Inclusivity is huge! Inclusivity creates an environment that includes people of all identities, regardless of their sexual orientation or the colour of their skin. It makes us realize that our ideas and opinions on important matters are taken into account. The stigma portrayed around Lawrence Heights (an at-risk community north of Toronto) in social media is degrading and often made me feel excluded from society and not good enough because of either how I looked or where I lived. Feeling excluded left me second guessing myself, which led to me not voicing my opinion about topics I feel strongly about. Being included brings me a sense of belonging and makes me feel like I matter, regardless of where I am. By letting others know that they matter, that they are wanted, their opinion is valued we see them for who they are and not how they are portrayed

IDRF is amazing and does exactly what it says on its website which is “People Helping People.”  Whether they are in Somalia providing humanitarian assistance to people facing extreme drought conditions or in Toronto implementing the Get Job Ready workshops for youth from disadvantaged communities that need help finding work. I had the great opportunity of working with Elyas and Nabil- genuine individuals who want to see people strive regardless of where they reside. Dulaa Osman has always been a role model & older brother to me; we have watched each other grow since we were kids. Whenever I was about to slip up off my path he was there to guide me. IDRF made me realize things about other community members that I did not even know, they challenged us to open our minds and shine our own light on our dreams, goals, and aspirations.




Through my lived experience, inclusivity is not synonymous with homogeneity. In fact, it places value on individual differences, welcomes them, and at its best, helps them flourish. Living in Canada, I understand inclusivity and diversity to go hand in hand in all spheres of life, including public, political, workplace, education, family, and beyond. As such, the moral and legal duty of inclusivity should aim to hold space and eliminate barriers to people who may otherwise be marginalised along the lines of race, age, gender, sexual orientation, physical disability or mental illness. Ultimately, inclusivity equals unencumbered access while celebrating our differences.

IDRF has been a beacon of inclusivity. As a new mom, IDRF’s Women Learning to Code program provided an incredible opportunity to learn a skill I’ve always wanted to learn, at a time in my life I never thought I could. I wasn’t quite sure how or where to begin learning, but IDRF not only welcomed me to join their program, they encouraged me to persist, while doing their utmost to ensure that any limitations surrounding child care and associated costs were mitigated. I am now in Phase II of the coding program and look forward to continuing this journey of discovery.



Mehdi Hasan is a columnist for The Intercept and host of the ‘Deconstructed’ podcast. He is also presenter of ‘UpFront’ and ‘Head to Head’ on Al Jazeera English, and has interviewed presidents and prime ministers from across the world. Mehdi has appeared as a guest on the BBC, NPR, CNN and MSNBC and is the author of two books. In 2013, his debate-winning speech on Islam and peace at the Oxford Union went viral, amassing more than 3 million views on YouTube.

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Farah Nasser is an award-winning, veteran journalist and the anchor of Global News at 5:30 & 6, bringing a wealth of experience acquired from numerous news organizations, including RogersTV, Newstalk 1010, Citytv and CNN.
As a graduate of Ryerson University’s Radio and Television Arts program, Farah has used her journalistic skills to illuminate a variety of pressing issues for the GTA community for nearly twenty years. Among the notable issues that she has covered includes the Toronto SARS outbreak in 2003, the G20 Summit in 2010, the Toronto 18 terror trials and the Syrian refugee crisis.

In addition to her professional achievements, Nasser dedicates a substantial portion of her free time to philanthropy, volunteering as an emcee for community events and working with the Aga Khan Foundation, a renowned international development organization. Farah also serves on the board of directors for the University Health Network’s Arthritis Research Foundation and hosts their Power of Movement yoga fundraiser every year.

IDRF is pleased to have Farah Nasser as our Emcee and look forward to her amazing energy, wit and humour driving and sustaining the momentum of the evening.



Leah Denbok is a young Canadian photojournalist, from Collingwood, Ontario who seeks to illuminate the plight of homeless people with her camera. Leah’s work was inspired by her mother, who herself was found on a Calcutta street, by a policeman, when she was three years old and then taken to an orphanage, run by Mother Teresa’s organization. Despite being only 17 years old, Leah has amassed an impressive reputation for a sensitive eye that captures the people that too many people ignore. Her work has garnered positive reviews from several prominent photographers, including National Geographic photographer and fellow, Joel Sartore, and Lieutenant Governor General of Ontario, Elizabeth Dowdeswell. For her efforts at shedding light on this critical social issue, we are pleased to award her with this year’s Youth Leadership Award.

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Azeezah Kanji is an accomplished academic and journalist, who received her law degree from the University of Toronto and her Masters of Law from The University of London, specializing in Islamic Law.  Azeezah’s writing has appeared in various media, such as The Toronto Star, National Post, OpenDemocracy and diverse academic anthologies and journals, where her work focuses on race, law and social justice from the perspective of an Islamic intellectual tradition. Currently, Azeezah also serves as the Director of Programming at Noor Cultural Centre in North York, Ontario. She is a regular speaker in community, activist, and academic spaces.

In light of Ms. Kanji’s considerable professional and philanthropic achievements, we are pleased to present her with this year’s Woman of Distinction Award.

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For Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to really take root and to thrive in a major institution, it has to come from the top.

At IDRF we are aware that the CEO and entire leadership of RBC are not just interested but passionate and fully committed to CSR. This is manifested in all RBC business modules –it was amongst the first major Canadian institution to ensure diversity in its work place.

In line with their Purpose of “Helping clients thrive and communities prosper”, RBC supports a range of events, by IDRF and by other charitable organisations, that have the objective of improving communities.

RBC’s latest and most ambitious initiative, “Future Launch” is a brilliant CSR example. It has envisioned a 10 year strategy, and put its own generous resources, to address the issues faced by youth who are at-risk, are newcomers, minorities or belong to any vulnerable group.

IDRF applauds RBC’s vision and mission and we are pleased to present our 2018 Corporate Social Responsibility Award to RBC.


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Strings N Skins is a musical group that was founded in 2015 in Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A by vocalist and percussionist Okai and Latin Grammy award winner Luisa Bastidas. Blending Caribbean, Latin American and African influences through the violin and the djembe, (a drum of West African origin,) Strings N Skins delivers a powerful, unique sound that seeks to proudly express the rich ancestry of both performers’ cultural backgrounds. We are pleased that Strings N Skins will be one of our musical performers and look forward to hearing them dazzle our audience.


Playing music since he was old enough to walk, ONQ Mod Sax’s life has been devoted to the study and performance of the Saxophone. Equipped with a Master’s Degree in Music and currently pursuing a second Master’s from York University, he thrives on performing music that shares his energy with the audience. His inspirations include Bach, Beethoven, Charlie Parker and Marcus Brecker- all musical legends who have influenced his own unique and vibrant sound. We look forward to hearing ONQ Mod Sax perform for our audience at our Gala Reception.