Ratna Omidvar, OC
Chair, Lifeline Syria
Executive Director, Global Diversity Exchange
Ratna Omidvar is the founding executive director of the Global Diversity Exchange at Ryerson University, a think and do tank about diversity, migration and inclusion that connects local experience and ideas with global networks. Ratna is also the chairwoman of Lifeline Syria, a "local to global" initiative which is mobilizing all sectors of society to bring 1000 Syrian refugees as permanent residents to the GTA. She is the former president of the Maytree Foundation, a private foundation that promotes equity and shared prosperity through its policy positions, grants and programs. Ratna was appointed to the Order of Ontario in 2006 and Order of Canada in 2011 and has garnered many other honours including the YWCA's prestigious Woman of Distinction Award. She is the co-author of a popular new book, Flight to Freedom: Stories of Escape to Canada, which examines Canada's history as a haven for refugees over two centuries through the eyes of thirty refugees and their descendents.
Award-winning journalist and author
Mohamed Fahmy is an award-winning Egyptian-Canadian journalist and author who has reported extensively in the Middle East and North Africa. While posted in Cairo as the Al Jazeera English Egypt Bureau Chief he was arrested in 2013, along with two colleagues. They were accused of conspiring with a terrorist group but were seen internationally as political prisoners. Despite a lack of evidence to support the charges, in 2014 Mohamed was sentenced to seven years in a maximum-security prison. International news organizations called the trial a farce and in September 2015 he was granted a pardon by the Egyptian President. Mohamed is the author of two books, Baghdad Bound and Egyptian Freedom Song. He has won many accolades, including a Peabody Award in 2011 for his work on a CNN team covering the Arab Spring; the Canadian Commission World Press Freedom Award and a certificate from UNESCO on World Press Freedom Day in 2014; and the Royal Television Journalism Judges' Award in 2015. Mohamed has established the Fahmy Foundation, a registered Canadian charity which provides advocacy and financial support to imprisoned journalists worldwide.