Ratna Omidvar is an internationally recognised 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. Senator Omidvar is the Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology and served as Deputy Chair of the Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector. She previously served in leadership roles for the Independent Senators Group as Scroll Manager and Liaison.
Senator Omidvar is a director at the Century Initiative, a member of the World Refugee & Migration Council, a Founding Committee member of Lifeline Afghanistan and Chair Emerita for the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council.
Previously at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU), Senator Omidvar was a Distinguished Visiting Professor and founded the Global Diversity Exchange, a think-and-do tank for diversity, migration and inclusion. Prior to her appointments at TMU, Senator Omidvar was President of Maytree, where she played a lead role in local, national and international efforts to promote the integration of immigrants.
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 recognising her advocacy work on behalf of immigrants and devotion to reducing inequality in Canada. In 2014 she received the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in recognition of her contribution to the advancement of German-Canadian relations.
Senator Omidvar received an honorary degree, Doctor of Laws, from TMU in 2018 and York University in 2012. In 2019 she received the Dr Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award from Tufts University.
Senator Omidvar was recognised by the Canadaian national newspaper The Globe and Mail by being named as its Nation Builder of the Decade for Citizenship in 2010. In the inaugural Global Diversity List sponsored by The Economist magazine in 2015 she was named as one of the top ten 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.
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: Assessing a Prime Minister’s Policy Legacy (2016) and co-editor of Five Good Ideas: Practical Strategies for Non-Profit Success (2011).