Roy Ratnavel: Leadership in Adversity

By Louise Leger

Roy Ratnavel’s personal experience with adversity and trauma has both shaped the person he is today and inspired him to give back to communities that are close to his heart and can benefit from his leadership and care.

As such, Roy is an ongoing supporter of the SAAAC Autism Centre in Scarborough, which helps families touched by autism—many of them new Canadians—through diverse therapies, arts and fitness programs and social support.

“For me, it’s important to give back to the community here in Canada and also to work to shatter to the stigma of mental illness and autism.”

Roy, head of Distribution at CI Investments and EVP of CI Financial Corp., is currently taking part in SAAAC’s annual fundraiser August 2-9, which this year has morphed from a walkathon to a fundraiser with participants undertaking various family-friendly fitness and wellness challenges and encouraging others to do the same or to sponsor them.

Roy (with the help of his son Aaron and wife Sue) is providing a series of videos called “Top Five Leadership Behaviours” paired up with workouts anyone can do in their own home.

“The idea is to help current leaders enhance their skill sets and to inspire aspiring leaders of the future,” he says of the videos, which focus on both mental and physical fitness. The topics include building trust, acting with integrity, inspiring others, coaching and rewarding.

“Leadership is about seeing potential in those who don’t see it in themselves and being an advocate for others and believing in others even more than they believe in themselves,” he says. “It’s part of giving back, and I believe when you reach a level of success it’s important to give back.”

Ratnavel family’s 2019 Kilimanjaro climb to raise money for the fight against mental health.

That success has been hard-won. As a teen in Sri Lanka, Roy was arrested and tortured for no other crime than being a Tamil. Fortunately, just before his father was killed, he was able to send Roy to Canada when he was 18. Roy carries not only his own physical and mental scars, but also the scars of watching his mother endure the anguish and stigma of mental illness for many years.

“Many who come to Canada from different parts of the world are experiencing PTSD or trauma. For those families, life can be a struggle. Add to that, facing autism is a real challenge. SAAAC is a wonderful organization that helps kids learn skills and also relieves the many burdens families are facing.”

For Roy, giving back is a value he wants to instill in his son, Aaron. “You can buy something you want, but the pleasure doesn’t last. You will get more out of giving it away,” he says. “To see the improvement in the kids at SAAAC, to see their smiles — that satisfaction lasts for years.”

Mountaineered for mental health: at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro

As a leader today, Roy is also concerned about the effect of the pandemic on humanity and his team members at CI.

“We need people at our side to help face challenges and adversity. And with this pandemic, I worry about those living by themselves in small condos, as many young people do. So as leader I have tried to reach out to them, check on them, show them that leadership cares. Because humanity thrives on hope and support.”

To donate to Roy’s pledge page, please visit:

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