TORONTO — The RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards is a peoples’ choice awards, recognizing inspirational immigrants who are making a real difference in their communities since arriving in Canada.
The Awards have online voting after the nomination process and a panel of judges determines the shortlisted candidates.
For awardee Isabel Kanaan, it’s about making people laugh.
She’s on CBC’s sketch comedy show Air Farce and is a member of the Canadian sketch troupe performing on their weekly show Sunday Night Live. She also teaches and performs for young audiences with Second City.
The 26-year-old advocates for representation in the media as a person of color, as queer and as an immigrant.
“I had to create my own content. I had to make my own play. I had to host different things, I had to write my own material and got myself in the rooms that needed for me to be in…”
There’s also the RBC Youth Award, nabbed by the youngest winner, Loizza Aquino.
This 18-year-old student activist hails from Winnipeg. She is a student at the University of Toronto, and started her youth-led non-profit organization, Peace of Mind Canada.
They hold events which provide a safe space for students to share their stories and experiences.
What started it all?
She lost her best friend to suicide when she was in Grade 10.
“I needed to be creating resolutions to ensure that this doesn’t happen to anyone else who is suicidal or anyone who will lose someone to suicide. I think that suicide is 100 percent preventable,” said Aquino.
Aquino also plans on expanding Peace of Mind Canada to Ottawa in the next school year.
And three’s a charm — former news anchor-turned lawyer/entrepreneur Josephine Victoria Yam received the RBC award.
She was already a practising lawyer in the Philippines. But Yam and her husband made a difficult decision to leave their families and successful careers behind to start anew in Canada.
In the beginning, Yam could not find a job, even as a legal secretary.
But the Law Society of Ontario then recognized her credentials, and she was admitted to practice law in Ontario and Alberta.
Today, Yam also co-founded the Building Breakthrough Boards (B3) Canada, a social enterprise that matches skilled corporate employees to serve on non-profit boards for leadership development, diversity and inclusion.
But she says she owes much of her inspiration and success to her late Grandfather, Lorenzo M. Tañada, the longest-serving Senator in the Philippines.
“He always talked about having integrity, keeping your word, and always being true to yourself and true to all the people around you. And that was very key to my being a lawyer is that my integrity was something that I could not compromise,” said Yam.
Last year’s winners were Florfina Marcelino, the first woman of color to be elected as a member of the legislative in Manitoba and Agnes Miranda, a pioneering co-founder of World Financial Group of Canada.