The Order of Canada, one of our country’s highest civilian honours, was established in 1967, during Canada’s centennial year, to recognize a lifetime of outstanding achievement, dedication to community and service to the nation. Over the last 45 years, more than 5 000 people from all sectors of society have been invested into the Order.
Jha was cited “for his achievements in business and for his commitment to promoting education and entrepreneurial opportunities for Aboriginal and disadvantaged youth.”
A interview with Weekly Voice’s Binoy Thomas below.
Jha Awarded Order Of Canada
by BINOY THOMAS, www.WeeklyVoice.com
Toronto: “I cannot imagine any better gift for the holiday season than having been inducted into the Order of Canada,” says an obviously excited Aditya Jha, entrepreneur, philanthropist, columnist and social activist. The citation by David Johnston, Canada’s Governor General, reads: “For his achievements in business and for his commitment to promoting education and entrepreneurial opportunities for Aboriginal and disadvantaged youth.”
He is duly humbled by the recognition, one of the highest civilian honours that Canada bestows on its citizens. “I feel overwhelmed, humbled and honoured beyond imagination. What else I can say but the fact that ‘I am blessed’.”
Jha is in a mood to look back and look ahead, at this particular juncture in life. There are family and individuals to thank for a journey that began in a Bihar village bordering Nepal, a journey that would take him from a place that ‘nourished his soul’ to the world’s most happening places.
An early believer in the computer revolution, Jha fashioned an admirable career that saw a highpoint around 2003 when he and his partners sold their computer firm for a cool $100 million that made them rich. But Jha didn’t get busy counting his take, or buy himself a yacht to circumnavigate the world. Actually, he didn’t even buy into a prestigious neighbourhood, just to make sure, he has arrived. He still lives in a 2200 sq.ft home in a normal and very decent Mississauga locality. “This is more than comfortable for us,” Jha smiles, perhaps a bit lucky, to have a spouse who believes in the deeper pursuits in life.
Instead, he got into a number of projects that supported higher education.
Aditya founded his private charitable foundation (POA Educational Foundation) in 2001 and created endowments at four institutions (Ryerson University, York University, Trent University and George Brown College), and various other initiatives.
Aditya’s foundation (poafoundation.org) has also supported other projects: with Ryerson University a research project on Economic Value of Indo-Canadians; Pathways Education Program for the inner-city kids of Regent Park community in Toronto; Share the Music program of Roy Thomson Hall through endowment to give Canadian aboriginal youth access to best musical performances in Toronto; Infrastructure grant for Canadian Youth Ballet Ensemble for ballet school in Havana and Trillium Hospital, Mississauga; Toronto International Film Festival as Gold Patron; Canadian Museum of Human Rights; 50 student residence for kids from landless families in India ; and Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and several other charitable projects. He has funded digital literacy project by donating laptop and desktops to 11 schools in Nepal and to the Islamic Institute of Toronto as well has supported Nepal Library Foundation for setting up libraries in the remote villages of Nepal. Aditya along with four colleagues has set-up Canadian Fallen Soldiers Foundation with initial pledge of $1 Million and are in discussions to work out the details to give bursaries for higher education to the families of the Fallen Soldiers as well venture funding for their start-up businesses.
Well, a man as driven as Jha, new visions and ideas keep coming, and this list will have lengthened by the end of this year. As he watches the Canadian scene (by the way, he is absolutely in love with this country!), there are serious issues that he sees enveloping us if we do not take appropriate measures now.
For the record, Jha is a ‘teach yourself to fish, rather than give you a fish to eat’ man. But Jha sees the immense value in the kind and caring system that we have built. “One of the enduring pictures in my mind is of a dog that had fallen into Lake Ontario and the police helicopters trying to save it. I had just come into the country in 1995 from Singapore. I thought to myself – look at the value this country places on life, you don’t have to be someone powerful or special to be looked after. It’s the mark of an extremely civilized society. One may find aberrations, but there is an underlying fairness and transparency about the system.”
Awards are given as routine by most societies, but Jha has reason to be thrilled that this one didn’t come because he lobbied for it, or bought due to his ‘influence’ with some in the hierarchy. In fact, he is both surprised and glad that the person who recommended him for the Order Of Canada is a total stranger. “The person from the Governor General’s office who called me at home, she said she got my number from Canada411. That means the person who nominated me didn’t even have my home number!”
Jha is also a very concerned citizen that would like to see what he calls the ‘social calm’ continuing and not turning into ‘social chaos’. One particular section that he spends a lot of time thinking about is the plight of the aboriginal people. “I think aboriginals are an opportunity, if we take a different approach. Or their situation can become a social disaster.” Jha points out that given an exceedingly high birth rate compared to even the immigrants, we need new ideas to see them prosper and become productive. “Almost $10 billion is spent on the community, and still things are not what they should be,” he notes.
Jha is not asking for more money to be spent, but a different approach that make communities and individual more productive and responsible. Don’t be surprised if you hear Jha getting involved in this area more deeply in the future. After all, it just might work – here is a an ‘Indian’ with a big heart and some great ideas that can change the fortunes of a community for the better.
Another section that he is keenly following is the one that he himself is a part of – the new Canadians. When any country takes in such a large number of immigrants, there could be social repercussions. While it’s true that many of them are frustrated at the lack of opportunities here, Jha always would remind you, “First of all, remember, it was our choice to come here.” So instead of complaining, he says take ownership of your lives, and be responsible. “The great thing about our country is that there is a safety net for those who really need it. But individuals and groups must look after themselves that strengthen the society that provide these benefits. If each of us can provide for ourselves, we will have taken care of the country and strengthened the caring society that we have. I always refer to the airplane example, ‘in an emergency if you are a parent, put on the mask on yourself first, before you put it on the child’. Yes, I know it’s tough for many and I empathize with them, but it has been our choice to come here, and we have to make it work for us and society. Don’t blame the cold, pad up and prepare for it.”
Yet another aspect of new Canadians that he would rather not see too much is the way back-home issues play central role in their lives, perhaps leading to social chaos of the future. “Canadian political system is easily manipulated. A mere 500 people can change things around to suit their purposes. And politicians due the to the impermanence of their positions, are willing to do all kinds of deals. People must enjoy what this country has to offer, and they should without fear or persecution, be able to celebrate who they are, without it becoming a reason to create social commotion, whether they are a religious, cultural or political group.”
The latest honour gives him further reason to work harder to strengthen the ideals that drive our nation and work harder for social cohesion. “I see the honour as a responsibility. What can I do to live up to this honour?” he asks humbly. I am sure Aditya Jha, who hails from the land of mother Ganga, will know where to take the next bend in this river.