Honorary Gala Chairs

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Najla Al Zaibak is a Syrian-born Canadian philanthropist and a proud mother of three accomplished children: Omar, Leen and Jana. Born in Damascus, Syria, Najla moved with her life companion, Mohammad, and their family to Canada in 1988. Najla is a committed participant in multi-faith dialogue and bridge building among the various cultural communities of Canada. She has made a meaningful contribution to Canadian intercultural development utilizing her Arabic heritage and moderate Islamic upbringing. She has served on advisory committees at the Noor Cultural Centre and the Muslim Studies Program at Emmanuel College and on the board of directors of the Daughters for Life Foundation. Najla is a passionate patron of the arts and a Founding Luminary of the Luminato Festival of Arts and Creativity.

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The Right Honorable Adrienne Clarkson, PC, CC, CMM, COM, CD, Universally acknowledged to have transformed the office of Governor-General, Adrienne Clarkson was the 26th person to hold this office.  The energy, enthusiasm and knowledge of Canada she brought to Canadians in her six years in Ottawa have left an indelible mark in our nation’s history.  Through a long career at CBC, she created and starred in numerous series including Take 30, the fifth estate and Adrienne Clarkson Presents.  She has received honourary doctorates from twenty-six universities in Canada and abroad.  Since leaving the office of Governor-General, Adrienne Clarkson co-founded the Institute for Canadian citizenship (ICC) with her husband John Ralston Saul. Her passion for Canada is evident in everything she has done.  Her memoirs, Heart Matters, were published by Penguin Viking Canada in 2006 and a biography of Dr. Norman Bethune was published for Penguin Group Canada’s Extraordinary Canadians series in 2009.  In 2011 she wrote a book about the Canadian immigrant experience entitled Room for All of Us: Surprising Stories of Loss and Transformation.  In the fall of 2014 she will deliver the Massey Lectures, which will be broadcasted by CBC Radio’s Ideas and published by House of Anansi Press.

Gala Co-Chairs

Judith.jpgJudith Ramirez pioneered the establishment of community-based services to immigrant women to counter the widespread practice of "benign neglect" by mainstream institutions. Multilingual and multiracial in nature, these services provide reproductive health care, counselling on employment and labour rights, and advocacy on language training and immigration status.  A founder of Toronto's Immigrant Women's Health Centre, Employment Rights for Immigrant Women and Intercede, she has spearheaded many successful initiatives on behalf of marginalized women in diverse cultural communities who came to Canada seeking a better life. She is best known for championing the rights of foreign domestic workers and winning significant changes in government policy. 

Judith played a leading role as a Member of the Immigration and Refugee Board in defining forms of gender‐related persecution that made Canada a global leader in the equitable determination of women’s refugee claims. She has also served in a volunteer capacity with groups ranging from the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, the Maytree Foundation, the Trillium Foundation, Social Planning Toronto, Women`s College Hospital and the Daughters for Life Foundation. Judith’s advocacy work has been recognized with the prestigious Women of Distinction Award from the Toronto YWCA, the Constance E. Hamilton Award from the City of Toronto and a Civilian Citation from the Toronto Police Commission.

Lisa.jpgLisa Assaf was called to the Bar in 1995 after graduating from the University of Toronto Law School. A passionate volunteer, she worked at the Downtown Legal Aid Clinic providing pro bono legal services; assisted the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF); and provided consulting services to the board of Nellie's, a woman's shelter in Toronto. She has also headed a government-funded program for disadvantaged youth through the Alternative Youth Centre for Employment (AYCE) and was an active member of the Philanthropic Education Organization (PEO), a group dedicated to providing financial support for the education of women. 

Lisa has worked in Washington DC at the World Bank, where she published an internal journal on Privatization Efforts in Sub-Saharan Africa. She was a partner at Aird & Berlis until 2000, when she withdrew from the partnership to raise her four children. Since leaving the full-time practice of law, Lisa continues to offer Mediation services to couples going through divorce and maintains a significant volunteer role in the community.  Most recently, she chaired the Raffle at the Upper Canada College Believe in Blue Gala and the Raffle for the Havergal College Urban Elegance Gala.

Gala Committee

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Omar Alghabra is currently a consultant in the energy sector and a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Ryerson University.  He completed his Mechanical Engineering degree at Ryerson University. Omar went on to earn an MBA from York University. He built his career by taking on several managerial roles at General Electric Canada and other private corporations. His passion for community service led him to volunteer with organizations like Junior Achievement and the Toronto Star Community Editorial Board where he authored columns on both local and national issues. Omar’s community service evolved into political activism and he served in the Liberal Shadow Cabinet as Citizenship and Immigration Critic and later as Natural Resources Critic. He was elected as Member of Parliament in 2006 for the riding of Mississauga-Erindale. As an MP Omar championed political accountability, immigration reforms, equal human rights, foreign policy, infrastructure funding, energy and the environment.  During his time as MP, he helped resolve hundreds of individual problems for local constituents, tabled bills on protecting employee rights and balancing civil liberties with security laws, and pushed for improved funding of Mississauga Transit. Omar is currently the Liberal Party candidate to represent the riding of Mississauga-Centre in the next federal election. 

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Fares Badr earned a bachelor degree in social science from the Lebanese University of Beirut and a master degree in sociology and anthropology from Lyon ll University in France.  He worked for the Ministry of Education in Lebanon, as well as various projects for the United Nation development Program (UNDP).  Today, Fares has been teaching with the Toronto District School Board for the last 24 years.  He is a member of the Ontario Student Assistance program (OSAP), chaired the Anti- Racism and equity committee within TDSB and appeal board and awarded the "Teacher of the year award" for equity, Anti-Racism and social justice from OTF.   

Fares is an active and highly involved community member, he is a freelance writer in many Arabic newspapers and published work about the Arab Community and the challenges facing new immigrants.  He served as VP Ontario for the Canadian Arab Federation and is a key founding member of the Canadian Arab institute (CAI). 

Lina-9137.jpgLina Duque, MBA is a Marketing and Social Media Strategist with over 10 years of experience at top-ranking firms and a track record of community leadership. Lina is a social media coach at the Ivey Business School, Western University, where she helps participants in the executive MBA program leverage social media for career advancement and thought leadership. In her role as advisor with the Digital Media Zone business incubator at Ryerson University, Lina consults with entrepreneurs on marketing strategy, business development and media relations. She brings to the table fundraising and governance experience as a Committee Member of the 2014 ROM PROM, the fundraising gala organized by the ROM’s Young Patrons’ Circle. Lina was also chair of the Luminato Arabic Arts Committee, spearheading fundraising and marketing efforts for Luminato’s 2011 marquee production “One Thousand and One Nights.” She is a regular speaker and writer on social media with her articles appearing in Forbes and the Globe and Mail. Lina has an executive MBA from the Ivey Business and sits on the board of Ivey Alumni Association Toronto as Director of Marketing. 

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Nizar Jiwan is widely recognized as a life-long volunteer and respected leader within the Canadian Ismaili community and beyond. He enjoyed a successful career as an engineer in the federal and provincial governments before being appointed as a Member of the Immigration and Refugee Board where he served with distinction as a champion of women's rights. 

Nizar received several awards and distinctions for his professional work and for his exceptional community service over nearly four decades. Nizar has served as Chair of the Governance Committee on the Women's College Hospital Board of Directors; Member of Ismaili Council for Ontario; Board Member and Vice-President of St. John Ambulance (Toronto); Board Member of Mood Disorder Association of Ontario; and founding Board Member of the Academy of Love and Learning. Nizar has a special passion for mentoring young Canadians, including gifted low income students, and has helped open doors to educational opportunities that might not have been accessible otherwise.

krishan_022.jpgKrishan Mehta, MA, BEd, is a Director of Advancement at the University of Toronto where he oversees all alumni, fundraising, and communications initiatives for New College, which is home to many of the University’s social justice and equity-oriented academic programs. Over the past ten years, Krishan has worked with many of Toronto’s diasporic communities on enhancing their charitable profile through a number of enduring partnerships and community-building activities within the higher education arena.

Krishan is also in the midst of completing a PhD at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. His research focuses on how first generation Canadian immigrants are maintaining ties to their countries of origin through cross-border philanthropy.

In addition, Krishan sits on the board of the Community Social Planning Council, serving as the chair of the advancement committee. He is also the past chair of the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention.

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Tina Tehranchian, MA, CFP, CLU, CHFC is a senior financial planner and branch manager at Assante Capital Management Ltd. in Richmond Hill and a planned giving consultant at Donor Motivation Program.  Tina is a Fellow of FPSCTM and is widely featured in the national media as a financial planning expert based on her experience in this field since 1991. 

Tina currently serves as a trustee of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection and a director of the Fort York Foundation and is the chair of the board of MENA Arts Foundation, a nonprofit organization that aims to foster unity and cross-cultural understanding among communities in the Middle East, North Africa, and the world at large through the arts. She also served as a member of the Planned Giving Advisory Committee of the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation for over 10 years.

Honorary Gala Chairs
The Right Hon. Adrienne Clarkson
Najla Al Zaibak

Gala Co-Chairs
Lisa Assaf
Judith Ramirez

Gala Committee
Omar Alghabra
Fares Badr
Lina Duque
Nizar Jiwan
Krishan Mehta
Tina Tehranchian

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