We are pleased to announce that the recipient honoured with the 2018 Lewis Perinbam Award is the Honourable Senator Ratna Omidvar, C.M., O.Ont.
Ratna Omidvar is an internationally recognized voice on migration, diversity and inclusion. She came to Canada from Iran in 1981 and her own experiences of displacement, integration and citizen engagement have been the foundation of her work. In April 2016, Prime Minister Trudeau appointed Ms. Omidvar to the Senate of Canada as an independent Senator representing Ontario. As a member of the Senate’s Independent Senators Group she holds a leadership position as the Scroll Manager. Senator Omidvar is also the Deputy Chair of the Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector.
Senator Omidvar is the founding Executive Director of the Global Diversity Exchange (GDX) and is a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Ryerson University. GDX is a think-and-do tank on diversity, migration and inclusion that connects local experience and ideas with global networks. It is dedicated to building a community of international leaders who see prosperity in migration. Previously, Senator Omidvar was the President of Maytree, where she played a lead role in local, national and international efforts to promote the integration of immigrants.
Senator Omidvar is a Councillor on the World Refugee Council, a Director at the Samara Centre for Democracy and Chair Emerita for the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council.
Senator Omidvar is co-author of Flight and Freedom: Stories of Escape to Canada (2015), an Open Book Toronto best book of 2015 and one of the Toronto Star‘s top five good reads from Word on the Street. She is also a contributor to The Harper Factor (2016) and co-editor of Five Good Ideas: Practical Strategies for Non-Profit Success (2011). Senator Omidvar received a Honorary Degree, Doctor of Laws, from Ryerson University in 2018 and from York University in 2012.
Senator Omidvar was appointed to the Order of Ontario in 2005 and became a Member of the Order of Canada in 2011, with both honours recognizing her advocacy work on behalf of immigrants and devotion to reducing inequality in Canada. In 2014, she received the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in recognition of her contribution to the advancement of German-Canadian relations.
Senator Omidvar has also been recognized by Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, by being named as its Nation Builder of the Decade for Citizenship in 2010. She was named to the inaugural Global Diversity List sponsored by The Economist magazine in 2015, as one of the Top 10 Diversity Champions worldwide. In 2016, she also received Lifetime Achievement Awards from CivicAction and the Canadian Urban Institute, honouring her strong commitment to civic leadership and city building.
About the Lewis Perinbam Award
The Lewis Perinbam Award in International Development recognizes Canadians who are engaged in improving the lives of those in developing countries; inspiring Canadians to undertake volunteer action; and/or offering new ways of thinking and/or addressing the challenges of development.
About Lewis Perinbam
Lewis Perinbam, O.C. (1925-2007) was admired and appreciated for his vast contributions to Canadian participation in development. Mr. Perinbam, who was born in Malaysia and educated in Scotland, was committed to sharing his knowledge of the developing world with Canadians who wanted to make a difference. He was the founding Executive Director of CUSO, the first full time Secretary-General of the Canadian National Commission for UNESCO and was for many years the General Secretary and CEO of World University Service of Canada (WUSC).
Joining the Canadian International Development Agency in 1969, he became the founding Director General of the Non-government Organizations Division, which he both pioneered and championed in the Agency and was later named Vice President, Special Programs – now the Canadian Partnership Branch. He continued to be sought after for important leadership and consultative roles. He led the Task Force on the Participation of Visible Minorities in the Public Service, whose 2000 report won respect – and generated change – throughout government and industry.
In October 1997 he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. Mr. Perinbam served on numerous NGO Boards of Directors and was a longstanding advisor to the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE).