“Through my parents, I was always exposed to South Asian cinema. Intentionally or unintentionally, I say that they put the love of films in me. My undergraduate degree is in genetic biology and mathematics and statistics, none of which I generally use today. As I finished undergrad, I realized that my passion for entertainment and media wasn’t going away. I decided to do my MBA to bridge the gap between science and trying to get into the business side of entertainment and film.
Programming South Asian films for TIFF was something that I started doing in 2014. The first film I helped choose for the festival was Kaaka Muttai by director Manikandan. I had a great time at the festival. It wasn’t just about being around filmmakers, when it came to Indian cinema, it was about representing films that were speaking to global audiences and that deserved to be seen by more than Tamil audiences watching a Tamil film.
The drive to learn about production was to be more involved in the process of these films I wanted to advocate for. Not having a film school education, I felt the best way for me to learn about Indian film production was to go into the field, so I moved to India right when director Manikandan got the funding for his third film, Aandavan Kattalai, starring Vijay Sethupathi and Ritika Singh. Living in India was exciting but also a big adjustment. It’s very different from here and I was on my own. The best part of it was being able to help take a film from script to screen in its entirety. Director Manikandan was very much a mentor to me. He helped me realize there was a market for my passion to represent more independent South Asian films and bring them to international markets, which is why I founded Viewfinder Film Consulting (VFC). I moved back to Canada to be closer to my family, especially my father, who passed away in 2018. In 2019 I established a fund for new filmmakers in his name, since he loved Indian cinema and wholeheartedly supported the work of women, like me, in South Asian entertainment and media.
It’s been 4 years since I started VFC. Now, I’m working on transitioning the company from marketing and representation to also including film production. We’ve produced our first film, which has been selected for its first festival and has won an award for Best Outstanding Short. And I’m very proud of it!”
Viewfinder Film Consulting website: https://www.viewfinderfc.com/
Personal website: www.dilanirabindran.com
“I went through a lot before the age of 18, personally and due to the civil war back in Sri Lanka. While travelling to Germany, I was betrayed by my own when they sold my passport and tried to run away with my money. I was smuggled into France and from France I tried to come to Canada with a fake passport but got caught. I was incarcerated until my brother got me out. I managed to come to Canada through England and finally found home here. I finished high school and went to college.
Throughout the years, my co-workers would ask why I left Sri Lanka, and I would tell them bits and pieces of what happened. They were the ones that gave me the idea to write a memoir and have it published. I wrote the first draft about 20 years ago. It only had 5 pages and was filled with grammatical errors.
After finding out that I had cancer 2 years ago, I was more motivated to continue writing my memoir so my children and future grandchildren can read about my life journey. I still recall and dream about the traumatic experiences I’ve been through. A lot of these stories, people around me didn’t know. I opened up when writing my book. I felt it was therapeutic and it helped me with healing. I’m not much of a writer, I work in the IT field. My editor helped me along the way with grammar. I also published in Tamil with the help of a publisher in India just earlier this year.
I talked about many sensitive topics including the civil war, my father, his mistress, and the relationship I had with my older brother. Culturally, we wouldn’t talk about these things and I didn’t know how my mother would react to my book. I grew up in Sri Lanka, but when I came to Canada I started to adapt to the culture here. You have to be open-minded and share your thoughts and feelings. My wife and I have been blessed with two boys and we have raised them to be open-minded as well.
My relationship with my father was a difficult situation to write about, but we can’t take anything back. Due to my book, my family has slowly started talking to me about it. They understand the struggles I’ve been through to bring them here and to start a new life.”
Personal website: https://www.tharmathurai.com/
“I was born here and raised by a village - my parents, my uncle and many of his friends who were like family. I was always surrounded by people and Amma believes this is why I’m so sociable! With two younger siblings, my parents also taught me the importance of being an Acca. I took it very seriously and it shaped me into who I am today - someone who is protective, outspoken, and never one to stand by and watch something happen.
In undergrad, I started off in a business program, mostly due to parental expectations. However, in my second year it was obvious I wasn’t excelling in certain courses. Where I did find success were in electives such as writing and ethics. I realized if that’s what was lighting a fire under me, then that’s what I should be doing. After graduating with a BA specializing in Communications, I was in the real world. Like for many new graduates, it was a tough time as I struggled with unemployment. You’re told as a young immigrant to get your degree and the world will be your oyster. My advice for anyone going through this would be to actively engage with people within your network and/or industry – stay relevant.
I always had a passion for teaching, as many of my jobs during school involved tutoring/mentoring. In that way, I was fortunate to have found my current position that focuses on education. I currently work at Xello, where we provide software that equips students with the tools for future planning. As a Client Success Manager, my role involves working closely with school boards to maximize the potential of what the platform can do for their schools and students. Through developing strategies with clients, it’s my job to ensure their investment in our software is a success. As a people person, I love the role of being my clients’ trusted advisor.
As far as the next generation, I think the sky's the limit, if they put their minds to it! As much as we hate the high standards our parents have set for us, it does drive excellence. It was hard for my parents to understand when I made the switch in undergrad, but at the end of it Appa said “You don’t have to be a doctor, but whatever you choose, just be really good at it.”
“My full name is Karthiharan Vijayanathan. I was born in Sri Lanka and came to Winnipeg with my parents. Like many newcomer families, childhood was stressful. My father turned to alcohol and became abusive. My mom left my dad. We grew up in a single parent household for most of our childhood. I finished my undergraduate degree in psychology with an intent to go into social work. I didn’t end up doing that because it was too expensive and I was itching to come out of the closet. Soon after, I became the Assistant Manager at Le Chateau and that’s how I moved to Toronto with a job and a lot of school student debt.
While in Winnipeg, I used to volunteer a lot. My experiences led me to positions as a Tamil Outreach Worker with ASAAP, where I was educating Youth Groups in Scarborough, and as a Project Manager with the AIDS Committee of York Region. In 2014, I started my own organization, My House: Rainbow Resources of York Region. It was the first LGBTQ resource center per se. To pay rent for a small office, I started cleaning the building I was working in for the AIDS Committee of York Region for a year. Eventually, I handed it over to the AIDS Committee of York Region to run it as a sister organization. That’s a legacy I leave behind.
The last two years surrounding Bruce McArthur’s effect on the gay community and attending a couple of the funerals led me to realize, the people in those caskets could’ve easily been me. Having to deal with the stress of being in a high executive position, a director role for a not-for-profit, really took a mental health toll on me. It’s important to put yourself first. Now, I’m doing a career shift to be a program manager in Winnipeg at the Mount Carmel Clinic’s Assertive Community Treatment program.
Looking back, the happiest moment of my life was in 2018 when my mother and sister marched with me in the Pride Parade where I was named the Grand Marshal. The fact that she pushed that door open, marched with me and was on a national documentary called Village of the Missing with me, was lovely. She doesn’t worry about what other people think anymore.”
Photo credit: Nick Boisvert/CBC
CBC Docs POV: Village of Missing https://gem.cbc.ca/media/media/cbc-docs-pov/episode-16/38e815a-0109b48a63a
“Growing up in the system, facing hardships as a child, and being raised by parents from different communities was not easy. I wouldn’t consider those obstacles as negative, but rather an experience that changed my view on love, family, my surroundings, and the world overall. I became passionate about wanting to be there for children who undergo similar situations, for women who feel unsafe, for individuals that need help realizing their true potential, and to continue pushing others to break barriers and promote positive change within the system.
As the Executive Lead and President of the Ontario Children’s Advancement Coalition and Vice-Chair: Diversity Equity and Inclusion Lead for the Children's Aid Society of Toronto, my main focus areas surround child welfare, youth homelessness, women, settlement issues, and improving outcomes for vulnerable populations. I’m also on the Board of Directors for the West Scarborough Community Legal Services and am a member of Tamil Civic Action.
I went to Centennial College to pursue my Social Services Worker diploma and later switched to York University to complete my Bachelors and Masters degrees as well. Having received the Bryden “One to Watch” award from York, I got a lot of validation and assurance for my career choices. Being recognized alongside recipients like the City of Toronto’s Chief Planner and CAMH’s CEO was definitely a proud moment in my life. I got awards and recognition, but becoming more active within the Tamil community specifically, was something important to me. Identifying as a Tamil woman, I wanted to give back to my own. In 2017, I travelled to Sri Lanka for 3 weeks to speak to 500+ individuals. That experience really made me fall in love with my identity and background.
My main advice is to stay true to what is right, instead of what is easy. There will be moments where there isn’t a spot for you at the table. For me, my inner child continues to remind me that if someone at that age could go through all the hardships to get to where she is, why can’t I get past the barriers I face now? No one will believe in yourself as much as you do.”
Twitter: @cheyratnam; @childcoalition
“I went to the University of Waterloo, finished my computer science degree in 2000, and then I started working. I was a software architect but I wanted to pursue my passion, which is filmmaking. Six years ago, I left my career aside and started pursuing filmmaking full-time.
Films have always fascinated me. Ever since I was a little boy, nothing excited me as much as a film. My father was a playwright and actor back home. He had a lead role in one of the earliest Tamil films made in the mid-60s. Maybe my passion for films started due to the influence of my dad. In 2005, I started making short films. I made my first feature film 1999 in 2009. From then I’ve made A Gun & A Ring and Roobha.
1999 is about gang issues in the late 90s in Toronto. The movie has three characters: Kumar, a gang leader, Anbu, a gang member, and Ahilan, a successful university student who is completely removed from the other two. The movie revolves around these characters, their wants, and how it all interplays. The film made it to the Vancouver International Film Festival and various other festivals. It was well received by Tamil people and the diaspora.
When I was attending the University of Waterloo, there was a student two years younger than me. One day he was in Scarborough, at the wrong coffee shop, at the wrong time, and was mistakenly shot and killed on the spot. I went to his funeral, and it left a very dark mark on me. Things did not change, even with the chances for a better life here in Canada, our boys were still suffering. This was very unsettling for me. I realized, everybody, including the gang members, is a victim here, with migration and identity at the core of the issue. It was all a part of adapting to this new land and the struggles our boys go through. I felt compelled to tell a story about these victims and that’s how 1999 was born.”
“Growing up in Parkdale I witnessed countless social issues first-hand. As you know, Parkdale is one of Toronto's well-known lower income neighbourhoods. This shaped my motivation for building a sense of equity and community. Working for the City of Toronto’s Community Crisis Response Program, I respond to violent incidents that occur in the city with a multidisciplinary approach. I am also a part-time entrepreneur in wedding and commercial filmmaking with my own business called Banana Leaf Company.
Community violence takes different forms across Toronto and has a shattering effect. When I respond to an act of community violence, I bring together key partners who have different biases about various communities and explain how to collectively respond to a critical incident. Being a young Tamil woman in this position, it was easy for people to dismiss me. I own my intersectionality and constantly strive to dismantle the stereotypes people have of the Tamil community, by helping them understand the intergenerational trauma our community has gone through and the barriers we are still trying to overcome.
My proudest moment was creating policies and strategies regarding community violence and advocating for funding for marginalized communities in Toronto. This was inspired by a young man I met, Jaydin Simpson, who wanted to be a resident leader but was later killed on his graduation night. The policies have been put into the City of Toronto’s present and future strategies, and the additional resources will help those marginalized the most.
I love the wedding industry. Working as a videographer, I’m amazed at how many Tamil people pursue a side gig as their creative outlet. Banana Leaf Company has let me explore my creative side, especially my passion for editing and directing. I wanted to prove to my family and community members that a successful career can be found in the arts and that I too can be an entrepreneur.
I want to look back knowing how I’ve built capacity and sustainability for the communities I work in. With the work I'm doing in the City of Toronto, I hope to do this work internationally as well.”
Crisis Response Twitter Account: https://twitter.com/ccrpthipikab
“As a Real Estate Agent, Financial Advisor and Entrepreneur, I can say I found my true passion in these careers. Starting to work from a young age, I was always curious about different sectors and what they had to offer. Completing my undergrad in Business and Financial Economics, I started working at Scotiabank as an advisor and loved being able to guide individuals though their financial journey and mortgage process. As someone who enjoys seeing different areas and showing people around, I was intrigued to become involved in the actual home searching process.
As a Real Estate Agent, everyday is new and interesting and I appreciate the freedom it comes with. I consider myself very lucky to have a supportive family, especially a father who has always encouraged me to take risks, do something for myself, and invested the time to help me learn things from a young age. I recently started an IGTV series called “Real Talks with Realtor Nero.” Each episode surrounds concerns about the home purchasing process such as mortgage pre-approvals and down payments. For me it was never about being compensated for this type of work, but rather to be a useful resource for young adults to gain a better understanding.
A big part of who I am is my Tamil identity. Tamil was the first language I heard growing up, and seeing how much love people have for the culture has made me look deeper and appreciate it more. Along with my current profession, I own an e-commerce business start-up called “Yannai.” It has allowed me to make a positive impact on environmental issues through product sales. We are currently working on expanding our products to be made from sustainable materials and to feature an endangered species that specific product will support through its sales.
When I look back at my life, I would tell my younger self that a lot of things are going to seem scarier to achieve than they actually are. It’s important to stay real and true to yourself, without caring what other people will think. Realizing that you need to do things for yourself is so important because no one will live your life but you.”
Facebook: Realtor Nero
Instagram: @realtor.nero @weareyannai
“During the 1983 riots, my mother was pregnant with me. My mom always talks about running and being hidden in a cupboard by a neighbour closeby. She was a lawyer back home. For my father, he really felt like Sri Lanka was home, until one day he knew it was no longer safe for him. My dad worked at the bank, where he was interrogated by the Sri Lankan army. It was on that day that he realized that there was a target on his back, solely because he was Tamil.
I grew up in Scarborough. For many years in high school, I experienced racism and sexism in a way that made it very difficult for me to be able to find work and opportunities for economic growth. That’s why class and labour are deeply rooted in how I navigate space and work. During and after high school, I was a Youth Worker with the Canadian Tamil Youth Development Centre and with the Malvern Family Resource Center. It really framed the way in which I can support young people and advocate for suspended and expelled youth, predominantly Tamil youth. That work informed my passion for education justice and social justice, which is also connected to my passion to increase awareness for the ongoing genocide back home.
The diaspora in the Tamil community is 300,000 strong in Toronto, yet we are significantly impacted by the lack of services and socioeconomic gaps that continue to exist. That’s really how I frame the work that I do. My current work at the Toronto Community Benefits Network is involved in capacity and training for non-profit service providers to hire Indigenous people, newcomers and women into the construction trades. It's all connected to my belief in socio-economic justice and education being the great equalizer.
In the Tamil community, we have a difficult conversation to have, because as much as we can see ourselves as professionals, we also have a social, economic and political responsibility. We’ve benefited from the social safety nets of the 90s, significantly. All of us have. To the communities and the people that have allowed us the capacity to be here and take on spaces of leadership: how are we making an impact for future generations?”
“My family came over from Sri Lanka right before I was born, sacrificing much in the process and looking to build a better life for me and my siblings. Growing up from very humble beginnings, they emphasized that I stay focused on education. They did not know what my path would look like, especially in a new land like Canada. What they did know was that opportunities and choices that were taken from them back home would now be afforded to their children.
Currently, I work as Director of Operations at a Toronto-based investment management firm, handling all aspects of operations. The path I took to get here was not typical, nor what I expected. While completing my undergrad, I was left to navigate on my own as I did not seek out role models and few were available to me. I graduated with a high standard of education, but no work experience to match, the bane of any aspiring professional with no network.
Perseverance, fueled by the debt of gratitude I felt for my mother and father, was a key ingredient in me continually pushing forward in the junior years of my career. I focused on acquiring the skills and knowledge I would need for my next role and cultivating a professional reputation that represented my caliber and drive. I found, learned from, and was pushed forward by several smart and talented individuals along the way. I am an avid believer that any piece of knowledge, regardless of complexity, can be learned by anyone. It is all a matter of effort.
My journey is not over by any stretch. An overriding goal is to achieve the skills and influence to affect positive change to disadvantaged communities, such as my own. Mentoring the growth of the next cohort of professionals coming after me would be a great place to start.
To me, the Tamil identity is constantly evolving, but is best summed up as a shared struggle. I still find it remarkable that my story and that of my family’s is almost universal to those within our community. The greatest achievements are made through great struggle."
“In Grade 12, I took World Issues as one of my electives, where I had to read newspapers everyday. That year, the civil war in Sri Lanka and the plight of Tamils were in the papers almost daily. I wondered how I could create an influence on what was going on back home and in similar situations across the world. My teacher suggested two routes: get involved with the government to pursue policy change or with international development via non-profit organizations. At York University, I took courses in Political Science and International Development. I knew I wanted to get practical experience, so I joined campus clubs such as Ontario Young Liberals and War Child Canada.
Thanks to my volunteer and internship experiences, I landed a role as Social Media Coordinator in the Office of the Premier (Dalton McGuinty) of Ontario. I learned early in my career how to work with people in power, and how to communicate on social media about complicated issues that affect the public. A few years later, I took an opportunity to work for Mayor John Tory as his Press Secretary. Four years later, I finished as his Director of Communications for his 2018 re-election campaign. After having opportunities to work at all levels of government, the municipal government has been the most fascinating to me because policy changes occur immediately.
In 2019, I joined as a Steering Committee Member to work on the Tamil Community Centre project. This will be a central hub to preserve our Tamil history and have all Tamil organizations come together to serve our community. We have been working to obtain land and funding for the community centre from governments and hope to have more to say about this in the next few months.
One thing I would tell my younger self is that networking is important. You can plan as much as you want, but take opportunities as they come. Networking has been really important in my work and volunteer life. Everything that I have been able to accomplish is through people I have known, who have been there for me, to help me and provide the next opportunity.”
“I became an amputee due to the Sri Lankan civil war. As a person with a disability, I faced a lot of physical challenges. I had to learn to live with my limitations. I had to learn how to walk with a prosthetic. Growing up in Canada as a child, I also faced a lot of mental challenges, as I found it hard to fit in. I experienced a lot of anxiety, but playing sports helped me overcome my obstacles. I now realize that everyone faces challenges and obstacles of some sort that are unique to them. It’s what gives us motivation to become better.
I work as a freelance visual designer, specializing in graphic design, motion design and illustrations. I also enjoy playing sports, particularly sledge hockey. I played at the national level for the Ontario provincial team for 3 years. Being physically active helps me stay balanced when I’m not doing creative work. One of the happiest moments in my life was when I was selected to be a part of Sledge Team Ontario. I always enjoyed playing competitive sports and to have the opportunity to play at that level was rewarding.
My father and my mother have been the most influential people in my life. Like many of the earlier generations of Tamils who came to Canada, they endured a lot in order to provide for me and my siblings. As the newer generation, I think we are privileged because we grew up in an environment where we were taken care of and have a lot of resources in the community to draw on. They didn’t have that. They had to learn to survive in a country they weren’t familiar with, learn a lot of things on their own, and work hard to take care of us. I have a lot of appreciation for them and they remind me to work hard and be grateful for what we have.
Having gone through what we have experienced in the civil war, it scarred us in a lot of ways, but our perseverance has helped us thrive in other countries. Here in Canada, we have a reputation for being hard workers. Our parents paved the way for us and I think it’s up to us to carry the torch going forward and help the Tamil community here and back home.”
“Something I find truly inspiring is women in science. I always loved science, but I wasn’t too sure if medicine was something I wanted to pursue. During my undergrad, I volunteered with the Canadian Cancer Society, IPHSA, and Peel Public Health’s smoking cessation program. The summer before completing undergrad, I accepted an offer to intern at Jaffna University’s Teaching Hospital in Sri Lanka, where I mainly worked in paediatrics and radiology. Working alongside different medical students and seeing the patients really opened my eyes to the conditions people have to face to get proper healthcare. This opportunity brought me closer to my Tamil identity as well. Having parents who fled their homeland due to the civil war, I was always taught to be very humble and fortunate.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Science from Brock University, I pursued the joint program in radiation therapy at The Michener Institute and University of Toronto. Currently, I work at a cancer centre in Mississauga. The profession itself is very stressful, as I’m working with patients who are at the lowest point in their lives. I try my best to be supportive and encourage them through their treatments. Just seeing them smile motivates me to come into work everyday. Wanting to become more active in the community, I am often asked to translate for Tamil patients, which allows me to support these patients throughout the whole process.
When I worked in Newfoundland, I treated my first paediatric patient. Being the lead in treating her, her family was beyond grateful, which made me feel so proud of the work I was doing. This particular incident made me feel like radiation therapy was the right profession for me.
Growing up in Mississauga, I was a visible minority for most of my high school years. As I got more mature and became more confident, I was able to move past obstacles and continue pursuing my goals. I know the future holds a lot more for me, but thinking short-term, I hope to gain more experience working on the front line and pursue my Master’s.”
“I pursued Urban and Regional Planning at Ryerson University and worked in the industry for three years, but it wasn’t fuelling my fire. I was volunteering with local and international sporting events and thought, why not turn my passion for sports into a career? In 2001, I officially made the career shift. I later decided to complete a couple of certificates: one in Public Relations, another in Event Management and a MBA from Schulich School of Business.
Sports have played a big role in my life, being a fan and getting comfort from watching games when life at home was difficult. My mom played a major role in cultivating that passion. She took me to games, despite having little interest and money. A few years ago, I won the opportunity to have a seat at Mattamy Athletic Centre engraved with a personalized message. I prepared an inscription paying tribute to my mom and it’s affixed to a seat where we typically sat during Toronto Maple Leafs games.
After graduating with my MBA, I started teaching at Schulich three months later. That opportunity unfolded from taking the initiative to guest speak in a class. Since 2009, I’ve taught sport and tourism marketing part time at Schulich and have become a leading commentator on sport business in Canada. In class, I believe it’s important to bridge academia with the industry, so have created opportunities for my students by partnering them with 109 companies on marketing consulting projects. I also founded Schulich’s Sports, Media and Entertainment Career Fair, the only annual, university-based career fair of its kind in Canada.
While my career in academia has been fulfilling, my industry career has been quite turbulent. I’ve unfortunately been laid off four times in the last nine years due to company restructurings. That’s been very frustrating and humbling. My motivation to keep going comes from a desire to make things happen and do work that fulfills me, helps others, and lets me bring big ideas to life. Whenever I do anything, I want to hear the proverbial chime from the lottery terminal: the one that tells me I achieved something great. When that happens I know I’ve left a legacy.”
“I stand on the ground that my father has built for me. I said I wouldn’t change my last name professionally after I got married because everything I’ve done, every professional standing that I’ve taken on is because of Mr. Sasitharan.
I am a multi-platform journalist at CBC News. I wear a lot of hats in our newsroom: I’m a newsreader, producer, reporter and web writer. The University of British Columbia has an amazing journalism program that I graduated from. I remember when I was applying to UBC and visited British Columbia, I met this young woman. We didn’t know each other, but one of the last things she said to me as I was leaving was “I hope you hurt the right people with your truth.” I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but now I do. It’s about seeking the truth, holding the right people accountable and not being afraid to share it.
I want to be the person who sees injustices in society and uses a platform to talk about it and bring it forward. Last year, I did a story about Maaveerar Naal. We were approaching the ten-year anniversary of the war being over. Talking about something that was so close to my community was interesting. I needed to tell that story. It shined some light on the Tamil community and their concerns.
Every time I turned on the TV, I didn’t see a lot of people that looked like me. I’ve made it a huge point in my life to be the person that looks like me. Increasing diversity in the newsroom, not just in our hires, but also in our content, is so important. I think that our corporation tries to do a good job of including diverse perspectives. We are very focused on community and culture, and bringing those stories to life. One of the biggest challenges at a national corporation is moving away from convenience diversity, which is the notion that we need to find a diverse story and that diversity is a checklist. Now is the time that diversity in our perspectives and storytellers should already be integrated in our reporting.”
Articles by Kirthana:
Dr. Vadivelu Santhakumar
“I’m a medical professional and completed my medical studies at the Jaffna University Medical Faculty. This medical school was opened for the first time in the Northern province in 1978. I had the privilege of being part of the first group of students who studied medicine in Jaffna. Despite our final year exam being disrupted during the 1983 riots, we still managed to graduate in 1984.
At that time, racial tensions were everywhere, including in the medical profession. I completed my training and got my registration through the Ceylon Medical Council. But, with continued unrest, my brother, who was living overseas, wanted me to be safe and helped me get out of the country.
I came to Canada in 1987. As a foreign-trained medical professional, it was a challenge integrating into the medical system in Canada. When I arrived here, there was no infrastructure to help foreign doctors. I had no plans to change my medical career, which stemmed from my childhood desire to help others in sickness. I took a chance by staying in Canada and I thank God, it worked out for me.
I chose to come to Ontario because I wanted to help and work with our community. This passion for social service came from my father, an elementary school principal. Despite having limited resources, he not only cared for his large family, but helped many others in need. Helping our community has always been a priority for me and I am lucky to have my family’s support in this. After coming here, my first initiative was to get the Tamil medical community working together. I am proud to be the key co-founder of the Medical Institute for Tamils, now called Canadian Tamil Medical Association, which is a registered charity. We were able to help back home through a number of missions in Sri Lanka, during the ceasefire and during the tsunami. We took medical supplies and provided medical humanitarian help.
I started my practice in Mississauga, where I run a multi-function clinic. I’ve been here for the past 23 years. There’s been struggles, but things worked out. Canada is a land of opportunity and if you really commit and stay on your path, you can succeed.”
- Co-founded Medical Institute for Tamils (MIFT) to get Tamil medical professionals working together. It is now a registered charity called Canadian Tamil Medical Association http://www.tamildoctors.org/
- Founded Jaffna Medical Faculty Overseas Alumni (JMFOA) https://jmfoa.wildapricot.org/
- Chaired the Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC) https://www.canadiantamilcongress.ca/
- Recently established another community-based foundation, Eekai, a charity to help the needy https://www.eekai.org/
Dr. Ryhana Dawood
“I got my black belt when I was in my first year of university. It was one of the proudest moments of my life. It took a lot of dedication, hard work and resilience. When I got it, I wanted to be able to teach self-defence to other people, in a way that was affordable and safe to them. I started leading female-only workshops. It started off small, but has grown into something that has made quite the impact, both locally and internationally. We’ve worked with a lot of underprivileged groups, including single mothers, children and seniors. Our goal is to empower individuals to achieve whatever they want to do. A local filmmaker, Chrisann Hessing, featured Martial Smarts in the documentary The Good Fight. From that moment, things took off very quickly. The documentary led to PUMA highlighting some of the work that we did.
I grew up in Scarborough, went to school at the University of Toronto Scarborough and graduated with a degree in Biology, Psychology and French. I went on to do my Master’s in Global Health at McMaster University and then medical school at Western University. Now, I practice as a Family Physician and run a Women’s Health Clinic in Regent Park.
There are a lot of circumstances where you feel that sometimes you aren’t given the same opportunities as others because of the way you look or the religion you practice. Training in London, Ontario was definitely a hard experience for me. A lot of the patients there weren’t used to seeing people in hijabs. Sometimes you feel like you’re overcompensating to show that you are just like them, when we shouldn’t have to do that
My mom is one of the most influential people in my life. She is very open-minded and is one of those individuals who pushes you to reach your full potential. My mom would always read with us and encourage us to think. She had this encyclopedia of books called, “Tell me why.” Whenever we had a question, she would tell us to go look it up. My mom also encouraged us to lead an active lifestyle. Academics and athletics are both very important to who I am as an individual, and my mom had an important role in fostering that.”
Facebook: Martial SMARTS
Documentary: The Good Fight (https://vimeo.com/163423132)
“Losing my grandfather to cancer was an eye opener for me. Learning more about him and hearing stories after his passing had me thinking about how I want to shape my life and the kind of legacy I want to leave behind. My grandfather’s big heart inspired me to follow in his footsteps and be a positive influence in the community.
I was born and raised in Scarborough. I graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering and a Mechanical Techniques Certification from George Brown College. Initially, I worked in the aerospace industry, but I’m starting a new role in the rail and construction industry, focusing on public transit projects within the GTA.
What made me pursue this career, you may ask? Well, it's the big Yellow Pages book that sat around at home before the times of GPS devices. I would enjoy reading and diving into the map’s view of our city. I became captivated with knowing the ins and outs of this beautiful city and its public transit system.
Aside from my professional career, I am a spoken word and hip-hop artist. For the past 9 years, I have been writing and performing poetry and spoken word. Seeing someone perform spoken word in an assembly at my high school really caught my attention and made me want to try it out. Being a quiet person, my first performance was something I would never forget. Even though it wasn’t as great as I hoped, I enjoyed the process behind it. Shortly after, I started attending RISE (Reaching Intelligent Souls Everywhere), where they host an open mic show every Monday. That environment allowed me to come out of my shell and grow. It was there that I connected with other artists and created my first spoken word album, Befriending Silence, in 2017. In 2019, I was part of a hip-hop collaborative mixtape, Time Waits for No One.
Spoken word poetry is my way of expressing myself. Now, I teach poetry and creative writing to kids through community programs. I want to let others know that they can shine in any way that they like, because you never know who you will connect with or inspire.”
Facebook: Voice of Silence
- Spoken word album, "Befriending Silence" https://album.link/DbGxZBppjq4hK
- Collaborative hip-hop mixtape, "Time Waits for No One" https://scarborougharts.bandcamp.com/album/time-waits-for-no-one
- Latest hip-hop single, "Next Act" https://song.link/R0hNhCrxfNwtQ