Categorized | Feature, Interviews

Canada’s Influential South Asian Canadians

Posted on 27 November 2014 by admin

Dr. Sinha works on a National Seniors Strategy

At the ripe age of 37, Dr. Samir Sinha is emerging as Canada’s most compelling voice for the elderly. In 2012, as the lead author of Ontario’s seniors strategy report, Sinha called for improving health care for older Canadians—and keeping them as physically active as possible—at a time when our ballooning aging population makes this a critical social issue. In 25 years, one-quarter of Canadians will be older than 65. And older adults currently account for 60 per cent of hospital bed days, while making up only 15 per cent of the population. “We have a health care system that was designed to meet the needs of younger Canadians, and now it needs to rapidly adapt to meeting the population it’s serving most,” Sinha says.

As director of geriatrics at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital since 2010—upon his return from Oxford University where, as a Rhodes Scholar, he completed his master’s in medical history and a Ph.D. in sociology—Sinha has proven his approach works. His patients spend far less time in hospital than the provincial average and are more likely to live longer, independently at home. This includes Mr. W, now 104, who came under Sinha’s care in 2010 when he was admitted for pneumonia. Sinha ensured Mr. W stayed active and did physiotherapy. He returned home, where he’s been ever since. Many more Canadians may soon benefit from his approach: Sinha is working with the Canadian Medical Association on a national seniors strategy.

Arvind Gupta adds research funding to UBC’s budget
Thin on experience, rich in conviction


It’s not the fact that Arvind Gupta is a computer scientist that makes him such an unusual choice to oversee the University of British Columbia and its $1.4-billion budget. It is that UBC’s new hire has zero administrative experience in academia, a far cry from the usual path from professor to dean to vice-president to president.

What Gupta does have is a belief that exceptional research of all kinds has a place at UBC. This is blasphemy for those who believe university is a place to learn for learning’s sake, and that research should be “pure” and divorced from commercial interests. Gupta isn’t afraid of stirring the pot. He argues that collaborating with industry is UBC’s way forward—and makes his case for partnerships with the private sector rather bluntly, at least by the polite standards of power struggles in academia. Gupta is also an innovation expert who, as CEO of Mitacs, overhauled the non-profit research-funding organization to make it a place where Canada’s top graduate students are paired with industry to solve real business problems. He’s already announced he will add $100 million to UBC’s $565-million research budget. Now it’s up to Gupta to prove his hypothesis that this multi-million-dollar investment will distinguish UBC graduates and make their diplomas worth more than others. “What we’re doing now,” he says, “is not good enough.”

Alia Hogben, the Liberal voice of Islam in Canada
Right voice, right time


When Alia Hogben took over the Canadian Council of Muslim Women a decade ago as the group’s executive director, few could have predicted the long-time bureaucrat from Ontario’s ministry of community and social services would emerge as one of the most compelling liberal voices of Islam in Canada. Her moderate Muslim perspective is indispensable. As a 2012 Order of Canada recipient, awarded for her work on women’s rights and promotion of interfaith dialogue, she is only the second female Canadian Muslim to receive that honour. She also has an honorary doctorate from Queen’s University and a column in the Kingston Whig-Standard, where she’s written how she was discouraged that many people, such as members of Islamic State, use religion as justification for unspeakable crimes. Recently, Hogben told the Canadian Press she’s disheartened that Stephen Harper did not denounce the anti-Muslim backlash in the aftermath of the Ottawa shooting. But Hogben is not one to point fingers. Rather, she champions Islam’s message of inclusivity.

Bharat Masrani to influence Canadian banking
Steady as he goes


Measured by total assets, Toronto-Dominion Bank is now the country’s largest bank (having overtaken Royal Bank of Canada this year) and is well on its way to becoming Canada’s first trillion-dollar financial institution. That alone gives Bharat Masrani, TD’s new CEO, immense influence over the economy. Born in Uganda to Indian parents, raised and trained in the U.K., and boasting deep experience in the U.S. and Canada, Masrani’s resumé befits the modern and complex world of banking. He’s indicated he will be outspoken on economic and policy issues, just as his mentor and predecessor Ed Clark often weighed in on the housing market and indebted households. As with any new bank CEO—this year alone four of the Big Five got new chiefs—it will take time for Masrani to define his tenure, but he’s hinted at the direction he’ll take: steady as it goes internal growth rather than big-ticket acquisitions. Whatever brings in the billions.

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