Ratna Omidvar is an internationally recognized voice on migration, diversity and inclusion. She came to Canada from Iran in 1981 and her own experiences of displacement, integration and citizen engagement have been the foundation of her work. In April 2016, Ms. Omidvar was appointed to the Senate of Canada as an independent senator representing Ontario. As a member of the Senate’s Independent Senators Group she holds a leadership position as Liaison. Senator Omidvar also served as Deputy Chair of the Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector.
Senator Omidvar is a Councillor on the World Refugee Council, a Director at the Samara Centre for Democracy and Chair Emerita for the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council.
Previously at Ryerson University, Senator Omidvar was a Distinguished Visiting Professor and founded the Global Diversity Exchange, a think-and-do tank on diversity, migration and inclusion. Prior to her appointments at Ryerson, Senator Omidvar was the President of Maytree, where she played a lead role in local, national and international efforts to promote the integration of immigrants.
Senator Omidvar is co-author of Flight and Freedom: Stories of Escape to Canada (2015), an Open Book Toronto best book of 2015 and one of the Toronto Star's top five good reads from Word on the Street. She is also a contributor to The Harper Factor (2016) and co-editor of Five Good Ideas: Practical Strategies for Non-Profit Success (2011). Senator Omidvar received a Honorary Degree, Doctor of Laws, from Ryerson University in 2018 and from York University in 2012.
Senator Omidvar was appointed to the Order of Ontario in 2005 and became a Member of the Order of Canada in 2011, with both honours recognizing her advocacy work on behalf of immigrants and devotion to reducing inequality in Canada. In 2014, she received the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in recognition of her contribution to the advancement of German-Canadian relations.
Senator Omidvar has also been recognized by Canada's national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, by being named as its Nation Builder of the Decade for Citizenship in 2010. She was named to the inaugural Global Diversity List sponsored by The Economist magazine in 2015, as one of the Top 10 Diversity Champions worldwide. In 2016, she also received Lifetime Achievement Awards from CivicAction and the Canadian Urban Institute, honouring her strong commitment to civic leadership and city building. In 2018, Senator Omidvar was named as one of the RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award winners and in 2019 she received the Dr. Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award from Tufts University.