Canada already knows its most influential Hispanics of 2019

Since 2007, the ’10 most influential Hispanic Canadians’ has 130 awardees from 7 provinces and 17 countries of origin.

Influential Hispanics Canada
10 most influential Hispanic Canadians – 2019 (Left to right): Sponsor, Bernardo Riveros, Sponsor, GLUJaime Gonzalez (TD executive sponsor) Sponsor, Laura Marin, Copa Airlines, Aldo Di Felice, Anatol Von Hanh (absent represented by Victor Garcia), Beatriz Pizano, Carlos Bastidas, Dr. Luis Lehner, Luis Zuniga, Dr. Manuel Montero-Odasso (absent represented by Pablo Fernandez), Max Gomez, Milder Villegas and Hon. Patricia Peña. Photo by Magic Vision

The TD’s “10 most influential Hispanic Canadians” were announced this Thursday with Lynn Barr-Telford, Assistant Chief Statistician at Statistics Canada, and his Worship John Tory, Mayor of Toronto, in attendance. Barr-Telford released the latest ‘Profile of the Hispanic community in Canada’ based on the 2016 census, which indicates the presence of over one million Hispanics in Canada, approximately ten years younger and more likely to be university-educated than other Canadians.

The “10 most” is presented by TD Bank with support of Copa Airlines, Global University Systems, ILAC – International Language Academy of Canada, and Ryerson University. The program is organized by Canadian Hispanic Business Alliance this year in cooperation with the Canadian Hispanic Congress, which requested the Stats Canada study, and the most important community associations. The winners this year have been:

  • Aldo Di Felice (Arg/ON): President of TLN Media Group
  • Anatol Von Hanh (Chi/ON): VC, Board Member, (fr) Group Head, Scotiabank
  • Beatriz Pizano (Col/ON): Actor, playwright, Artistic Director of Aluna Theatre
  • Carlos Bastidas (Arg/ON): Music Director, Durham Chamber Orchestra
  • Luis Lehner (Arg/QC): Faculty Chair, Strong gravity expert, Perimeter Institute
  • Luis Zuniga (Chi/QC): President, Hispanic and Latin Americans of Québec
  • Manuel Montero-Odasso (Arg/ON): World expert in dementia in older adults, Western U.
  • Max Gomez (Col/ON): President, Canadian Association of Latino Peace Officers
  • Milder Villegas (Per/QC): Director, Filaction development fund
  • Patricia Peña (Chi/ON): Canadian Ambassador to Chile

Since 2007, the “10 most influential Hispanic Canadians” has 130 awardees from 7 provinces and 17 countries of origin. The program, personally recognized by a Prime Minister, has taken place in Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa, Saskatchewan, Calgary and Toronto. Judges include past winners and executives from Calgary’s Canada West Foundation, Globe & Mail, National Post, Toronto Star, CBC, Canadian Council for the Americas, Canadian Aboriginal & Minority Supplier Council, and the North American Association of Asian Professionals.

Aldo Di Felice. Photo: VideoAge

Aldo Di Felice

President of TLN Media Group

Aldo is the President of TLN Media Group (TMG), Canada’s most influential multilingual media company. TMG is a Canadian owned privately held company engaged in the TV channel business, media production, distribution and live events. Based in Toronto and Montreal, TMG’s primary TV channel is known as “TLN” and is seen in millions of homes.  Born in Argentina, Aldo came to Canada in 1964. He graduated from the University of Toronto Law School and was called to the Ontario Bar in 1988.  As corporate commercial lawyer for 6 years, Aldo became involved with Canada’s media sector in 1993 when he joined a major Canadian production/ distribution company, eventually becoming Chief Operating Officer.

Aldo joined TMG in 1998, at the time a single multilingual TV channel. Most recently, he led the buyback by community shareholders of the majority interest in the company held by public media company Corus Entertainment. He launched Univision Canada and Mediaset Italia Canada – all-Spanish and all-Italian TV channels, as well as Teleninos and Telebimbi – Canada’s first heritage language children’s channels.  Aldo also founded the Canadian Salsa Festivals Project, a non-profit organization that leads the “Salsa in Toronto/Salsa on St Clair” annual summer festival with hundreds of thousands of attendees. He is a member of the St. Michael’s Hospital President’s Council since 2009, and was appointed by the Ontario Government to serve as a public member of the Ontario Public Accountant’s Council for a decade.  He is a donor to the $120,000 Ryerson University Hispanic/Latin scholarships.

Anatol Von Hanh. Photo: Linkedin

Anatol Von Hanh

Board Member, Group Head at Scotiabank 

Anatol is one of the most influential Canadian executives in international banking and also someone who cares for the less fortunate. Anatol has served on the boards of seven international banks and corporations including Canadian Tire as well as a number of charities such as Unicef Canada, Ronald McDonald House Charities (Toronto and Mexico) and the Alma Childrens’ Education Foundation. He is a member of the Board of MindBridgeAI, a technology company building revolutionary AI-based solutions to analyze data. To date, the company has raised over $45 million with clients that include the Bank of England, Payments Canada and major North American banks.

Anatol is also General Partner and Chairman with The Group Investments, a venture capital firm in the tech sector.  He also sits on the board of Prodigy, one of Canada’s fastest growing technology companies.  In total, he spent 31 years with Scotiabank. He was Group Head at Scotiabank overseeing up to 20,000 employees and over 1,000 branches in Canada in retail, small business, commercial, operations and technology. Prior to that he was CEO of Scotiabank’s operations in Singapore, Chile, Argentina and Mexico. Originally from Chile, he studied at Concordia University and the Harvard Business School. He supports various community efforts, currently serving as a Board Member for the Ronald McDonald House Charities in Toronto and Mexico and the Alma Childrens’ Education Foundation. He was a member of the Board of Directors of Unicef Canada from 2013 to 2018.

Beatriz Pizano. Photo: Pierre Goutreau / Aluna Theatre

Beatriz Pizano

Artistic Director, Aluna Theatre

Beatriz is a multiple award-winning director and playwright, and Artistic Director of Aluna Theatre, Canada’s most prolific Hispanic/Latino theater company offering local and international performances recognized widely. She is also an actor with twenty+ years of experience on stage, television and film. Beatriz performed in Shall We Dance, Bruiser, and Get Rich or Die Tryin’ with Hollywood stars Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez and John Travolta, and renown rapper 50 Cent, and was directed by film legend George A. Romero. She is also the first Latin Canadian female to win the Toronto Critic’s award and a Dora as a performer. In 2001, she founded Aluna as a response to the misrepresentation and under-representation of cultural diversity on our stages. Aluna has received 26 Dora Awards’ nominations winning eleven.

Beatriz is the 2009 winner of the prestigious John Hirsch Prize for Direction (Canada Council for the Arts) and the recipient of numerous awards including The Ken McDougall Award for Direction, the Chalmers Fellowship, the Urjo Kareda Award (Tarragon Theatre), K.M. Hunter award, and the Metcalf Performing Arts Internship. She has been an Associate Artistic Director for Theatre Revolve and Nightwood Theatre. As a writer/director Beatriz has been nominated three times for Best New Play for her multi-award-winning trilogy about women and war comprised of For Sale, Madre, and La Comunión. She has also created and led several youth programs both in Canada and Colombia. Most recently, she facilitated a theatre/photography workshop with ex-combatant children and victims from the armed conflict in Colombia.

Carlos Bastidas. Photo:

Carlos Bastidas

Conductor and Music Director, Durham Chamber Orchestra

In 2016, Colombian-born Canadian Carlos Bastidas became Music Director of the Durham Chamber Orchestra in Ontario. His success forced the orchestra to change venues to accommodate the increase in attendance. He is also Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Ontario Pops Orchestra, which he founded in 2014, catapulting the orchestra to sold out concerts. Bastidas has worked with leading Canadian ensembles including the Etobicoke Centennial Choir, Ave Choir Toronto, Durham Girls’ Choir, The Young Singers, The Taylor Dance Centre in Ajax, and the Swansea School of Dance in Toronto. He conducted at Open Doors Toronto, at Classical 96.3 FM, and at the official opening of the “Canada 150” Celebrations at the Ajax City Hall.

With the Durham Chamber Orchestra, Bastidas conducted the intricate Beethoven’s Emperor Piano Concerto, Sarasate’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Tchaikosvsky’s Nurcracker suite, Sibelius’ Finlandia, Beethoven’s Symphony 7 and Overture to Carmen by Bizet, William Tell by Rossini, and Rusland and Ludmilla by Milka. In 2018/19, he will conduct the Vivaldi Bassoon Concerto in E major with soloist Nadina Jackson, the Canadian premier of works by Italian Composer Mauricio Nasi, “Vortex”, and by Canadian composer Paul Alexander’s “Peggy’s Medicine”. Bastidas studied bassoon, composition, conducting and chamber music at the University of Ottawa before going on to study orchestral conducting at England’s Sherborne School of Music.

Luis Lehner. Photo: Perimeter Institute

Luis Lehner

Faculty Chair and Strong Gravity expert, Perimeter Institute

Argentinian born Luis Lehner is one of the few scientists directly involved in the international study that obtained, for the first time, an image of a black hole – an astronomical feat reported worldwide that explains the origin of the universe. A physical theorist trained in Argentina, he came to North America in 1984 for post doctoral studies. He is Faculty Chair at Waterloo’s Perimeter Institute, one of the world’s leading.  He is also a Fellow at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (one of top two in the world), and has been involved in the major research centers and universities around the world including the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics in California and the South American Institute for Fundamental Research, as well as universities of Wisconsin Milwaukee and Louisiana State.

His research focuses on understanding strongly gravitating systems, both in standard four-dimensional spacetimes and in higher-dimensional ones. He is also placing considerable focus on the development of a framework to test Einstein’s General Relativity through possible subtle effects of possible deviations. He pushes the boundaries of analytical and numerical capabilities, and those of the largest available computational resources. With multiple awards, publications, and citations, he sits on the board of Classical and Quantum Gravity and is a member of the NSF-Cyber infrastructure Use Advisory Committee. He is a Fellow at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the American Physical Society, the Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences, the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics – and many more.   

Luis Zuniga. Photo: RCI

Luis Zuniga

President of the Hispanic and Latin Americans of Québec

Born in Chile, Luis Zuniga was the 2017-19 President of the Hispanic and Latin American association of Quebec (instigator of law 1094 for the Hispanic heritage in Québec). As the Montreal Gazette put it, Luis literally wrote the book on workplace discrimination faced by immigrants. In 2017, he managed to include the word “Accentism” with the Quebec Office of the French language (word meaning discrimination due to accent). His efforts led to a parliamentary review of Quebec’s immigration process and hiring practices in the public sector. In 2019, he presented a project to add “Accentism” to the United Nations Charter of Rights. Zuniga came to Canada in 1997 and after inflexible language requirements in the public sector, he acted.

Following a complaint to the Quebec Human Rights Commission, he emerged victorious with a case-law based on one’s ethnical accent. He became a multi-ethnic symbol of modern Quebec and has opened the doors of integration and diversity in this Canadian province. His book, “Ton Accent, Luis!”, resulted in meetings with Quebec’s Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil, discussions with Quebec officials about turning the book into an educational tool, and a meeting with former Chilean President Bachelet. In 2018, he was named one of the top 20 personalities in Boucherville, Quebec by medias mosaique.  About 12% of Quebec’s population is made up of visible minorities and white Quebecers whose mother tongue is other than French or English. Only 7% of Quebec government employees belong to these categories (CBC 2013).

Manuel Montero-Odasso. Photo: @GaitandBrain / Twitter

Manuel Montero-Odasso

World expert in dementia and falls in older adults, Western University

Dr. Manuel Montero-Odasso, a geriatrician and world expert in dementia and falls in older adults, obtained his MD (Summa-Cum-Laude) and PhD at the University of Buenos Aires, followed by post-doctoral training at McGill. Currently professor of medicine and Director of the Gait&Brain Lab at Western University, his research focuses on the interaction of mobility and cognitive decline in aging, with applications to prevent frailty, falls, and dementia. He has pioneered clinical trials applying the novel approach of “improving cognition to improve mobility”, and has advanced knowledge by creating innovative diagnostic approaches and multimodal treatments using medications, physical exercises, and cognitive training to combat early dementia.

His recognized achievements led in 2014 to his induction as team leader for the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging, Canada’s dementia research strategy. He maintains a close relationship with the Spanish-speaking community and has hosted visiting scientists from Argentina and Spain. In recognition, he was awarded Honourary Membership in the Spanish (2014) and the Argentina (2018) Geriatrics Societies. His research has received $6.5+ million peer-reviewed in funding, established worldwide networks, published 200+ manuscripts and books chapters, and given over 100 international lectures. He is the recipient of the American Geriatrics Society Investigator Award, the first Schulich Clinician-Scientist Award, the Premier of Ontario Excellence Research Award, and the CIHR New Investigator Award. He serves on the boards of the Institute of Aging and the Canadian Geriatrics Society, and was inducted as a Fellow of the American Geriatrics Society (2009), and Gerontological Society of America.

Max Gomez. Photo: Canadian Association of Latino Peace Officers

Max Gomez

President, Canadian Association of Latino Peace Officers

Max Gomez grew up in a single parent home facing fear, injustices and violence in Colombia during the 1990s. He came to Canada in 1996 and now leads Canada’s Hispanic/Latin law enforcement association with members from all levels of government and investigative agencies. In addition, he is a hero recipient of two Lifesaving, one Bravery award, and the 2014 Canadian Banks’ Law Enforcement Award, a prestigious national award in recognition of investigative excellence. He holds a Policing Studies Diploma from London’s Westervelt College and several professional certificates awarded by the Ontario Police College and Provincial Police Academy. Max joined the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) in 2007 and is now part of the elite group of organized crime investigators. In 2007, he became the only Latin-American OPP member in Southwestern Ontario, frequently assisting with complex investigations such as Ontario’s worse mass casualty collision, known as the “Hampstead Fatal”, where 10 Hispanic migrant workers lost their lives.

Max has represented the OPP in Discovery’s hit reality show “Heavy Rescue 401”, and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police as a the only full time Spanish-speaking Police Media Relations Officer in Canada. In 2015, Max successfully petitioned the OPP to train and include Spanish-speaking Media Relations Officers to the Toronto 2015 Pan-American Games. He became the Spanish-speaking Media Relations Officer representing Latin-American Canadians. The same year, he founded the Canadian Association of Latino Peace Officers (CALPO), an association that connects Latin-American Canadian law enforcement members from Municipal, Provincial and Federal law enforcement agencies.

Milder Villegas. Photo: Filaction

Milder Villegas

Director, Filaction development fund

As an adolescent in Peru, Milder Villegas experienced poverty being raised by his mother in a slum in Peru. He is now an expert on financing for social enterprises and since 2001, he is the Director General of Filaction, a multi-million dollar development fund that helps small and medium size enterprises in the social economy, tourism and culture. Since 2001, Filaction has allocated over $300 million to 227 companies with $47 million for women’s entrepreneurship, cultural communities, and tourism.  Milder came to Canada in 1984 with no university education, no language skills, and the desire to help people in need. His first six months in Canada were spent as a volunteer in an organization for immigrants. He then obtained a degree in Community Organization (1994) and MBA (1998) both from UQAM.

In parallel, he worked for non-profits YMCA and L’Hirondelle, and found the Montreal Community Loan Association (ACEM). After 28 years, ACEM still provides loans to people in difficulty, such as single mothers, immigrants or unemployed people, to help them start their businesses or jobs. After working at the National Bank managing IT projects, he came back to help immigrants at Filaction, developing a project of venture capital for cooperative enterprises to help Latin American countries and women. In 2015, he was nominated as President of the International Association of Investors in the Social Economy, a global network of socially and environmentally oriented financial institutions. He is a sought-after speaker at international conferences in social enterprises.

Patricia Peña. Photo: Embassy of Canada in Chile

Hon. Patricia Peña

Canadian Ambassador to Chile

Ambassador Patricia Peña is one of the most highly placed Hispanics in the Canadian Public Service. She joined the Government of Canada in 2007 and appointed Canada’s Ambassador to Chile by Prime Minister Trudeau in 2017. Prior, she served as Director General of economic development (2015-2017) at Global Affairs Canada, responsible for Canada’s shareholding with international financial institutions globally, including the InterAmerican Development Bank. Ambassador Peña has been co-chair of the Global Infrastructure Facility at the World Bank (2015-2017) and a Director at the Canadian International Development Agency (2009-2014), leading Canada’s work with developing countries to improve their democratic institutions.

Prior to joining the Canadian public service, Ambassador Peña worked at the UK Electoral Commission for seven years including as Director of Regulatory Services overseeing the financial regulation of political parties and a referendum on the creation of regional government in England. She has served as a scientific expert for the Council of Europe, Group of States Against Corruption, since 2005. Ambassador Peña is the child of Spanish immigrants. She has a Baccalaureate (Hons) in Political Science from the University of Toronto; and a Master’s degree in Government from the London School of Economics. She also studied at the Institut d’études politiques in France. She speaks English, Spanish and French fluently, and has participated as a speaker at numerous international conferences. In 2019, she was recognized as one of the top women of influence ‘Mujeres que Inspiran’ by Chile’s President, for her work to advance gender equality.