By Moses A. Mawa
It was a bright and sunny Autumn day, but no sooner had I stepped out of the Ottawa International Airport, than I realized that my sight had deceived me. The wicked cold hit my face and every part of my body that was exposed felt the impact. That bittersweet day was November 2nd 1994. I had just arrived aboard a KLM Royal Dutch Airlines flight, which I boarded in Nairobi, Kenya, where I had lived for a couple of years.
Subsequently, I realized that the sunny day reflected the awesome opportunities and values that Canada espoused, and the erstwhile inclement weather I encountered upon arrival was a microcosm of the challenges that I would tackle. Having just completed high school in Uganda, I looked forward to undertaking my university studies in North America, in a field that would enable me to serve God, country and humanity.
I had already known about Canadian values such as equal access to wellbeing and opportunities; multiculturalism and respect for diversity; civility and mutual respect; compassion, empathy and generosity of spirit; patriotism, loyalty and the power of citizenship; as well as respect for democracy, human rights and the rule of law. I aimed to relish these dividends of a virtuous nation and find the best ways to give back.
When I began to read the Ottawa Citizen, the Toronto Star, Maclean’s Magazine and other Canadian and international publications, I saw cracks that needed filling. I watched Canadian, American and other television channels. My eyes beheld shocking and demeaning things. I saw racism, poverty, barriers to success and other ills. This helped to formulate my mission of making Canada and the world a better place.
In 1996, just two years later, I launched Silvertrust Communications, also known as Silvertrust Media, to undertake publishing, broadcasting, online and other operations. One of my concerns was to fix the negative image of people of African descent in Canada and around the world. Developing Planet Africa Group, which is now associated with the Afroglobal and Excellence brands, became a natural progression.
I enrolled at Carleton University and obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Film Studies, and attended the Canadian Screen Training Centre to pursue television and other studies. By the year 1999, Silvertrust had a prestigious Bank Street address in Ottawa and I was delighted when the Ottawa Citizen newspaper, in association with the Canadian Department of National Defence, chose my company to study preparations for the turn of the millennium, with the looming fear of the digital bug and how that could affect everything electronic. I realized that Canada cared about my business.
In the year 2000, one beautiful young woman walked into my office, and introduced herself as Ms. Patricia Bebia. She had come to Canada from Nigeria on a program organized by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in Halifax. Eventually, we realized that the two of us had so much in common. We soon began to work together and we got married on Valentine’s Day in 2002. So, as Canada celebrates its 150th birthday in 2017, we are celebrating 15 years of marriage.
Our Planet Africa Television program has been broadcast on OMNI TV in Canada and syndicated to Europe, Africa and viewed in all parts of the world, including the United States. We also publish Excellence Magazine and activate the annual Excellence Awards, primarily to showcase the amazing role models that I could not see in mainstream media or prestigious events, when I first came to Canada.
In July 2013, CNN sent to crew from their global headquarters in Atlanta, USA, to do a story on my wife and I. This was broadcast on CNN worldwide. I realized that the impact of our work was taking root. In March 2016, we launched the Afroglobal Television channel, which is now 24 hours a day on Rogers Cable Channel 708 and Bell Fibe Channel 2472. It is set to be a global super channel that advances the aspirations of people of African descent worldwide.
We launched Diversity Magazine in 2012 to inspire, transform, empower, showcase, celebrate and integrate exceptional elements of our mosaic. With my studies in the Master of Arts in Leadership degree program at Trinity Western University in Vancouver, I have gained insights worthy of imparting to others. We decided to establish the Transformation Institute For Leadership and Innovation, which now runs the Crossover Mentorship Program for youth; the Diversity Expo as well as the Transformation Awards gala, with Silvertrust and other partners.
Canada has enabled me to grow in my faith and in the knowledge of God, which has furthered my resolve in respecting and appreciating people of all backgrounds. Through our Destiny brand, which includes Destiny Magazine, television programming and other ministry initiatives, I am committed to advancing goodwill and prosperity. I have also been involved with radio programming, documentary films and other initiatives to further positive change, community development and entertainment.
I am grateful for the opportunity to serve. I also appreciate the honour and commendations, including the 2011 ReelWorld Visionary Award; the 2009, Toronto Police “Excellence in Community Service Award”, the 2010 National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada Award for “Professional Excellence in Media”; the BBPA Harry Jerome Media Award; the 2016 Community Champion Award from the Canadian Race Relations Foundation; and the Queen Elisabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal, made possible by the Government of Canada.
My personal vision, which has three parts, is to “Transform Lives For Good”. I seek to harness the benefits of harmony and diversity; advance divine potentials; and further community aspirations. My roots can be traced to Uganda, where my father came from, and to South Sudan, where my mother was from. With my wife from Nigeria, my four children born in Canada, and friends from all parts of the world, I am set to continue working with all people of goodwill to make Canada and the world a better place.