Chocolatier and medical student among Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award winners

Shelby Thevenot
Published: September 22, 2020

Immigrant entrepreneurs, activists, and academics across Canada have been recognized for their contributions to the country in a nation-wide immigrant awards program.

The RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards acknowledges the achievements of immigrants across the country. The winners are selected by a combination of online voting, and a team of judges.

“We’ve had a record number of votes cast totalling more than 72,000 — which is a true testament to the important contributions immigrants make to this great nation of ours, and the need for us all to celebrate positive stories in these challenging times,” Sanjay Agnihotri, Director, Canadian Immigrant magazine, said in a media release.

Find out if you are eligible for Canadian immigration

Out of the Top 25 winners, two have been selected for the Entrepreneur Award and the Youth Award.

Tareq Hadhad was given the RBC Entrepreneur Award, which recognizes excellence in entrepreneurship. Hadad is the founder and CEO of Peace By Chocolate, based out of Antigonish, Nova Scotia. It started as a small kitchen operation but is now available across Canada. Some of the Peace By Chocolate proceeds go to peace-building operations around the word.

Maryam Yaqoob received the RBC Youth Award for her work mentoring refugee youth, and co-founding the Calgary STEM Cell Chapter. She is a Doctor of Medicine student at the University of Calgary.

Winners receive a commemorative plaque and ceremonial gift package. They will also be featured in Canadian Immigrant magazine. Here are the remaining To 25 Canadian Immigrant Award winners in alphabetical order.

Ajibola (Jibs) Abitoyen

Originally from Nigeria, Abitoyen is a councillor for the City of Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta. She is also the founder of Divineity Fashion, a clothing store that brings business to women and families in Nigeria. A portion of the funds from her fashion line go to an organization helping survivors of domestic abuse.

Shahab Anari

Anari emigrated from Iran to Toronto and became the co-founder of North Star Success, a personal branding agency helping coaches and consultants. He is a Futurpreneur Canada mentor and also hosts free seminars and webinars on personal and professional development.

Samer Bishay

Bishay is the President and CEO of Iristel and Ice Wireless, Canada’s leading provider of wireless and wireline IP services and is an Honorary Colonel of 34 Signal Regiment of the Canadian Armed Forces. He came from Egypt and now lives in Markham, Ontario.

Serena Chan

Chan moved to Toronto from Hong King and is a partner in the IBM Financial Services sector in IBM Global Business Services. She holds 16 professional certifications and is a four-time IBM Redbook author. Recently, she was also named one of Canada’s Top 50 women in FinTech.

Kanwar Dhanjal

Dhanjal emigrated from India and is now the CEO of Just Instruments Inc., which specializes in instrument calibration. He is the former president of the Indo Canada Chamber of Commerce and is currently the Director of the Brampton Board of Trade.

Sharmarke Dubow

Dubow is a city councillor in Victoria, B.C. He has helped make public transit free, started a renters advisory committee, fought for the addition of affordable housing in Victoria, and initiated reconciliation dialogues between Indigenous and newcomer community members. He is originally from Somalia.

Isaac Garcia-Sitton

Garcia-Sitton is the inaugural Executive Director, International Student Enrolment, Education and Inclusion at Ryerson University and is currently working on his Ph.D. in Education: Language, Culture and Teaching at York University. He immigrated to Toronto from Spain.

Virginia Guiang-Santoro

Guian-Santoro from the Philippines is the founder of the Filipino Domestic Workers Association of Manitoba (FIDWAM), working to protect the rights of live-in caregivers in Manitoba. He is now retired.

Basavaraj Halli

Halli is the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of GoFor Industries Inc, which provides last-minute, last-mile delivery services to the construction industry. The company has recently expanded into 60 major urban markets in Canada and the U.S.A. Originally from India, he is now based in Ottawa, Ontario.

Hamza Haq

Haq is an actor, currently starring as Bashir 'Bash' Hamed on the CTV medical drama Transplant. With a bachelor of arts in film studies and a minor in law from Carleton University, his acting credits also include Indian Detective, This Life, Quantico and the Art of More. Now based in Ottawa, he is originally from Pakistan.

Mike Hurley

Hurley, an immigrant from Ireland, is the Mayor of Burnaby B.C., former lieutenant of the Burnaby Fire Department and former president of the Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund. He also has received Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal and the Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Shanthi Johnson, Ph.D.

Johnson is a professor and dean of the University of Alberta’s School of Public Health in Edmonton. She is a leader in the fields of health promotion and healthy aging. She has dedicated her research career to falls prevention in seniors, and social isolation especially among immigrant and refugee seniors. Johnson is an immigrant from India.

Meryam Joobeur

Joobeur is a graduate of the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema in Montreal, and is a writer and director. Her film, Brotherhood, received 75 prizes at 150 festivals including the Toronto International Film Festival and was nominated for an Oscar in 2020. She originally from Tunisia.

Conny Lo

Lo, from Hong Kong, is the Associate Director at SickKids Foundation. She leads the fundraising and promotion of global child health in the Chinese community. She has raised almost $200,000 for the Baby Caden Koo Memorial Fund, which she founded in her son’s memory.

Jakub Martinec, Ph.D.

Martinec is the Director of Choral Activities at Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John’s. He is the founding Artistic Director of the Atlantic Boychoir and Artistic Director and conductor of the National Boychoir of Canada having performed all over the world. He is an immigrant from Czech Republic.

Adeola Olubamiji, Ph.D.

Olubamiji is a scientist who specializes in metal and 3D printing. She is the founder of STEMHub Foundation, a non-profit organization promoting the engagement of minorities and females in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers. Olubamiji is originally from Nigeria.

Fariba Pacheleh

Pacheleh is the Director of Project Management Office for the BC Liquor Distribution Branch and chair of BCIT School of Computing PAC (Program Advisory Committee), providing strategic advice and assistance to BCIT. She is now based in Vancouver after emigrating from Iran.

Bruce Poon Tip

Poon Tip is a bestselling author based in Toronto, and the founder of G Adventures, an award-winning small group adventure travel company. It is a pioneer of community tourism, and is the world's largest small-group adventure travel company. He is originally from Trinidad and Tobago.

Dr. Henry Reis

Reis is the CEO and owner of Integra Eyecare Centre an innovation hub in Burnaby, B.C. He is also the co-founder and CEO of OSDx, having developed the first artificial intelligence corneal imaging device in the world. Reis is originally from Brazil.

Arlene Ruiz

Ruiz is the owner of Alexene Immigration and Employment Services Inc., a licensed immigration consultant and recruiter. She contributes to ANCOP (Answering the Cry of the Poor), Make a Wish Foundation, and the Children’s Wish Foundation. Ruiz immigrated to Saskatoon from the Philippines

Krishana Sankar, Ph.D.

Sankar is the communications lead and operational strategist with COVID-19 Resources Canada, and founder of GradWriteSlack. She is an award-winning and published Doctoral Fellow in the faculty of medicine looking to better understand and improve treatment for type 1 diabetes. Sankar is based in Toronto and emigrated from Guyana.

Harsh Thakkar

Surrey-based Thakkar is the Manager of social enterprise DIVERSEcity Interpretation and Translation Services, leading a team of 300+ interpreters and translators to promote cross-cultural communication in B.C. He is also an advocate for international students and has volunteered with Canadian Cancer Society. Thakkar is originally from India.

Halia Valladares Montemayor

Valladares Montemayor is a faculty member at Thompson Rivers University managing partner at Global Trading and DS, Inc. She is also a professor at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. Originally, she came from Mexico.

In honour of the award winners, RBC has donated $50,000 to Windmill Microlending, a charity that helps internationally trained newcomers pay for the Canadian credentials they need. The donation is intended to support the re-accreditation of 50 internationally trained immigrants in the healthcare profession who on the frontlines in the fight against coronavirus.

“RBC is proud to celebrate and support newcomers across Canada as they establish themselves and strengthen the fabric of our communities,” says Amit Brahme, Senior Director, Newcomer Segment. “By profiling such a diverse and accomplished group of winners, the RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards continues to showcase the talent, passion, and resiliency that newcomers bring to the country and the inspiration we can all draw from their stories.”

Find out if you are eligible for Canadian immigration

© 2020 CIC News All Rights Reserved

Share this article
Share your voice
Did you find this article helpful?
Thank you for your feedback.
Subscribe to our newsletter
Did you find this article helpful?
Please provide a response
Thank you for your helpful feedback
Please contact us if you would like to share additional feedback, have a question, or would like Canadian immigration assistance.
  • Do you need Canadian immigration assistance? Contact the Contact Cohen Immigration Law firm by completing our form
  • Send us your feedback or your non-legal assistance questions by emailing us at
Related articles
Statistics Canada forecasts population growth of 21 million thanks to immigration
A group of people celebrating Canada Day on the streets of Toronto
Statistics Canada releases new data on the educational achievements of racialized immigrants
Group of millenial young adult friends enjoying wintertime and in a snow-filled park
Study: Immigrants admitted to Canada as children have better education and work outcomes
A group of people raising their hands in triumph in an office building.
Celebrating notable Black immigrants this Black History Month
A woman admires the lights at night in Toronto's distillery district.
Top Stories
From work to study: How Americans can begin their Canadian journey
8 Tips for the Listening Component of your CELPIP Test
IRCC proposes amendments that require students to re-apply for a study permit if they change schools in Canada
Join our free newsletter. Get Canada's top immigration stories delivered to your inbox.
More in Study
IRCC proposes amendments that require students to re-apply for a study permit if they change schools in Canada
A group of students listening intently in a classroom.
Montreal ranks among top ten best cities for international students
Montreal skyline
Permanent Residence in Canada is not guaranteed for international students
A group of students sitting outside with the college building in the background.
Five free settlement resources for international students in Canada 
Two students walking off the bus while using their phones and smiling.
Link copied to clipboard