What a difference a 49th parallel makes.

As immigration experts in the U.S. spend today digesting the meaning of Georgia’s new immigration law—the toughest of the state laws that have recently passed in the country—some in our northern neighbor, Canada, are getting together to celebrate the third annual Top 25 Canadian Immigrant awards, given to foreign-born citizens who have contributed the most to their new land.

“The immigrant population in Canada has been doing quite well for itself in the last 10 years, and we wanted to highlight that,” says Sanjay Agnihotri, editor of Canadian Immigrant magazine, which administers the award. “This year we garnered 450 nominations, and 25,000 voted on the finalists.”

Among the award winners are a former member of Parliament, a football coach, a city councilor, several activists, and successful business people, including an optometrist and an electrician. 

Two of them are American-born, with the rest spanning the globe from Colombia and Mexico, to the U.K., Croatia, China, Grenada, Iraq, India, and half a dozen more countries.

“It’s a people’s choice,” says Camon Mak, Director of Newcomer and Multicultural Markets at the Royal Bank of Canada, which is the awards’ main sponsor. “We asked for nominations and then go through a pretty thorough vetting process. Canada is a country of 33 million and immigrants have made a tremendous contribution; we wanted to showcase that.”

A division of the same company that owns Canada’s largest newspaper, the Toronto Star, Canadian Immigrant magazine has articles devoted to such topics as helping the unemployed stay positive (“Hope is the only thing jobless newcomers can cling to”), parenting (“Now that you’re in a new country, how will your relationship with your children adapt?“) and, for one final Toto-we’re-not-in-Kansas-anymore example, “Hijab fashionistas.”

It’s an online contest, so do they ever get any backlash for celebrating the foreign-born?

“No, not really,” says Agnihotri, sounding a bit quizzical. “We mostly get people contacting us who have missed the cut-off for the nominations. We tell them to wait until next year.”

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