December 2013

December 2013 Bulletin
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In this issue:
"A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of."

CAI's Canadian Arab to Watch

CAI is proud to launch its new Canadian Arab to Watch initiative. The idea is simple: We have a wealth of leadership, innovation and contribution within our Canadian Arab community. It's time we recognize these individuals.

We will highlight Canadian Arabs who are having a beneficial impact on society. Maybe they are making medical advances; maybe their work educates Canadian society about Arab culture or concerns; maybe their volunteer work benefits their immediate community or society at large; perhaps they are professionals who are doing things differently, better.

We will give priority to nominees who:
a) Impact Canadian communities or society at large at a social, economic, cultural, or political level
b) Align with CAI's mission, vision and objectives
c) Make contributions that are timely for recognition

Nomination Process: The public is encouraged to nominate individuals for recognition. Each month, a Person to Watch will be chosen from the nominees by a panel of judges and will be announced in the bulletin. Please visit our website for nomination forms and full details.

This Month's Canadian Arab to Watch

We are very proud to present our inaugural Canadian Arab to Watch, Samah El-Shafiey El-Tantawy for her ground-breaking work in the field of Intelligent Transportation Systems. Samah was recently honoured with two international awards for her innovative PhD dissertation on making traffic lights, well, smarter -- with the projected results being to reduce delays by up to 40 per cent, and travel times by up to 26 per cent. She took first place in the best PhD dissertation competition from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' Intelligent Transportation Systems Society, and second place from The Institute of Operations Research and Management Sciences' George B. Dantzig Dissertation Award.

Samah grew up in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia and returned to her home country of Egypt after high school to study electrical and communications engineering at Cairo University, where she also completed a Master's in engineering mathematics. It was her husband Dr. Hossam Abdelgawad -- an international award-winning engineer in his own right -- who first came to the University of Toronto to pursue a PhD in ITS. Interested in the research potential, Samah followed suit, working with the same supervisor, Professor Baher Abdulhai (also Egyptian), who had already been working on the idea of self-learning lights for about a decade.

Samah says her background, the support and motivation she received from Prof. Abdulhai, and the experience of debilitating traffic jams in Egypt and across the Middle East were all pivotal to her interest -- "of course!"

"We want to be of benefit to Egypt and the Arab world," she says of herself, her husband and her former supervisor. They believe ITS can be utilized to improve the efficiency of the transportation networks in the short-term, while larger infrastructure expansions take root.

Currently, Samah is co-founder and director of a yet-to-be-named company to begin field testing her self-learning, co-operative traffic lights, which are designed around the principles of game theory.

And her ambitions don't end there. Samah sees potential for other ITS applications all commuting Canadians can appreciate. She wants to boost efficiency in traffic flow by shifting from "transit-signal priority" to "passenger-signal priority." She also sees great potential from greater connectivity and traveler input.

Samah lives in Toronto with her husband, five-year-old daughter Nour and one-year-old son Yusuf. The Canadian Arab Institute is very proud to name her as its first-ever Canadian Arab to Watch. We wish her and her family every success.

CAI delivers lecture on a "post post-9/11 Arab community"

CAI president Raja Khouri was invited to speak to Guelph University's Middle East Scholars Society to conclude their F13 series. Khouri explored the implications of living in a post post-9/11 environment; the idea that the Canadian Arab community went from being invisible and marginalized in the period pre-9/11, to being negatively overexposed and victimized following 9/11, to seeking empowerment and accurate visibility in the "post-post-9/11 period."

CAI co-hosts community Q&A with Ontario Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

On Nov. 23, CAI and the Arab Women Success group co-hosted a community Q&A on child poverty in Ontario with Ontario's Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, The Hon. Michael Coteau. The Toronto District School Board released a report in 2012 showing very high levels of poverty among Grade 6 students from Middle Eastern countries. This alarming figure has put child poverty on CAI’s radar screen and we will pursue further research into these numbers and disseminate the information to all concerned.

Key points that emerged from the dialogue:
  • Data collected by the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration indicate that the lowest performing students, in specific areas in Ontario, are of Middle Eastern origin
  • While there are a number of programs, funds and services for community groups to take advantage of, not enough people know about them
  • The social and financial strains faced by foreign-trained professionals to find work due to lack of "Canadian experience," of certifications & work experience not being recognized, and/or high costs to get recognized, have a profound impact on these individuals and their families

Minister Coteau confirmed that this community session is only the beginning of many conversations and collaborations to come. He expressed the importance of organizations like CAI getting involved and said more think tanks are needed amongst communities to start making use of available data. 

Upcoming CAI Events


Symposium: Third Annual Canadian Business Opportunities in the Middle East

Co-presented with Rotman School of Business: The event will highlight opportunities in the MENA region for Canadian businesses, and will feature an update from the Egyptian Ambassador to Canada Wael Aboulmagd on recent developments in the Middle East. Rotman School of Management, 105 St George St, Toronto, Jan 13 from 12-4:30 pm. 

Lecture: A Regional Perspective on Iran, with former ambassador to Iran Michel de Salaberry

Co-presented with the Bill Graham Centre for Contemporary International History:  The first lecture in a series aimed at enhancing Canadian understanding of developments in the Middle East and North Africa. University of Toronto (venue to be announced), Jan 14 at 5 pm, followed by a reception. 

Event of interest


Syria Today: Humanitarian Crisis and the Destruction of Cultural Heritage

Toronto, Dec. 10, Royal Ontario Museum
Register here

Gala excitement still in the air

We've been in the media! Check out our In the Press page for links to the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Metro, The Hamilton Spectator, and the Welland Tribune. 

Photo galleries from our Inaugural Gala are also posted. Check out our official gallery on our website or on Facebook, and then head to The Globe and Mail and Toronto Star for their galleries. 

Thank you also for the warm wishes and kind words so many of you shared with us, including these:

" was super - dignified and elegant and light with what cannot easily be found – an aura and feel of something important occurring that many will take home with them from message to an ease of conviviality and vitality!  Brilliant!!!!" -Joseph Maviglia, poet, singer-songwriter and essayist

"The response from leaders from all different sectors was amazing." -Hala Bissada, event planner

"I just wanted to let you know that my guests and I were absolutely thrilled with the entire event. It was a complete success not only for the Arab community at large but for the Canadian public."
Mohamad Sawaf, wealth management professional

"Congratulations on that stunning event ... The Institute will clearly fill a much needed role in Canadian society. There is so much for us to learn about each other and the Canadian Arab community has been under such a barrage of stereotyping and negative imaging that it’s been hard to get through to what’s real. The CAI is poised to make enormous inroads in our understanding and in that “new conversation.”
Rita Davies, cultural consultant

From CAI intern to law firm

CAI is proud of its past intern, Shahd Orfali. Shahd interned with CAI in the summer of 2013, greatly contributing to our research and databases, all the while setting her sights on practicing law. She says her work with CAI was greatly impactful, and particularly the professional development conference held in September: "The youth conference was a brilliant event. I owe much to that, and the most important advice I got there was NETWORKING, dedication and focus." Now she is working for Waldman & Associates Law firm while planning to take the February LSAT.

ROM's Mesopotamia exhibit lecture

CAI has been a proud community partner in promoting the Royal Ontario Museum's Mesopotamia: Inventing Our World exhibit, on now until January 5, 2014. 

An "explore Mesopotamia" lecture about the exhibit is coming up on Dec. 12:
  • Old Excavations and New Tricks: Rediscovering the Royal Cemetery of Ur
For more information and to book advance tickets, click here.

Season's Greetings!

For those celebrating, we wish you a very Merry Christmas. For everyone else, we wish you a happy, safe and relaxing holiday season and a wonderful New Year! See you on the other side!

Don't forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook!

Follow us at @CAIThinkTank for the latest news on Canadian-Arab issues.
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