The IDRF Annual Gala is our signature Annual fundraising event and it will be particularly special this year since it will be a celebration of Canadians who are making positive contributions in the local community and abroad. In light of Canada’s 150th Anniversary, we will celebrate our common beliefs: respect for diversity, the significance of human dignity, and the importance of commitment to improving the world through philanthropic work.

Thank you for your tremendous support. The Event is now Sold Out but we are still accepting donations.
Payam Akhavan Aug. 29, 2016 in Toronto.

Photo by Peter Bregg CM


Payam Akhavan, a Professor of Law at McGill University, is a renowned international law scholar and former UN prosecutor at The Hague, who has devoted his life to advancing and protecting human rights.

Professor Akhavan received his Doctor of the Science of Jurisprudence (SJD) from Harvard Law School and worked as a Senior Fellow at Yale Law School. He was the first Legal Advisor to the Prosecutor’s Office of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda at The Hague (1994-2000) and made significant contributions to its foundational jurisprudence. He is also a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada and the New York State bar and has appeared as counsel and advocate in leading cases before diverse courts such as the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court and the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Supreme Courts of Canada and the United States.

Professor Akhavan also has served in the field with the UN in Bosnia, Croatia, Cambodia, Guatemala, Timor Leste, and Rwanda.  In 2016, he was appointed as a Member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

Professor Akhavan has published extensively in leading journals and his work has been featured on leading media, including CBC, BBC, Maclean’s magazine, the New York Times.  This year, he has been invited to deliver the CBC Massey Lectures entitled “In Search of a Better World.”

We are pleased to feature Professor Payam Akhavan as our Gala Keynote Speaker, when he will share his unique insights as a human rights lawyer and advocate for improving and seeking justice for vulnerable people.



Zaib Shaikh is an entertainment industry renaissance man who has worked as an actor, writer, director and producer for over 20 years. His credits include the film, Midnight’s Children, adapted from the novel by Salman Rushdie and directed by the Oscar-nominated Deepa Mehta and the international Canadian hit comedy, “Little Mosque on the Prairie.” Zaib has also co-produced the special: “Long Story Short: CBC Turns 75”, hosted by Martin Short and co-wrote, directed and co-produced the Gemini Award winning Television film, “Othello, the Tragedy of the Moor.”

Apart from his acting and producing achievements, Zaib is currently the Film Commissioner & Director of Entertainment Industries for the City of Toronto, where he works to promote the City of Toronto as a dynamic place for film and television investment and tourism. As part of his duties, Zaib oversees the Screen, Music, Live Events support and Tourism portfolios and teams at Toronto City Hall.

We are pleased to have Zaib Shaikh as our Emcee and look forward to his amazing energy, wit and humour driving and sustaining the momentum of the evening.



Adeena Niazi
Executive Director, Afghan Women’s Organization (AWO)


Adeena Niazi is the founder and the Executive Director of the Afghan Women’s Organization (AWO), which for over 27 years, has supported and advocated for women and children’s welfare in Afghanistan. The AWO has also sponsored and successfully settled thousands of refugees from different countries into Canada, which has a special significance for Adeena: as a former refugee who fled to India from her home during the former Soviet Union’s (USSR) occupation of Afghanistan, she is acutely aware of the precariousness of a refugee’s life and the vital need for urgent support.

As an outspoken human rights advocate, Adeena has participated and spoken at several international conferences about the plight of women and the violation of human rights in Afghanistan, including the Brussels summit of Afghan Women Leaders. She has served as an elected member of the Government Committee on Private Sponsorship for 4 years and as a board member of several organizations including The Refugee Law office, Culture Link, and the Afghan Association of Ontario. Her philanthropic work has often been dangerous, putting her in harm’s way when she travelled to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan to establish and manage educational programs and open an orphanage for young girls.

In light of her great humanitarian achievements, Adeena has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the YWCA Woman of Distinction Award, Skills for Change New Pioneers’ Award, The Order of Ontario, and The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal.

We are honoured to present her with IDRF’s Humanitarian of the Year award at our Annual Gala.

Farah Nasser_web

Farah Nasser


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 and the Toronto 18 terror trials.

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.

We are honoured to present Farah Nasser with IDRF’s Woman of Distinction award in light of her considerable philanthropic contributions.


Jim Estill
President & CEO, Danby Appliances


Jim Estill is the CEO and President of Danby Appliances and a Canadian technology entrepreneur, executive, and philanthropist who grew a modest distribution business into a thriving company that he sold off. Jim then became CEO of SYNNEX Canada and grew sales from $800 million to $2 billion over five years.

In 2016 and 2017, Jim made national and international headlines by personally sponsoring and settling 58 Syrian refugee families in his hometown of Guelph, Ontario. For his philanthropic work, Jim was awarded with the Order of Ontario, the province’s highest honour, in 2017.

In addition to his business success, Jim has also invested in, mentored and advised various technology companies, including Blackberry.  He joined their board and served as a board member for 13 years. He is also a multiple nominee of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

We are very pleased to honour Mr. Estill for his tremendous humanitarian achievements with our Corporate Social Responsibility Award.


Jamil Jivani
Lawyer, Activist, Professor & Author


Jamil Jivani is a Canadian lawyer, activist, professor and author, who focuses on creating economic opportunities for families, empowering youth and improving public safety. A graduate of Humber College, York University and Yale University, Jamil holds research and teaching appointments at Yale Law School and Osgoode Hall Law School and is the director of law and policy at the not-for-profit, Our Ohio Renewal, which among its areas of focus, provides support for those suffering from opiate addiction.

In addition to Jamil’s professional achievements, he founded the Citizen Empowerment Project and serves as Vice Chair of the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto and has volunteered with youth organizations in Canada, Kenya, Egypt and Belgium. Jamil’s work in disadvantaged neighborhoods in North America and Europe has garnered attention from media outlets including The BBC, CBC, CTV, and TVO. Jamil was named the 2015 Young Lawyer of the Year by the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers and is a 2016 recipient of Thomson Reuters’ Lexpert Zenith Award for Diversity and Inclusion.

In recognition of his considerable humanitarian achievements, IDRF is pleased to honour Jamil Jivani with our Youth Leadership Award