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Canada  

Couple donates $60M

A Canadian couple says their decision to donate $60 million —the bulk of their wealth — to a fund aimed at promoting Arctic innovation was inspired by a deep love for the Far North and the people who live there.

Seven years after founding the Arctic Inspiration Prize, Arnold Witzig and Simi Sharifi are handing over what they say is their entire fortune to a trust fund that distributes millions of dollars every year to northern groups whose work improves the quality of life for their community members.

As immigrants to Canada going back more than 30 years, Sharifi said, the couple wanted to focus their philanthropic efforts on their adopted homeland and its northern Indigenous people, whose resilience and culture they deeply respect.

"We have an affinity and understanding of the Canadian Indigenous people, their history, their culture," said Sharifi, who was born to an Arab mother and an Iranian father and spent the first part of her life in southwestern Iran.

"Some of my feelings and closeness and understanding comes from my own personal experience as someone who grew up in a minority ethnic group in a developing country."

The Arctic Inspiration Prize was established in 2012 and offers financial support to groups working to benefit the Canadian Arctic, its people and Canada as a whole.

Eight teams shared more than $2.4 million this year, including a $1-million top prize for a land-based healing program to help at-risk Inuit, First Nation and Metis peoples in Yellowknife and surrounding communities in the Northwest Territories. The recipients were announced Wednesday night in Ottawa at the Northern Lights Business and Cultural Showcase.



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