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About RBC > Media Newsroom > News Releases > RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards: LGBTQ activist, window washer turned cargo airline CEO, ballet dancer and youth philanthropist among this year’s recipients

RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards: LGBTQ activist, window washer turned cargo airline CEO, ballet dancer and youth philanthropist among this year’s recipients

Celebrating immigrant success as Canada turns 150

TORONTO, June 27, 2017 -  Syria-born LGBTQ activist and emerging author, Ahmad Danny Ramadan has been named among the 9th annual RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrants, along with doctors, artists, entrepreneurs and philanthropists. Presented by Canadian Immigrant magazine and sponsored by RBC Royal Bank, this annual awards program celebrates the achievements of inspiring Canadian immigrants.

Canada is certainly a land of immigrants and it shows in the diversity of our winners this year who originally hail from different parts of the world, but now call Canada home. From The Honourable Ahmed D. Hussen MP, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, to Lebanon-born CEO of food dynasty Paramount Fine Foods, to tech startup guru from Fiji, to a celebrated Lawyer from India, each of our winners is truly inspiring in what they have achieved professionally or personally.

“What an amazing year for the awards and Canada! We’ve had a record number of votes cast this year — 55,000+ — which is a true testament to the important contributions immigrants make to this great nation of ours,” says Margaret Jetelina, editor, Canadian Immigrant magazine.

The RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award winners will be honoured at ceremonies in Toronto today, and in Vancouver on June 29. The program is proudly supported by title sponsor RBC Royal Bank. In addition, two winners will be selected for special recognition, the RBC Entrepreneur Award and the new Youth Award.

Ajay Virmani, president and CEO or CargoJet, Canada’s largest cargo airline, is the third annual recipient of the RBC Entrepreneur Award for excellence in entrepreneurship.

Ishita Aggarwal, scientist, women’s rights advocate and youth philanthropist, is the first recipient of the Youth Award – a new award established this year. The award recognizes immigrant youth who are making a difference in their adopted country through achievement demonstrating that when we invest in youth great things happen.

“RBC is proud to celebrate the outstanding accomplishments and contributions of Canadian newcomers. The RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards showcase the richness and diversity newcomers add to the fabric of our communities,” says Ivy Chiu, Senior Director, Cultural Markets. “For close to 150 years, we have welcomed new Canadians from all around the world and we look forward to seeing how they help shape Canada for the next 150 years. Congratulations to all winners and nominees.”

Hundreds of nominations were received, from which 75 finalists were shortlisted by a diverse judging panel that included several past winners. Over 55,000 online votes were cast, making it the most popular year in the award’s history. The 25 winners were chosen based on a combination of votes and a second round of judging.

The RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award winners will receive a commemorative plaque and a $500 donation will be made towards a registered Canadian charity of their choice. Winners will also be featured online at and in the July print edition of Canadian Immigrant magazine.

The awards program is also supported by the Toronto Star, Metro Newspaper, Sing Tao, CBC Toronto and South Asian Focus newspaper.

The RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award winners of 2017 are listed in alphabetical order below and include current city residence and home country in parentheses. Full biographies are available on the Canadian Immigrant website.

The RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award winners of 2017:

Ishita Aggarwal (Vaughan/India) is our inaugural Youth Award winner. She recently completed an honours bachelor of science in cell and molecular biology, neuroscience and psychology at the University of Toronto. She is also a women’s equity advocate and youth philanthropist.

Dr. Zulfiqar A. Bhutta (Toronto/Pakistan) is the Robert Harding Inaugural Chair in Global Child Health at the Hospital for Sick Children and the co-director of the SickKids Centre for Global Child Health.

Gabriela Covaci (Burlington, Ontario/Romania) is an employment consultant with the Centre for Community Partnerships and Experiential Learning at Mohawk College in Hamilton. She is also founder of non-profit RoCaTeach, which provides events and programs free of charge to multicultural families.

Dahlia ElShafie-Mostafa (Calgary/Egypt) is president and CEO of CLICK Coaching & Counselling Inc. She is a professional certified master life coach, counsellor and trainer, as well as a writer, motivational speaker and a humanitarian as well.

Mohamad Fakih (Mississauga/Lebanon) is president and CEO of Paramount Fine Foods, a growing empire of Middle Eastern cuisine. He has also been active in supporting Syrian refugees with employment and paid for funeral expenses for the victims of the Quebec mosque attack.

Jennifer Gillivan (Halifax/Ireland) is president and CEO of the IWK Foundation, the fundraising and outreach partner of the IWK Health Centre. She was named Halifax Business Person of the Year 2017.

Chan Hon Goh (Vancouver/China) is a celebrated former principal dancer with National Ballet of Canada and now the director of the Goh Ballet School. She also has her own line of ballet pointe shoes called Principal.

Raghwa Gopal (Kelowna/Fiji) is CEO of technology accelerator Accelerate Okanagan and a notable entrepreneur, investor, business mentor, philanthropist and community builder.

Maziar Heidari (Toronto/Iran) is a well-known Iranian-Canadian conductor, composer, pianist and educator. He is also a co-founder of Iranian-Canadian Composers of Toronto.
Minister Ahmed Hussen (Toronto/Somalia) is a lawyer, federal MP for York-South Weston, and the current Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

Abdullah Kafashe (Salluit, Quebec/Tanzania) has served his Arctic community as a social studies teacher, an intervention agent at a youth rehab centre and an on-call worker for social services. He co-founded the Salluit Run Club for Inuit youth, and captured their stories in a film, which will be screened at the Canadian Sport Film Festival in June 2017 in Toronto.

Tony Luk (Toronto/Hong Kong) is president of CanHome Group and has served as president of the Canada-China Overseas Exchange Association, Canadian China Trade Promotion Association, Guangdong Chamber of Commerce in Canada and Canada Guangdong Overseas Friendship Association.

Trish Tarisai Mandewo (Coquitlam/Zimbabwe) is owner of Vancouver Tumblebus, founder and CEO of Sensabus Society of BC and co-founder of Tri-Cities Women’s Collaborative Leadership Hub.

Florfina Marcelino (Winnipeg/Philippines) became the first woman of colour ever elected to the Manitoba Legislative Assembly in 2007, and then the first person of ethnic background to be given a cabinet position. She is now the interim leader of the Manitoba provincial NDP Party, the official opposition.

Noella Milne (Toronto/India) is a partner practising law in the Toronto office of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP. She was also one of the first minority women to head the Canadian Club; she is now an honorary life director.

Agnes Pasaport Miranda (Stouffville, Ontario/Philippines) is as an executive vice chairman of World Financial Group (WFG). She is also a promoter of culture and beauty championing the Filipino Canadian community in many community and fashion events.

Dr. Muhammad Morshed (Vancouver/Bangladesh) is a public health clinical scientist at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control in Vancouver, where he is program head of zoonotic and emerging pathogens. He is also a clinical professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of British Columbia.

Dr. James Orbinski (Guelph, Ontario/U.K.) is a medical doctor, a humanitarian and a leading scholar in global health, representing Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders. He is a professor and CIGI Research Chair in Global Health at the Balsillie School of International Affairs, Laurier University and co-founder of Dignitas international.

Shahrzad Rafati (Vancouver/Iran) is the trailblazing entrepreneur behind Broadband TV. She is credited with pioneering both the technology and business model that made peace between large entertainment entities and their fans that were uploading premium content online.
Ahmad Danny Ramadan (Vancouver/Syria) is an international journalist and the community outreach co-ordinator of QMUNITY, B.C.’s Queer Resource Centre He also volunteers with Rainbow Refugee Society. The Clothesline Swing, his first novel in English, was published in May 2017.

Miroslav Reljic (Calgary/Croatia) heads up leadership coaching company Reljic Coached since 2013. When he is not coaching executives at the Cambridge Judge Business School, he is volunteering with newcomers and jobseekers in Calgary.

Ninela Sanchez (Mississauga/Venezuela) is a former Miss Canada Latin and a TV personality as co-host of Hey Latino TV. She also works for Univision Canada, and runs a yearly campaign to raise funds for Autism Canada, Operation Smile and the Canadian Bullying organization.

Kuldeep Sharma (Mississauga/India) is president and CEO of Crown Group of Hotels. He is also a frequent sponsor and supporter of the Chamber of Commerce, the Board of Trade, film festivals, multiple non-for-profit organizations, health foundations and many more community organizations.

Ajay Virmani (Oakville/India) is this year’s RBC Entrepreneur Award winner. He is the president and CEO of CargoJet, Canada’s largest cargo airline. He’s also a film producer, recently producing the films Dr. Cabbie (2014) and Breakaway (2010) under Firsttake Entertainment Ltd.

Senator Yuen Pau Woo (Vancouver/Malaysia) is an independent member of the Senate of Canada. Previously, he was president of HQ Vancouver, a public-private partnership, and president and CEO of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada.

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, Vancouver and Calgary and helps new Canadians build a successful life and home in Canada. Our mandate to arrive, succeed and inspire- 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

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