Global Connect: Canada 2018

October 14-16, 2018 Toronto and Ottawa

Indiaspora took a high-level delegation of our members and prominent friends to Canada from October 14 – 16. In the wake of the “new NAFTA,” or the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) proposed earlier this month, as well as Prime Minister Trudeau’s trade trip to India earlier in the year, it proved to be a time ripe for discussion.

The purposes of our delegation included connecting with prominent Indian diaspora in Canada across different professions; finding common philanthropic interests for giving to India and within North America; meeting Indo-Canadian entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and others in business/industry; and strengthening global diaspora ties with senior Indo-Canadian politicians and policymakers.

Indiaspora was privileged to be have the opportunity to meet with an array of leaders from Canada, including but not limited to members of parliament, cabinet ministers, ambassadors, entrepreneurs, investors, business leaders, non-profit heads and community organizers.

Please continue reading for a full recap, and scroll to the bottom to see the participants, agenda, photos, and special thanks to certain individuals without whose help this trip would not have been possible!

Our visit kicked off on Sunday, October 14, in Toronto, with an opportunity to meet leaders of prominent Indo-Canadian organizations. First, we held a reception with the Board of the Indo-Canadian Chamber of Commerce (ICCC). A large trade association of small- and mid-sized businesses promoted by Indo-Canadians, the ICCC has been a pillar of the Indo-Canadian community for the past 40 years. The diversity of businesses represented in the ICCC made for an engaging discussion about entrepreneurial success stories among the Indian diaspora in Canada.

The reception was followed by an exclusive dinner with the Canada India Foundation (CIF), a group of prominent Indo-Canadian business people, entrepreneurs and philanthropists. Our special guest, the Hon. Monte McNaughton Ontario’s Minister of Infrastructure, delivered brief remarks, followed by a lively discussion regarding entrepreneurship and the startup economy in Canada. Attendees agreed that while Toronto is quickly becoming a hotspot for AI and emerging technology, it is still improving in terms of availability of venture capital funding.

On Monday, October 15, we began the morning with an intimate breakfast focused on philanthropy, led by Senator Ratna Omidvar and Dr. Mohamed Lachemi, President and Vice-chancellor of Ryerson University. Topics discussed included how the Indian diaspora are uniquely positioned to make an impact in philanthropy, given their credibility and global prominence. Indo-Canadian philanthropists who were invited to participate in the roundtable, as well as those from our delegation, discussed best practices in fundraising. Dr. Krishan Mehta, Assistant Vice President of Engagement at Ryerson, who organized the breakfast, and had previously written his doctoral dissertation on diaspora giving, weighed in as well.

This was followed by a special guided tour at the Royal Ontario Museum by Dr. Deepali Dewan, the museum’s Curator of South Asian Arts & Culture, who is the first to hold this position at the museum. While leading us through highlights of the South Asian art gallery as well as an exhibit of photos by Raghubir Singh, an Indian trailblazer in color photography, she expertly answered questions posed by the delegates, including about her views on returning cultural artifacts to their countries of origin.

The delegation then had a working lunch hosted by Canada-India Business Council, a leading member-driven nonprofit that has been strengthening business relations between Canada and India for more than 30 years. C-IBC also was the association invited by PM Trudeau’s office to organize events for his visit to India in February.

The discussion at lunch was led by C-IBC CEO and President Kasi Rao. There was general consensus among all the business executives in the room that the Canadian outlook towards India as a global trade and business partner has changed dramatically over the last two decades. Today, India is definitely high on the radar among the large global markets that Canadian businesses in many sectors of industry look to expand into, and certainly one of their top destinations in Asia. Special guests Consul General of India in Toronto Dinesh Bhatia and Hon. Jim Wilson, Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, also made remarks regarding the potential to deepen relations between India and Ontario, a state with an outsized contribution to Canada’s GDP.

The Indiaspora delegation spent the remainder of the afternoon taking a deep dive into tech, beginning with an exclusive presentation by the leadership at MaRS Discovery District, a unique non-profit incubator located in the heart of downtown Toronto, where Indiaspora was able to hold our meetings that entire afternoon, thanks to MaRS’ hospitality.

Many of the delegates learned about MaRS Innovation, which specializes in extreme early-stage seed investing for companies and tech emerging from its members, that consist of universities, teaching hospitals and research institutions. A non-profit that solely goes by its acronym, which originally stood for “Medical and Related Sciences,” it has been serving the area for 13 years. The MaRS model is now being replicated in other cities, including Mission Bay in San Francisco.

In addition, four Toronto startups with Indo-Canadian founders in the areas of global health, consumer energy savings, and assistive medical technology for people with disabilities pitched their companies to Indiaspora delegates.

The entrepreneur showcase was followed by short presentations and a lively discussion with several key players in Canada’s startup ecosystem, including organizations such as TechStars, Ryerson Futures, Vector Institute, and universities such as York University and University of Toronto’s Impact Center. In addition, a few of the organizations present for the discussion, Code in Canada and MOV NORTH, explained how they were strategically formed in response to the change in US and other countries’ policies that have recently restricted access to work visas for STEM and computer science graduates.

After our discussion concluded, we hopped on our charter bus with boxed dinners for the Toronto airport, and caught a flight to Ottawa, where we spent the entirety of the next day.

Tuesday, October 16, in Canada’s capital began with a private power breakfast with the Canadian High Commissioner to India, Hon. Nadir Patel. Having flown from India to meet the Indiaspora delegation, he expressed the High Commission’s support for our organization. The discussion included topics such as the Canadian defense industry; areas of growth for Canadian tech sectors like clean tech, agra-tech, health and fintech; and the exponentially growing numbers of students and immigrants coming to Canada.

After concluding our meeting with the Hon. Nadir Patel, we made our way to India House, the stately residence of India’s High Commissioner to Canada, Hon. Vikas Swarup. Nestled in the hills of Rockcliffe Park in Ottawa, the delegation witnessed spectacular fall foliage in full splendor! The Hon. Vikas Swarup hosted the delegation for a private meeting, where he heard about Indiaspora members’ philanthropic efforts and offered support for Indiaspora’s mission. The delegation then joined a community reception attended by several business and nonprofit leaders from the area.

Indiaspora then had a working lunch at Gowling WLG’s law offices, hosted by one of their Partners, Cyrus Reporter, who is a former senior aide to Prime Minister Trudeau. Several prominent Canadian government officials and businesspeople participated, including special guests High Commissioner Nadir Patel; the soon-to-be Canadian Consul General in Mumbai, Annie Dube; and Vandana Kattar-Miller, Deputy Director of Outreach  in PM Trudeau’s Office. Among the topics discussed was how Canada’s open attitude towards high-skilled immigration and the high quality of living enjoyed by the country’s residents are key factors in attracting talent from all over the world across professions, but especially in the STEM fields.

Indiaspora then had the privilege of attending Question Period (QP) on Parliament Hill, during which members of parliament in the opposition parties have the opportunity to question the government’s leadership. Seated in the Senate gallery in the House of Commons, the delegation witnessed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal party colleagues parry questions posed by the opposition. Through QP, Indiaspora was afforded the live opportunity to see Canada’s Parliament at work!

Our last official meeting in Ottawa was with Carleton University’s Canada-India Centre for Excellence and Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). CFI’s mission is to help facilitate trade “using education as a currency,” and to this end, they provided a demonstration of their Research Facilities Navigator, a database of research initiatives in Canada designed to connect researchers and entrepreneurs. Special guests High Commissioners Nadir Patel and Vikas Swarup also participated in the ensuring roundtable discussion, which explored various areas where Canada, India and the US can further collaborate on a person-to-person basis, including the possibility of a “Navigator” to connect prominent members of the global Indian diaspora.

Our delegation then attended a non-partisan parliamentary reception hosted by Senators Ratna Omidvar and Sarabjit Marwah for the Indiaspora delegates. Several other Members of Parliament stopped by, including MPs Hon. Ramesh Sangha, Chair of Canada–India Parliamentary Friendship Group and the former Chair, Hon. Chandra Arya. Special guest Hon. Ahmed Hussen, a Sudanese refugee who rose through the ranks of government to become Cabinet Minister of Immigration, also attended, and the guest of honor, Minister Bardish Chagger, who hails from Waterloo, delivered remarks at the reception.

Our trip ended with a farewell dinner for Indiapora delegates, with a few friends made along the way joining us to enhance the camaraderie. Sen. Omidvar, Hon. Bardish Chagger and High Commissioner Swarup were gracious enough to dine with us, and after some prodding, Hon. Swarup shared us with the captivating story behind writing his book Q&A, the basis of the movie Slumdog Millionaire!

All in all, it proved to be an extremely informative, action-packed, productive and fun three days! We hope that the discussions we had and friendships we made will be the start of a conversation that continues to explore areas of mutual interest regarding philanthropy, technology, and connecting the global Indian diaspora.

Sanjeev Joshipura serves as Indiaspora’s Executive Director and helped plan Indiaspora’s delegation to Canada. Mansi Patel, Communications Manager, also contributed in organizing the effort.

Indiaspora Delegation to Canada

Itinerary in Toronto and Ottawa

October 14 – 16, 2018


October 14, Sunday – Toronto

5:00 PM – 6:00 PM: Roundtable with Board of Directors of Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce (ICCC), a group of small and mid-sized Indo-Canadian business owners and entrepreneurs
Venue: Sheraton Centre Hotel in downtown Toronto, 123 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON
M5H 2N2 Room: Provincial North Ballroom

6:00 PM – 7:00 PM: Cocktail reception with invited guests, Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce (ICCC), entrepreneurs and others
Venue: Sheraton Centre Hotel in downtown Toronto, 123 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON
M5H 2N2 Room: Provincial North Ballroom

7:30 PM – 9:30 PM: Exclusive dinner with Canada India Foundation (CIF), a group of prominent Indo-Canadian business people, entrepreneurs and philanthropists
Venue: Sheraton Centre Hotel in downtown Toronto, 123 Queen Street West Room: Simcoe/Dufferin

October 15, Monday – Toronto

7:30 AM: Check out of the hotel
Venue: Sheraton Centre Hotel in downtown Toronto

8:00 AM – 9:30 AM: The Future of Indian Diaspora Philanthropy: Breakfast with Canadian Senator Ratna Omidvar, President and Vice-Chancellor of Ryerson University Professor Mohamed Lachemi, and Indo-Canadian scholars, businesspeople and philanthropists
Venue: Sheraton Centre Hotel in downtown Toronto, Room: Simcoe/Dufferin

10:00 AM – 12:00 PM: Exclusive curated tour of Royal Ontario Museum by Dr. Deepali Dewan, Dan Mishra Curator of South Asian Arts & Culture, of the South Asia collection and special exhibit: “Modernism on the Ganges: Raghubir Singh Photographs”
Venue: Royal Ontario Museum in downtown Toronto, Queens Street entrance

12:30 PM – 2:15 PM: Working Lunch with Kasi Rao, CEO, Canada-India Business Council (C-IBC), and special guests Consul General of Toronto in India Dinesh Bhatia and Hon. Jim Wilson, Ontario Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, as well as prominent Canadian business people
Venue: MaRS Centre, Discovery District, South Tower, 101 College Street, Ground Floor, Room: CR-3

2:30 PM – 3:00 PM: Presentation by MaRS leadership about their incubator and Canada’s innovation climate
Venue: MaRS Centre, Discovery District, South Tower, 101 College Street, Ground Floor, Room: CR-3

3:00 PM – 4:00 PM: Selected Canadian / Indo-Canadian entrepreneurs showcase their startups

  1.  Blue Dot, founded by Kamran Khan, In our increasingly interconnected world, infectious diseases pose health, security, and economic risks. BlueDot integrates expertise in clinical medicine and public health with big data analytics and visualization to help decision-makers prepare for and respond to infectious diseases. They were able to predict the spread of the Zika virus.
  2. Braze Mobility – proximity sensor for wheel chair users.
  3. Energy X – The ultimate customer engagement platform for utilities and energy retailers.  Enables customers to reduce utility costs by providing utility companies a customer engagement platform.
  4. Immersive – A discrete device that provides proximity alerts to the vision impaired.

Venue: MaRS Centre, Discovery District, South Tower, 101 College Street, Ground Floor, Room: CR-3

4:00 PM – 4:15 PM: Coffee Break
Venue: MaRS Centre, Discovery District, South Tower, 101 College Street, Room: Café

4:15 PM – 5:15 PM: Entrepreneur and investor ecosystem roundtable
Venue: MaRS Centre, Discovery District, South Tower, 101 College Street, Room: Café

5:15 PM – 6:00 PM: Tour of MaRS incubator facilities
Venue: MaRS Centre, Discovery District, South Tower, 101 College Street, Room: Café

6:00 PM: Depart for Billy Bishop Airport with “to go” boxed dinners
Venue: Downtown Toronto

8:50 PM: Flight to Ottawa
Venue: Billy Bishop Airport in downtown Toronto

10:45 PM: Check in at the hotel in Ottawa
Venue: Delta Ottawa City Centre Hotel

October 16, Tuesday – Ottawa

8:00 AM – 9:00 AM: Breakfast with Canada’s High Commissioner to India Nadir Patel and Kasi Rao, CEO, Canada-India Business Council (C-IBC)
Venue: Delta Hotels, Ottawa City Centre, 101 Lyon Street N, Ottawa, ON K1R 5T9 Room: Seigniory

9:30 AM – 10:00 AM: Private Roundtable discussion with Vikas Swarup, High Commissioner of India to Canada
Venue: India House, Residences of Mr. Vikas Swarup, 585 Acacia Avenue, Rockcliffe Park, Ottawa, ON K1M 0M5

10:00 AM – 11:00 AM: Networking Reception hosted by Vikas Swarup, High Commissioner of India to Canada and prominent Canadians and Indo-Canadians from Ottawa will be in attendance
Venue: India House, Residences of Mr. Vikas Swarup, 585 Acacia Avenue, Rockcliffe Park, Ottawa, ON K1M 0M5

11:30 AM – 1:15 PM: Working lunch and roundtable discussion hosted by Cyrus Reporter, Partner, Gowling WLG, and prominent Canadian government officials and businesspeople, attended by High Commissioner Nadir Patel
Venue: Growling WLG Offices, 160 Elgin Street, Suite 2600, Ottawa, ON K1P 1C3

1:45 PM – 3:15 PM: Attend “Question Period” in Parliamentary Gallery
Venue: Canadian Parliament, Ottawa

3:45 PM – 5:00 PM: Canada-US-India policy discussion with Carleton University’s Canada-India Centre for Excellence; High Commissioners Nadir Patel & Vikas Swarup will participate
Venue: Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), 55 Metcalfe Street, Suite 1100, Ottawa, ON K1P 6L5, 11th floor boardroom

5:30 PM – 7:00 PM: Non-partisan parliamentary reception in honor of Indiaspora delegates, hosted by Senators Ratna Omidvar and Sarabjit Marwah, with Hon. Bardish Chagger, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, as the guest of honor. Additional remarks from MP Ramesh Sangha, Chair of Canada – India Parliamentary Friendship Group.
Venue: Parliament Hill, Room: 256-S, Centre Block

7:30 PM – 9:30 PM: Farewell dinner for Indiaspora delegates and invited guests
Venue: India Curry & Kebab House, 39 Clarence St., Byward Market, Ottawa, ON K1N 5P4

Photos of Indiaspora’s Delegation to Canada

To see the complete gallery, please view here.

Indiaspora wants to express our heartfelt gratitude to several individuals who went above and beyond to help organize several meetings and events for our delegation, without which this trip would not have been possible. Thank you.