more than 100 community and daily newspapers in print and online, as well as innovative websites including,, and

About RBC
Royal Bank of Canada is Canada’s largest bank, and one of the largest banks in the world, based on market capitalization. We are one of North America’s leading diversified financial services companies, and provide personal and commercial banking, wealth management services, insurance, investor services and capital markets products and services on a global basis. We employ approximately 79,000 full- and part-time employees who serve more than 16 million personal, business, public sector and institutional clients through offices in Canada, the U.S. and 42 other countries. For more information, please visit

RBC supports a broad range of community initiatives through donations, sponsorships and employee volunteer activities. In 2013, we contributed more than $104 million to causes worldwide, including donations and community investments of more than $69 million and $35 million in sponsorships. Learn more at

About Chevrolet in Canada
Founded in 1911 in Detroit, Chevrolet is now one of the world's largest car brands, doing business in more than 140 countries and selling more than 4 million cars and trucks a year. Chevrolet provides customers with fuel-efficient vehicles that feature spirited performance, expressive design and high quality. More information on Chevrolet models can be found at, on Facebook at or by following @ChevroletCanada on Twitter.

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For more information, contact:

Canadian Immigrant
Sanjay Agnihotri, 905-273-8111,

Ciaran Dickson, 647-625-2763,

Adria MacKenzie, 905-644-6044,

Dyversity Communications Irene Tang, 905 907-6911,