These Latinos are the most influential of the year in Canada

The only national Hispanic awards program and the most important awards program for Latin Americans in British Columbia both took place last Thursday in Vancouver. TD’s “10 most influential Hispanic Canadians” recognizes outstanding achievements from Hispanic community and across Canada. The “Inspirational Latin Awards” 2018, 5th edition, is the awards program of Latincouver, the organization created with the vision of empowering Latin Americans in BC.

The Inspirational Latin Award on “Innovation & Sustainability” went to Pilar Portela, from I4C Innovation.

Pablo Rodriguez, minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism, announced last weekend TD Bank’s “10 most influential Hispanic Canadians”. Greg Robertson, mayor of Vancouver, also spoke at the event where the winners of Latincouver’s Inspirational Latin Awards and the recipients of the $100,000 in English scholarships at ILAC were announced.

The “Inspirational Latin Awards” 2018, 5th edition, is the awards program of Latincouver, the organization created with the vision of empowering Latin Americans in British Columbia. The “Inspirational Latin Awards” recognizes the outstanding achievements of individuals making a positive impact in BC. Judges include outstanding Latin American and Canadians involved with our community. The awards went to:

Alex Beim (Uruguay)


Alex Beim

Born in Uruguay, artist Alex Beim has lived and worked in Vancouver for more than 20 years. Always an entrepreneur, he started his first business at the age of 18 as a graphic designer in Montevideo. When he made the move to Canada years later, he didn’t know a word of English, but with some tenacity and resourcefulness, he found work almost immediately in advertising. Starting out as a designer, Beim eventually became an Associate Creative for a major Canadian advertising company. With no formal higher education, he is essentially a self-made man.

At 35, Beim took a giant leap and started his own business,Tangible Interaction, following his true passion in life. Since 2006, he has translated his love for coming up with whimsical ideas and figuring out how to make them a reality into the creation of dozens of interactive artworks. Thanks to Tangible, he has traveled the world, creating magical moments for millions of people.

InspireHealth (Canada)


InspireHealth is a not-for-profit health care organization, providing supportive cancer care for individuals living with cancer and their families.  All of our services are completely free and include consultations with exercise therapists, dieticians, medical doctors, clinical counsellors and more!

All of the programs that we offer at InspireHealth are offered free to all participants. This is made possible in part by our many volunteers, who are involved in many components of our programs and classes. Some of the tasks filled by our volunteers are:

-preparing a healthy lunch and snacks for attendees of the LIFE Program;
-setup and take down for programs and classes;
-fundraising activities;
-database assistance and maintenance;
-office tasks such as phone calls.

Total volunteer hours approximate 5000/year.

Chafika Eddine (Brazil)


Chafika Eddine

Chafika’s volunteering efforts include six years as a Director of the Board for the Peruvian Canadian Chamber of Commerce and two years as the Executive Director for the Western Canada. She is one of the founders of the Global Change for Children Foundation and has been previously involved with several fundraising initiatives focused on children’s education and health in Latin America and elsewhere. She has a legal background in addition to certifications as project management professional and corporate social responsibility practitioner and has a Master’s degree in Community Development from the University of Victoria. She has managed international projects in a dozen of countries in Latin America to promote best practices and continuous improvement in areas such as sustainability and governance. Her multicultural experience has honed her commitment to excellence in building relationships and shaped her profile as a connector and an accomplished sustainability ambassador. She was born in Brazil and lived in several other countries including Peru, Bolivia and Panama.

Chafika has helped to raise about $300,000 for the Global Change for Children Foundation. She is making a great contribution to the business community by encouraging the Western Canada in engaging with the Peruvian Canadian Chamber of Commerce. Her great contribution though is connecting people and creating opportunities for them to build new networks, in addition to engaging more and more people to volunteer with her. Chafika is a respected voice and advocate of Human Rights and Business ethics and was a guest speaker and presenter at Uvic, UBC, Ryerson University, Ministry of Energy and Mines of British Columbia, PRIA/UNESCO and several international conferences in Canada, USA and Peru.

Lourdes Ruiz (Mexico)


Lourdes Ruiz

Lourdes Ruiz was born in Colima, Mexico. She was part of the Ballet Folklorico de la Universidad de Colima over many years. Folklore has been like her second life, always on par with her studies, family and personal life. When she moved to Vancouver, she brought with her the love of dance and that’s when she decided to create the Caudillos del Sur Mexican Dance Ensemble in March 2013.

Lourdes and her Mexican Dance Ensemble, have participated in countless events in the Vancouver and Lower Mainland area. Lourdes has opened the doors to many people in the Mexican, Latin and Canadian community, to be part of the group and the experience of the Mexican  Dance Folklore.

“As I said before, moving to another country is not easy. When I moved here I felt alone and I was missing my country. When I found Lourdes and the Ensemble, it felt like I was at home. I’m so happy to have the opportunity to represent Mexico and at the same time, do what I like the most: Dancing. And I’m sure I’m not the only one that thinks the same. The happiness, the colors, the joy, have reach so many people. It’s amazing to see how people like and appreciate our culture.”

I4C Innovation / Pilar Portela


Pilar Portela

i4C Innovation was conceived around October of 2016, an idea birthed on the possibility of developing economic diversification in rural areas while collaborating with existing traditional industry. There were 3 main factors to ensure it opened: secure the 46,000 sq ft state-of-the-art building that had been sitting empty for over 5 years across the Trail airport, arrange a collaborative funding model between a private organization and local not-for-profit organization and procure strong, healthy business relationships with Latin America to support continued growth. This unique and innovative approach ensured a sustainable business model that could be transferred to other rural or under-developed communities around the world that would not depend solely on grants. Today the i4C Innovation Hub sits proud as one of the fastest growing companies in the area and its model is being replicated in neighboring communities.

i4C Innovation has been a leader in rural economic development. A $250K matching fund was what allowed the local economic development office to obtain the $1M fund. These collaborations allowed not just the growth of i4C but the region as a whole. An extremely successful campaign called “Metal Tech Alley” has placed Trail, BC in the map, not just in British Columbia, or Canada, but through out Latin America. Owner and employees alike have delivered multiple presentations to local schools, colleges and not-for-profits, on the jobs of the future, how to collaborate with Latin American companies, and strategies on growth of diversity and inclusion at levels.

Michael Reyes (Dominican Republic)


Michael Reyes

Michael is an amateur musician,a self taught instrumentalist composer and singer. He is a hopeless romantic who believes in all forms of love and respect in the world. Initially, he aspired to be professional baseball player. However, he later had a severe accident that would no longer allow him to pursue that dream. This is what eventually led him to find his place in music. He is now a firm believer in that everything happens for a reason. Through his voice and his music he has been able to share his passion for music and latin culture with Canada. He has used music as an excuse to bring people together musically and for noble causes like for fundraisers and charities.

Michael Reyes strongly believes in the importance of giving back to the community and specifically working to help the less fortunate. He founded” La Fundacion ILS ONT AUSSI LE DROIT” in 2015, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping the homeless with food, and clothes during harsh winters. In Montreal, at the end of every month, a group of 48 volunteers gather to spread across 16 metro stations to hand out food to the homeless. In December 2015, the same was done in Hastings, Vancouver. Below is a link to a video about the foundation.

Nominees and judges of the “Inspirational Latin Awards” 2018.

TD’s 10 most influential Hispanic Canadians recognizes community members from across Canada. To date, there are 120 awardees in 7 provinces representing 18 countries of origin. The program is presented by TD Bank and organized by Canadian Hispanic Business Alliance with support from the Canadian Hispanic Congress. The winners in this edition were:

Álvaro Pombo (Colombia / ON)


Alvaro Pombo

Álvaro Pombo is one of Canada’s great technology leaders, and the only Hispanic in Canada who has founded a publicly traded company. As the CEO of ProntoForms, he inspires Canadian entrepreneurs and our Hispanic community. In 2001, he founded ProntoForms, an award-winning mobile productivity app. ProntoForms now has 3,000 clients with 65,000 subscribers in 30+ countries and 100+ employees. The company went public in 2009 TSX Venture Exchange: PFM) and has a market cap of approximately $40 million. ProntoForms has received the Employees’ Choice Award, by the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce, was named One of Ottawa’s 10 Fastest Growing Companies and one of Canada’s Fastest growing Technology Companies in 2017.

Pombo has 30 years of leadership experience in Field Automation and IT. Prior to founding ProntoForms, Pombo was CIO and Vice President of Global Information Technology for the Carrier Internetworking Division of Alcatel Lucent and consultant to technology leaders like Palm and others. Pombo came to Canada in 1991 to pursue an MBA at the University of Ottawa and stayed working with Sir. Terrance Matthews, a Canadian high-tech legend. Prior, Alvaro studied Computer Engineering (Universidad de Los Andes) and worked for 6 years at Esso in Colombia. Pombo holds Patents and is the winner of distinctions from the City of Ottawa, the Government of Colombia, and other organizations recognizing his entrepreneurial work, and his success as an immigrant to Canada.

Carlos Escobedo (Mexico / ON)


Carlos Escobedo

Mexican-born Dr. Carlos Escobedo, a young pioneer in the emerging field of nanotechnology-based sensing, tackles problems of great scientific and social importance. He has developed novel, patented, biomedical technologies including a bedside real-time sensor for different diseases, such as urinary tract infection, and a novel technology for early detection of ovarian cancer (deemed “the most lethal gynecologic malignancy”), for which detection at symptomatic stages is usually fatal. After receiving a BSc from Mexico’s UNAM in 2000, Carlos obtained a Masters of Applied Science from the University of Toronto, and went on to work at Innovamedica R&D- developing an artificial heart that was implanted successfully in humans. Returning to academia, Carlos obtained his PhD (2011) from the University of Victoria, subsequently working as scientist at the prestigious Swiss Institute of Technology (2011-2013).

He arrived at Queen’s University in 2013 as an Assistant Professor in Chemical Engineering, and currently serves as the Technical Chair for the Canadian Society of Mechanical Engineering. Escobedo’s publications include: two patents, one book (co-editor), and over 40 articles, including work published in four of the most prestigious journals including NanoLetters and Nature Communications, with ~1,000 citations. His scientific work has been featured in top scientific journals and magazines including Nature Photonics and Optics & Photonics News, and even popular science magazines. Awards: Early Researcher Award (2018), NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship (2012- 2014), UVIC President’s Research Scholarship (2011), NSERC PGS-D Graduate Scholarship (2009-2011), Best Student Presentation Award (2010 ASME International-Conference), Mexico’s International Graduate Scholarship (2000-2002) and Academic Excellence Scholarship (1996-2000).

César Jaramillo (Colombia / ON)


César Jaramillo

Colombian-born César Jaramillo came to Canada in 2005 with his wife seeking protection and both ended up at a refugee shelter. Today a Canadian citizen, he has become a renowned expert on nuclear disarmament, outer space security and conventional weapons control, managing one of Canada’s most important organizations in the sector. Cesar is the third Executive Director in Project Ploughshares’ 42-year history. The organization works with civils society and governments to reduce armed violence and build sustainable peace. As an international civil society representative, Cesar has addressed the UN General Assembly First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), the UN Conference on Disarmament, the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), the states parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).

Cesar has lectured at the National Law University in New Delhi, the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, New York University, and the University of Toronto. An occasional columnist on matters of disarmament and international security, Cesar graduated from the University of Waterloo with an MA in global governance and has bachelor’s degrees in political science and journalism. Cesar is a board member of the Control Arms coalition and the Canadian Pugwash Group, member of the Human Security Network in Latin America and the Caribbean (SEHLAC), and of the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons – Nobel Peace Prize 2017. Prior to joining Project Ploughshares, Cesar held a fellowship at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI).

Fernando Mata (Peru / ON)


Fernando Mata

Fernando Mata is the most recognized Hispanic social demographer in Canada and one of the top in the country. Born and educated in Peru (B.A. Sociology), he obtained a Masters in Population Studies from the University of Western Ontario as well as a PhD in Social Demography and Ethnic Studies from York University.

In the last thirty years, he worked for various Canadian federal government departments such as Canadian Heritage, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Human Resources and Social Development and Justice Canada. He has several publications in Canadian and international journals and books in topics related to social demography, multiculturalism, ethnic and race relations as well as social statistics & methodology. He taught undergraduate and graduate courses in social demography and statistics for the Departments of Social Science at Royal Roads University, School of Journalism and Communications at Carleton University and the School of Sociological and Anthropological Studies at the University of Ottawa. As a member of the Canadian Population Society, he is interested in projects related to the well-being of visible, ethnic minorities and religious groups in Canada and across the world.

Isaac García-Sitton (Spain / Panama / ON)


Isaac García-Sitton

Born in Barcelona and raised in Panama, Isaac García-Sitton is a respected leader in the Higher Education sector and seasoned MBA with over 15 years’ experience in international relations and business development. Having relocated to Canada in 2007 as the Consul General of Panama in Montreal, he is currently the Director of International Education & English Language Institute (YUELI) at York University. YUELI is the largest university provider of Academic English training in Canada, with an annual enrollment of 3,500 students from over 50 countries. In 2016, Mr. Garcia-Sitton was the only Canadian recipient of the Organization of the American States and Instituto de Empresa scholarship to pursue studies in the Global Senior Management Program to support the Canadian education sector’s development. In 2015, the Salvadoran government recognized him with the Ministerial designation “Amigo de El Salvador”, for his ongoing support of social development initiatives in that nation.

Together with the Consul General of El Salvador in Montreal, he obtained $250,000 in scholarships for ten Salvadoran students to attend Mexico’s renowned Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey. He consistently supports initiatives aimed at helping low-income individuals establish their micro enterprises. Furthermore, he has presented in numerous international events on topics ranging from diversity and inclusion to Latin American business practices and international education. Mr. Garcia-Sitton is currently pursuing a PhD in Education at York University. His research focuses on the concept of the “ideal immigrant”, as an exploration of the international student experience and its socioeconomic impact on Canadian society.

Jorge Burneo (Peru / ON)


Jorge Burneo

Born and trained in medicine in Peru, Dr. Burneo is already a Canadian pioneer in epilepsy. He completed his residency training in neurology and a fellowship epilepsy in the US, while simultaneously obtaining a Masters in Public Health. In 2004, he joined Western University, where he currently is a Professor of Neurology, Co- Director of the Epilepsy Program and Director of the Electroencephalography (EEG) laboratory. Nationally and internationally, he is the President of the Canadian League Against Epilepsy; member of the North American Commission of the International League against Epilepsy (ILAE); ILAE representative at the Pan American Health Organization; and the only Canadian on the Board of the American Epilepsy Society. He has trained multiple neurologists, who now treat patients in Canada, Spain, Peru, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, India, UAE, Taiwan and Mexico. In 2008, he initiated the development of epilepsy programs in Peru, and collaborated to establish Peru’s first two epilepsy surgery programs.

Those centres have become national referral centers, functioning independently as he envisioned. He co-leads a strategy supported by the Ministry of Health, which has improved epilepsy care in Ontario; co-authored guidelines to improve epilepsy care in Ontario; and co-led the ECHO-project (Epilepsy across the lifespan) to educate and provide support to remote areas. He co-leads Eplink, an Ontario Brain Institute research program, has published immensely, and presented nationally and internationally. Publications include: 370+ peer-reviewed publications and abstracts, edited a book for Ontarian High Schools on neurosciences, an Evidence-Based neurology book, and an EEG handbook in Spanish and English.

José A. Castillo (Peru /ON)


José A. Castillo

Peruvian-born Jose Castillo (LLB, MBA, GMP) is a Managing Director and leader of KPMG’s Global Quality and Risk Management Tax group, influencing 35,000 Tax professionals worldwide and helping strengthen KPMG’s reputation as the most trustworthy firm consistently achieving the highest standards of quality, ethics and integrity. Despite his busy schedule, including extensive traveling, he volunteers promoting Hispanic advancement, supporting persons with disabilities and fundraising for cancer research. A builder among Hispanic groups, in 2010, he founded KPMG’s Ibero-America Network supporting Hispanic individuals, and organizations such as Latin American MBAs, Hispanotech, and Hispanics in Mining. He is also a member of the Board of Directos of ArtsXplosion, the NGO organizing Toronto’s Panamerican Food and Music Festival.

He sits in KPMG committees representing Hispanics and has coached Hispanic immigrants at Toronto Regional Employment Council. In 2011, Jose founded KPMG’s AdaptAbility Network to support persons with disabilities. Jose is also Vice Chair of the Board of Directors at Ontario JOIN, an NGO promoting employment for persons with disabilities. In 2015, Jose volunteered during the 2015 Toronto Para-Panamerican games. Each year, he raises thousands of dollars for cancer research through the Ride to Conquer Cancer, the Run for the Cure and Movember. In 2015, the Canadian Board Diversity Council honored Jose as one of Canada’s 50 Most Diverse Board candidates. In 2016, KPMG honored Jose with its Community Leadership Award. Jose holds degrees from Peru’s Catholic University, Xavier University and Harvard Business School. He speaks Spanish and English fluently, and some Dutch and French.

Luis Fernando Villalba (Paraguay / BC)


Luis Fernando Villalba

Paraguayan-born Dr. Luis Fernando Villalba is a respected lecturer/researcher on development, global and green business in the Americas and Europe. As Associate Dean of Business at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, BC, he designed and is now deploying the first graduate programs specialized in Green Business Management and Global Business Management. For over a decade he taught business, economics and Latin American Management at Vancouver’s Capilano University. Dr. Villalba has held high profile positions at the Board of the World Bank and the Global Environmental Facility in Washington, DC. He was the Chief Monetary Officer-Central Bank of Paraguay and the former President/Chancellor of Universidad del Pacífico – Paraguay. He recently obtained patents on green fertilizers. His latest book (2016) is entitled Green and Clean Technologies: Sustainable Soils with Paramagnetic and Diamagnetic Fertilization.

Education: PhD (University of Kansas/UNIDA); three Masters in Latin American Studies, Arts, and Development (respectively from University of Kansas, Piedmont College in Athens, GA, and ISEAD Business School in Madrid, Spain), Ed.D. in Science of Education, and Bachelors of Science and Arts (University of Maryland). He is currently working on a Post Doctoral program in Green and Clean Business Curricula at the Centre for Post Doctoral Studies (Spain). Community involvement: Honorary Consul of Paraguay in British Columbia (3rd term) and membership in the Paraguayan Centre for Canadian Studies established by the Canadian Government. Assisted by the Canadian International Development Agency and Capilano University, he has built links between Latin America and Canada.

Marcelo Aliendre (Bolivia / ON)


Marcelo Aliendre

Born in Oruro, Bolivia and in Canada since 2013, Marcelo Aliendre is among the most important executives in Canada’s mining sector. As the Director of Asset Management at Barrick Gold Corporation, he supports operations globally at several countries around the world, making him a pioneer in this type of business role in large multinational companies by exposing his abilities as a Latin American professional. Marcelo regularly speaks at major international mining forums such as the Brazilian Maintenance Congress, the Operation and Maintenance Congress of Arab Countries, and the 4th World Congress of Maintenance in China, in which he won the “Excellent Paper for Young Author” award. He was President of the Ibero-American Maintenance Congress and Peruvian Maintenance Congress. Despite his success in mainstream society and recognitions in the world’s mining sector, Marcelo never forgets his community.

He is President of the Residents of Oruro in Toronto, an active member of the folklore group Llasas de Canada, and founding member and advisor of the Canadian Bolivian Chamber of Commerce. His community work has helped those affected in natural disasters around the globe. Furthermore, Marcelo is a firm believer in education as a path to continuous personal growth. He was responsible for enabling support from Caterpillar and Newmont to Educational Centers in Peru, and also part of the worldwide recognized Junior Achievement Program. Because of serving and supporting the local communities in the development of educational and cultural programs, Marcelo become a role model to present and future generations.

Sen. Rosa Gálvez (Perú / ON)


Rosa Gálvez

Rosa Gálvez is the first and only Hispanic speaking person ever appointed to the Senate of Canada. She is one of Canada’s leading experts in pollution control and its effect on human health, and has provided her technical expertise to several national and international agencies. Originally from Peru, she was appointed to the Senate in 2016 representing Québec (Bedford). She has a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from McGill University and has been a professor at Université Laval à Québec since 1994- where she headed the Civil and Water Engineering Department from 2010 to 2016. She specializes in water and soil decontamination, waste management and residues, and environmental impact and risk assessment.

She has acted as an expert and consultant for several national and international agencies such as the Commission of Environmental Co- operation of NAFTA, the Scottish Research Partnership organization office of the U.K. Research Council, UN- Chair for water in the Mediterranean Region, Petrobras (Brazil), Vinci Highways (France) and many others including USA-Canada agreements regarding the protection of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River. Her work includes an important study on the catastrophic oil spill at Lac-Mégantic. She is also a research scientist at the ISE-Italian National Research Council, Guanajuato University (Mexico) and ENTPE-Lyon (France). Senator Galvez is a member of the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec and the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering and Engineers Without Borders. Her research has led her around the world to countries such as France, Italy, Belgium, Japan and China.

“It was an honour to have Minister Rodriguez presenting TD’s 10 most winners. I will continue working for the betterment of our community and seeking opportunities in housing for my community around projects like Google’s SidewalkLabs in Toronto,” said Mauricio Ospina, director of the Canadian Hispanic Business Alliance, in charge of TD’s 10 most program, and a real estate agent.

Inspirational Latin Awards 2018 also recognized six community members from BC. The program is organized by Latincouver with the support of Endeavour Silver, Pan American Silver, Toastmaster – District 96, Eclipse Awards, Cuso International and the International Language School of Canada – ILAC. ILAC in conjunction with the Canadian Hispanic Business Alliance created the $100,000 ILAC English scholarships for ten women recognized as social leaders in their countries of origin.

The over one million Hispanics in Canada are five years younger and more likely to be university educated than other Canadians. More than 70% arrived in Canada within the last 30 years – this according a Statistics Canada study and immigrants’ growth projections developed by the Canadian Hispanic Business Alliance. Spanish is the third most widely spoken language in the country, as indicated on a study from the Canadian Foundation for the Americas.