Three New Brunswickers, two from Fredericton, have been nominated for the RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards of 2016. Kumaran Thillaindarajah, Naz Ali and Igor Dobrovolskiy were shortlisted by a national panel of judges as a Top 75 finalist. This will be the 8th annual RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards program, which is presented by Canadian Immigrant magazine, and sponsored by RBC.
These prestigious awards are about shining a light on inspirational stories of immigrants to Canada. It recognizes inspiring immigrants who have come to Canada, achieved success and made a positive difference living here. Whether it’s a community advocate or volunteer, a successful entrepreneur or a cultural icon, this is the first Canadian national award program that recognizes immigrants’ achievements from all walks of life The awards have seen winners from all walks of life, from entrepreneurs to artists to community volunteers.
Each nomination was inspiring and deserving which made it a challenging task to narrow it down to a shortlist of 75 finalists.
About Kumaran Thillaindarajah
Sri Lankan-born Kumaran Thillaindarajah is the CEO of Smart Skin, a Fredericton-based startup founded in 2008 creating pressure-sensitive skin technology with a variety of applications. The young immigrant started the company at age 23, after designing the technology while a student at the University of New Brunswick. He then successfully raised $6 million to fund the development of the technology and commercialization, and today is one of New Brunswick’s most promising entrepreneurs.
The technology was first developed for use as a prosthetic glove or touch sensor for prosthetics. Since then, several other commercial markets were also identified, including sports training and industrial packaging.
Smart Skin Technologies has won a variety of awards since its inception, including several business plan and engineering competitions, and a special award for social awareness at the Canadian Engineering competition in 2009. At the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation Breakthru Competition in 2009, Smart Skin won four awards: Best Young Entrepreneur, Best Presentation, Best University Venture and the Viewers’ Choice Award.
Through the pursuit of this business, Thillainadarajah has facilitated the creation of 14 jobs in the community as well as four jobs in other regions. Smart Skin has increased the profile of New Brunswick in the technology and knowledge industry around the world. He was recognized in July 2015 at the New Brunswick Export Awards as the Emerging Exporter of the Year for his achievement and ongoing success in developing new markets and expanding its global reach.
In February 2016, he was featured in ‘Canadian Business’ magazine as a change agent of entrepreneurs that are changing the face of business.
Not only has Thillaindarajah’s concept been embraced by the province, but it is helping to attract and retain former New Brunswick residents to the area as well. Smart Skin Technologies remains a proud University of New Brunswick-born company maintaining good relationships with the university’s faculty.
In addition to being a successful entrepreneur, Thillaindarajah has participated in a volunteer capacity with the Canadian Cancer Society, as well as promoting careers for youth through his participation in Science East (an interactive science museum in New Brunswick) activities like career fairs and talks, in the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Fredericton, specifically with Planet Hatch as a mentor and speaker in events like Start-up Weekend, and as a sponsor of the junior achievement New Brunswick program.
About Naz Ali
Naz Ali is a busy guy, successfully juggling two demanding careers: one as a restaurateur of Caribbean Flavas in New Brunswick, and another as internationally known DJ Nasty Naz.
It’s a long way from growing up in Trinidad, where he wanted to become a marine biologist or doctor. He didn’t have particular plans to leave his country, but when offered a scholarship to the University of New Brunswick’s business program from the university’s Trinidadian campus, he decided to come to Canada temporarily.
He decided to stay.
While at university, Ali created a business plan as part of his business studies to open a Caribbean restaurant that didn’t serve alcohol. His professors dismissed the plan, and practically failed him. Instead of letting them dissuade him, he raised some money and actually opened his restaurant.
Caribbean Flavas has been awarded BEST Restaurant in the province and also been given top marks by Where to Eat in Canada. It will celebrate its 10th year of business this July. In the past three-and-a-half years, his restaurant has gained a whose who clientele, he says. He has served celebrities such as Snoop Dogg, Akon, Russell Simmons, Rihanna, Eva Avila and members of the group Hedley.
He first became interested in food while watching his mother cook at home. He says the pleasure in preparing food for others is watching their facial expressions as they take the first bite.
But food is just one of his passions; music is, too. When he closes the restaurant for the day, he turns his attention to music. He turns into DJ Nasty Naz and he spins music at local clubs several times a week. Often when he is there, he is recording these live shows for syndicated radio programming which is heard by more than one million listeners in Toronto, Calgary, the Netherlands and New York.
He’s been a DJ for artists such as Lauryn Hill, the Fugees and Shaggy.
Ali also takes time to give back to his community. He sometimes goes to different schools and teaches youth how to cook and eat healthy, with a program he developed called ‘Remix your Plate’ where he incorporates music and food.
About Igor Dobrovolskiy
Co-founder and artistic director of Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada, Igor Dobrovolskiy immigrated to Canada with his wife Yuliia in 2000. He is an award-winning director and one of Canada’s most prolific choreographers, having created 11 full-length ballets, one one-act ballet and 48 short works to date for Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada.
Dobrovolskiy’s creative work catapulted Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada onto the international stage. Beginning in 2006, Dobrovolskiy’s works created for the company have toured regularly throughout Europe, including Belgium, Switzerland, France and Germany, and the United States.
In 14 years, he has brought Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada from start-up to an international touring company. He is a recipient of the Lieutenant Governor’s award for high achievement in the arts. In addition to artistic excellence, Dobrovolskiy firmly believes the arts are a means to engage communities in public dialogue and provide a powerful tool for community mobilization. Dobrovolskiy created a full-length ballet, ‘Ghosts of Violence’, at the request of a women’s organization, which was inspired by the lives of 23 women murdered by their intimate partner in New Brunswick. This work travelled to 44 communities across Canada mobilizing more than 300 front-line service organizations across the country and thousands of audience members in a national dialogue on intimate partner violence.
Dobrovolskiy holds a bachelor of fine arts in pedagogy of ballet, dance and choreography from the Kiev National University of the Arts. His professional career has taken him across Europe and South America. Collaborating with like-minded artists attracted by his vision and his artistic philosophy, Dobrovolskiy has created a work environment that has become a focus for exploration and discovery.
Dobrovolskiy’s creations present an integrated structure influenced by literature, film, theatre, the visual arts and new media. Set, costume, lighting, music and choreography are all intrinsic to the work. Set pieces and props are not merely decorative components, but become developed elements that are integrated in collaboration with a full creative team for each production.
He has built a company of high artistic standard and international appeal which has resulted in a loyal and growing audience nationally and globally.
Voting is now on to select the top 25 finalists at: http://canadianimmigrant.ca/canadas-top-25-immigrants/vote.