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PIRS Bright Lights Awards

PIRS Bright Lights Awards is created to identify and honour women who have come and become an inspirational leaders in their adoptive home, Canada. They have encouraged others through their social, personal and professional contributions in eliminating some barriers in their own community and their community at large.

The Outstanding Immigrant Women Honoured at The Bright Lights Awards are:

  • Dr. Leonora C. Angeles
    Leonora C Angeles is Associate Professor at the School of Community and Regional Planning and the Women’s and Gender Studies Undergraduate Program at the University of British Columbia. Originally from the Philippines, Nora is a tireless community capacity builder and scholar who volunteers her time for community planning and organizational development work for various groups in BC. She recently co-founded RESPECT (Responsive Society of Professionals for Empowerment and Collective Transformation), a non-profit agency committed to mentoring and professional development of immigrant youth and newcomers in B.C.She is currently the Graduate Program Advisor of the Centre for Women’s and Gender Studies. She is also faculty research associate at the UBC Centre for Human Settlements where she has been involved in a number of applied research and capacity-building research projects in Brazil, Vietnam and Southeast Asian countries. Her continuing research and interests are on community and international development studies and social policy, participatory planning and governance, participatory action research, and the politics of transnational feminist networks, women’s movements and agrarian issues, particularly in the Southeast Asian region. Her most recent books are Gendering the Refugee Process in Canada (with Catherine Dauvergne and Agnes Huang, Status of Women Canada, 2006) and Learning Civil Societies: Shifting Perspectives on Democratic Planning and Governance (with Penny Gurstein, University of Toronto Press 2007).


  • Maylen CrespoMaylen Crespo, community developer, is originally from Mexico and has been a resident of New Westminster since 2002. She lives in the Sapperton neighbourhood with her three children. Maylen is currently a Facilitator for the Community Immigrant Mentorship Program in New Westminster with experience in cross-cultural communication, racism and immigrant challenges. As a community development worker for the Access New Westminster Project, she helped train and then supported the participants who implemented an Immigrant Survey in the City of New Westminster, a document that had helped support the creation and funding of new programs serving the immigrant community in that City, under the Welcoming Inclusive Communities. She also developed and implemented the Immigrant Leadership program for Family Services of Greater Vancouver in 2008, in that same year she ran as candidate for the School Board in the City’s school district.  By contributing a true admixture of grassroots passion and disciplined, structured community work, has strengthened her local community by bringing together a wide range of stakeholders to help create a community with the capacity to respond to its changes, challenges, and opportunities.


  • Kamilla Singh
    Kamilla Singh is a volunteer, counsellor, TV producer, activist and tireless campaigner. She is best known as an activist and campaigner on the issue of domestic violence and has worked as a counsellor for Women Against Violence Against Women since 1993, supporting women escaping violence in their homes. Since 1998, Kamilla has produced the Shaw Cable television program Asian Pulse, which chronicles the immigrant experience in Canada with an activist eye. She is the secretary for the Canadian Immigrants Victim Society, a board member of the Feminist Research and Education Development Agency and BC Human Rights Coalition and a member of the South Asian Family Organization and sits on the advisory committee concerned with fraud marriages and abuse. She also supports numerous community events. In 2007, the Vancouver Port Authority and the Burns Bog Conservation Society recognized Kamilla with the gold award for community spirit, presented to women for significant volunteerism in their communities.  Vancouver Sun named her as one of the “100 South Asians Making A Difference in BC.”


  • Katalin CamaraKatalin Camara, Director of Operations at Burnaby Family Life (BFL), has played a pivotal role in transforming BFL’s organizational culture and approach in service delivery—transforming BFL from a “mainstream” family service agency to an agency much more responsive to the diverse Burnaby community “we need to encourage newcomers that there is hope and possibility. They need to understand that getting settled here is a journey. If they understand that there is a path and if we can show it to them they will find it much easier”. Katalin is a powerful agent for change, who is instinctively aware of particular needs of newcomers, and creative and responsive in meeting these emerging needs and trends. She is a constant advocate within BFL and in the community. Never one to avoid taking responsibility Katalin, originally from Hungary, has made a tremendous impact as a volunteer, then as a paid child care worker, supervisor and manager.  She came to Canada in 1993 and started to volunteer and work in 1994 for BFL and now as the Director of Operations, she is a constant advocate of continuous quality improvement and innovative community programming and has recently been named by Burnaby Intercultural Planning Table as having made a significant contribution to Burnaby being better able “to embrace, celebrate, value and appreciate cultural diversity.”


  • Raminder Dosanjh
    Raminder Dosanjh a wife, mother and a teacher by profession has a long record of public activism and service in the community. She came to Canada after completing BA and BEd degrees in India. Raminder has provided leadership in her own community as well as the community at large by speaking out and working tirelessly to take action against abuse and inequities faced by vulnerable women.  A notable example was her leadership in the campaign to challenge the practice of aborting female foetuses in Canada which was being promoted by a physician in the United States. Raminder was also the National Vice President of the National Organization of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women of Canada(NOIVMWC), from 1990-91 and the BC rep on the board from from1986-88. Dosanjh co-founded the India Mahila Association (IMA) in Vancouver in 1973. IMA was established to give a voice to South Asian women. As a grassroots, non-profit organization IMA has been empowering women by raising awareness and education on women’s issues and providing support to women in the community. IMA aims to fight racism and sexism in society and in particular to address issues affecting South Asian women living in Canada. It believes in strengthening families by promoting the unifying aspects of South Asian culture while challenging those that devalue women. Over the years, the organization has continued to provide support, referral and information to various women of South Asian origin. Violence against women is of major concern to IMA and it is committed to eliminating it. The membership of IMA consists of women of South Asian origin and while the organization brings together women from diverse backgrounds and ages reflecting a wide diversity of religions, traditions, customs and political affiliations, it operates on secular principles.She is married to Ujjal Dosanjh, MP (Vancouver South),and has three adult children Pavel, Aseem, and Umber.


  • Patsy George
    Ms. George, prominent social worker and former Director of the Ministry of Multiculturalism and Immigration, British Columbia, was born in Kerala, India and immigrated to Canada in 1960. She had been honoured earlier with the Order of British Columbia and the Queens Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002, the Deryk Thomson Award for Community Planning, British Columbia in 1993, the Woman of Our Times Award of the Congress of Black Women in Canada in 1993, the Commemorative Medal for the 125th anniversary of the Confederation of Canada in 1992, the Distinguished Services Award of the Canadian Association of Social Workers in 1990 the Award of Appreciation for Promoting Social Justice, BC Association of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women in 1989 and the President’s Award for Excellence, United Way of Vancouver and Lower Mainland in 1991. Ms. George, who took her Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of Ottawa, was appointed to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada in 1989 and held the post till 1992 coordinating the backlog division for British Columbia and Alberta. The British Columbia Government appointed her to the panel reviewing the child welfare legislation using a public consultation process. The resultant report led to a new Child, Family and Community Services Act of British Columbia. She had served as the president of BC Association of Social Workers, the first visible minority person to hold that position. She is the founding member and vice president of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women of Canada. She helped start the Pacific Immigrant Resources Society and served as its president. She was a Trustee of the Vancouver Public Library, Director of the United Way of Vancouver and Lower Mainland and Director of Legal Services Society of BC. Ms. George is a recipient of the Order of Canada for community services, the highest recognition that can be given to a Canadian citizen.


  • Cindy Lee
    Cindy Lee, founder and CEO of T&T Supermarket Inc., founded the supermarket chain in the early 1990’s in Richmond, BC. When the stores opened in 1993, the flagship locations in Richmond and Burnaby were hailed for taking Asian groceries out of dingy corner stores and putting them in a modern, supermarket setting. Now, there are 19 locations, with nine in B.C., four in Alberta and six in Ontario. Cindy, originally from Taiwan, got the idea when her husband Jack was developing President Plaza on No.3 Road in Richmond. The development needed an anchor in the form of an Asian supermarket. As a mother of three, Cindy knew how difficult it was to travel from store to store to get all of the supplies she needed for the family groceries. Originally, T&T had some growing pains but now it is one of the most successful small-business breakthroughs to come from British Columbia. Cindy has said “I want to encourage female entrepreneurs, the immigrants, the housewives like me. Don’t give up too early and walk out of your comfort zone.”


  • Dr. Gulnur Birol
    Gülnur, originally from Turkey, received BSc, MSc and PhD degrees in Chemical Engineering from Boğaziçi University, Turkey. She spent several years as a Senior Research Associate at the Illinois Institute of Technology (USA) where she conducted biotechnology research,  taught several courses and developed simulators for engineering education, and as a Research Assistant Professor and a Project Leader for VaNTH Engineering Research Center at Northwestern University (USA) where she conducted vision research and engineering education research.  In 2005, she immigrated to Canada with her husband and two children. Currently, she holds an appointment as Senior Educational Specialist with the Science Centre for Learning and Teaching at the University of British Columbia, developing and executing science education research projects, and working closely with faculty members, administrators and students to improve science learning and teaching. At her spare time, she volunteers for the Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology, Immigrating Women in Science Program, Turkish Canadian Society Choir and the BC Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.


  • Ratana Stephens
    With an MA in English Literature and a BA in Psychology, Ratana began her career in India as a college lecturer. After moving to Canada Ratana and her husband opened a profitable vegetarian restaurant and founded Nature’s Path Foods, the number one organic cereal manufacturer in North America.  As Chief Operating Officer at Nature’s Path Foods, Ratana has been described as “heart & soul of the company,” and is at the centre of every development within the company. Ratana possesses profound business acumen and has recently been recognized as the YWCA Woman of Distinction and was the recipient of the first RBC Mehfil Magazine Award for Corporate Excellence in 2009.  A role model for entrepreneurial women, Ratana is committed to opportunities that meet the needs of people and planet.


  • Clemencia Gomez
    Clemencia Gomez, originally from Columbia, is a tireless and innovative community organizer who has worked to help make life better for some of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups in our society, notably immigrants, women, seniors  and residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Clemencia is all about building communities, identifying needs and finding solution “out of the box”. She generously shares her time and talents by training individuals and strengthening organizations to responding to societal challenges.  Working with the Neighbourhood Helpers (a non-profit group that serves poor people living single-room-occupancy hotels in downtown Vancouver), she made sure people were able to eat well by starting a rooftop garden so residents could grow their own food.  She also organized a long-running monthly program during which hungry people from all over Vancouver feast on a hearty stew expertly made by the cooks of the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel. Clemencia also volunteers with the 411 Seniors Centre, the BC Seniors Advocacy Network and acts as President of the Vancouver Cross-Cultural Seniors Network Society.  As well, Clemencia is the Executive Director of the South Granville Seniors Centre, where she leads the staff, volunteers and membership in organizing and providing a diverse range of programs and services for seniors, including a specially-designed weekly program for Spanish-speaking seniors who are often battling language barriers and poverty issues.