Many candidates acknowledged the Iranian-Canadian community as fractured and vowed to change the culture through transparency and inclusivity through aggressive outreach
Transparency and inclusivity were the unofficial themes of the Iranian Canadian Congress’ 2012 annual general meeting where five new board members were elected.
The seven candidates running for the Iranian Canadian Congress (ICC) Board of Directors were Mr. David Mousavi, Ms. Nasrin Javanfar, Mr. Ahmad Dolatabadi, Dr. Sam Assadpour, Dr. Farrokh Zandi, Mr. Kaveh Shahrooz, and Dr. Davod Kafai.
The five members ending their tenure were former President Behnam Esfahanizadeh, Ali Kajbaf, Mohammad Tajdolati, Ehsan Mirdamadi and Vaheed Jaberansari.
Each candidate had four minutes in front of the audience to deliver a speech before voting took place.
The first candidate to speak was real estate agent Ahmad Dolatabadi, whose main focus was “to have a clear space and context for everyone to be able to communicate with the Congress without judgment.”
Toronto Lawyer David Mousavi expressed five principles he would make the board look toward, if elected, including speaking out against domestic and foreign human rights violations, to engage with all levels of government, and to educate Iranians on the Canadian political system.
Dr. Farrokh Zandi said he wanted to join the board “to bring forth an agenda which is practical, which is doable, which is effective, so that (the Congress) could be a voice for the Iranian community.”
Veterinarian Dr. Davod Kafai said he’s been an ICC member since its inception and added that the vote should not be to simply elect him, rather to strengthen the existing organization.
In his speech, Dr. Sam Assadpour listed his many accomplishments before stating the importance of focusing on an aging Canadian society.
“We think in the next two decades (the population of Canadian seniors) is going to be 9.3 million,” said Assadpour, later assuring that his focus will be on many different social changes including health care.
Mr. Kaveh Shahrooz boldly stated that the ICC has not lived up to its potential and offered a few ideas towards changing its current trajectory.
“What I want to focus on is making the ICC more inclusive and more transparent in its dealings with the community and more focused on consulting with the community at large,” said Shahrooz.
Finally, Ms. Nasrin Javanfar ended the speech portion of the meeting by emphasizing the importance of supporting youth.
“Where is our tax money going?” Ms. Javanfar asked the audience. “My dream for the Congress is to make it more inclusive for everyone across Canada.”
Each voter had a change to choose five candidates out of seven on their ballot.
Mr. Shahrooz received the most votes with 170, followed by Dr. Zandi (163), Dr. Assadpour (148), Mr. Mousavi (145), Dr. Kafai (137), Ms. Javanfar (79) and Mr. Dolatabadi (34). The first five candidates are now the newest members of the ICC’s Board of Directors.
Salam Toronto spoke to the five new board members, asking them all what they look forward to accomplishing now that they are part of the board.
“I think that with the help of my other colleagues, we can make this major channel of our community more effective,” said Dr. Zandi.
“This is a very sensitive time,” said Dr. Kafai. “We need to come together to present the Iranian community as we are, not as ‘they’ say we are.”
“If the organization wants to hold itself out as representing the community, it has to engage them and build up membership,” said Mr. Mousavi. “That’s got to happen with outreach and more consultations.”
“What people are looking forward to, I think, is a sense of change and renewal,” said Mr. Shahrooz. “I think consultation is lacking and we need to reach out to different organizations, letting them know that we, in fact want to hear from them, and we value their opinions.”
“The first thing is to get more members,” said Mr. Assadpour. “We have to represent the Iranian people. We need to collaborate and cooperate with other Iranian Canadian associations. We also need to help the immigrant people to be successful Canadian citizens.”
The board of directors is currently in the process of planning a date to appoint each other positions. The five new members will join Dr. Alidad Mafinezam, Ms. Sholeh Khalili, Ms. Niaz Salimi and Mr. Mehrdad Khalili.
The five new board members:
Kaveh Shahrooz was raised in Tehran and Toronto. He graduated from the University of Toronto and obtained his law degree from Harvard Law School, where he served as an Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Human Rights Journal. He has served as a senior policy advisor on human rights to Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and has previously practiced law at an international law firm in New York. He currently practices law at a large Canadian company, where his practice is focused on ensuring corporate compliance with international human rights standards. His writing on the human rights situation in Iran has been published, among other places, by the Harvard Human Rights Journal and the BBC.
Dr. Farrokh Zandi:
Since 1991, Dr. Farrokh Zandi has been with the Schulich School of Business at York University and is currently a professor in the Economics Area and the Associate Director of Undergraduate Programs (BBA and International BBA). He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Carleton University, Ottawa; a Master of Arts in Economics (Honours) from Lakehead University, Thunder Bay and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Business Administration from Pahlavi University, Iran. He regularly appears in the national and international media outlets and has served as a consultant for various public and private enterprises. Farrokh Zandi has also served on several boards as a Chair or board member, including the Iranian Advisory Council at Family Service Association of Metro Toronto (1993-2001), the Reference Group at the Ontario Ministry of Health (2005-continuing), the Iranian-Canadian Network for Employment and Entrepreneurship Mentoring (2002- 2007), Ontario Research Fund Advisory Board (to join in 2012) and has received the Volunteer Award from FSA as well as the York Region.
Dr. Sam Assadpour:
Dr. Sam Assadpour studied medical and public health education in the United States and Iran. He has held successful senior management and directorial positions in the Iranian Health administration. For many years he has run World Health Organization-guided health promotion and population management projects in Iran. His health advisory projects have been innovative and successful leading to remarkable award-winning results. Currently, he is active in the area of seniors’ health promotion and hosts a popular community health promotion radio program. Dr. Assadpour is also COHAN’s Health advisory director.
Dr. Davod Kafai:
Dr. Davod Kafai immigrated to Canada in 1998. Dr. Kafai is the current owner, director, and senior veterinarian of Dr. Kafai Veterinary Hospital in Thornhill since its opening in 2003. He is a member of The College of Veterinary of Ontario, member of Ontario Veterinary Medical Association, member of Toronto Academy of Veterinary Medicine, and member of Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. He was a director and past president of the Toronto Academy of Veterinary Medicine between 2009 and 2011, and he sits as committee member of Discipline Committee in The College of Veterinary of Ontario. He is an executive committee member of Thornhill Federal Liberal Riding Association. He is the founder of the Iranian Canadian Veterinary Association. He has received a Ph. D. in Hospital Management in Health Care Systems as well as a Ph. D. in Food Hygiene and Food Technology.
Mr. David Mousavi:
David is a lawyer practicing in Toronto with Borden Ladner Gervais LLP and is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School and the Schulich School of Business. David also has extensive international experience gained through studies at Waseda Law School in Tokyo, Japan and as a participant in the Global Leadership Program, offered in conjunction with Schulich at the Leon Recanati Graduate School of Business in Tel Aviv, Israel. Public service and community building are central values for David as he serves on the boards of two non-profit agencies in North York (Family Day Care Services and Downsview Services for Seniors) and is the Vice President of the Willowdale Provincial Liberal Association. Through his involvement in the community, David has organized the ICC’s Democratic Engagement Program – a one day workshop on the Canadian political system encouraging civic engagement – and moderated a recent political debate organized for by the ICC for the 2011 Ontario provincial election.
The remaining four board members:
Ms. Sholeh Khalili:
Ms. Khalili has a degree in Sociology and an Early Childhood Education Diploma. Prior to coming to Canada, she worked for “Kanooneh Parvaresh Fekrie Koodakan va Nodjavanan” in Iran for 17 years. She has worked with YMCA for more than 14 years as a director of child care. She used to work with ” Peykeh Rooz” and had a weekly column in the newspaper. She has co-hosted several fundraising events for Mahak and Karnameh.
Dr. Alidad Mafinezam:
Dr. Alidad Mafinezam is an Iranian-Canadian scholar, writer, and convener, focused on the intersection of social science and comparative public policy. He is the founder and president of the West Asia Council, a Toronto-based think tank which aims to harness the potential of the West Asian diaspora in the U.S. and Canada. Mafinezam is also co-founder of the Mosaic Institute in Toronto. He holds a Ph.D. in Public Policy from the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ, where he focused on comparative public policy, as well as urban and regional planning in a North American context. Mafinezam also holds a BA in psychology and philosophy from the University of Western Ontario, and is a graduate of the Thacher School in Ojai, California.
Mr. Mehrdad Khalili:
Mehrdad Khalili is an enthusiastic and dedicated consultant engineer with over 28 years of experience in different areas of international business & industrial fields. He came to Canada almost 20 years ago and during these years Mehrdad has also been personally involved or assisted development of a number of successful real estate projects in GTA and other parts of Ontario. Mehrdad has been a board member and Vice president of the Canadian Society of the Iranian Engineers & Architects (Mohandes) for 3 years, early 1990s. Mehrdad believes that “Experience, Integrity, Knowledge and Service are the four pillars of Success.”
Mrs. Niaz Salimi:
Niaz Salimi was born in 1954. She studied theater while in Iran, and in 1978, to continue her field of study, she moved to England. She then returned to Iran and after about ten years, she moved to Canada in 1988. Since her arrival in Canada, she has been actively involved with many organizations like the Canadian Muslim Congress and the Iranian Canadian Congress to name a couple.