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Immigrants of Distinction take to Jack Singer stage for first in-person awards ceremony in pandemic

The Immigrants of Distinction Awards event returns to an in-person ceremony for its 25th annual event, after several years of pandemic-related disruptions.

Immigrant Services Calgary is hosting the event at the Arts Commons Jack Singer Concert Hall Thursday evening.

The organization's CEO Hyder Hassan is a previous award recipient, and still remembers how winning one made him feel.

"I felt validated and advanced by the community," said Hassan, "and out of all the people that are coming (Thursday) what we are most proud of is that Calgarians get to see phenomenal people from all around the world that are making our city remarkable."

The awards honour and recognize individuals for achievements and community contributions, with 10 award categories.

"It doesn't matter where you come from, you can be the best version of yourself for your family. So we are celebrating that," said Hassan.


Organizers said the event is a celebration of culture and diversity during turbulent times of racial discrimination.

According to Statistics Canada, 46 per cent of all police reported hate-crimes in 2019 were motivated by race or ethnicity, up 10 per cent from the year before.

One of this year's finalists says he's committed to breaking barriers and ending discrimination.

"Our mission, one mission only, is to spread the love everywhere, without any discrimination (regardless of) religious background or ethnic background," said Syed Hassan, founder of the Love With Humanity Association.

The association provides free food pantries, distributes food hampers and collects clothing donations.

Hassan said the recognition validates all the volunteer hours and hard work he and his close friends and family have put into the association.

Another finalist is Alykhan Velji, owner of a Calgary-based interior design company in his namesake.

He said he has experienced racism numerous times throughout his life.

"It affects you emotionally. It affects you mentally," said Velji.

He persevered, and said becoming a finalist has made him feel validated for achievements, and as a newcomer.

"That's why I feel like these awards are so great because it does definitely celebrate a diverse community, people of colour, immigrants, and I think we definitely add so much to the facet of what Canada's all about and that's why I love being here," said Velji.

Theatre doors open at 7:00 p.m. with official ceremony to begin half an hour later. Top Stories

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