The Edmonton Interfaith Centre and indeed all of Edmonton has suffered two great losses. The first was Metis Elder Pauline Paulson on December 25, 2021. She was born and lived her young years in Northern Manitoba, adolescence on a farm in the central part of the province and the balance in Winnipeg. In Edmonton she divided her time between Native Counselling Services as a spiritual and cultural advisor, the Elders Counsel for Concordia University, and Elder in residence for the HIV Drop In Centre. Her formal studies included a diploma in Applied Counselling from the University of Manitoba, another in Child Family and Community Services through Red River Community College (Winnipeg) sponsored by Metis Child and Family Services, and the facilitator training program ”In Search of Your Warrior” through Native Counselling Services of Alberta. Her informal education included over 30 years of participation in aboriginal ceremonies and learning from various Elders, locally, nationally, and internationally. She said, “I believe Spirit led me so I can fulfill the reason I was born into this world at this time”. Pauline served the Edmonton Interfaith Centre in many ways, including the roles of Vice President, President, and most recently as wise counsel to the current President and Board as Past President and chair of the Nominations Committee. Her advice was critical in the planning of the 2018 North American Interfaith Network conference which we hosted here. Attached is a photo of her last September beside the “Celebrating Our Faiths” display she created and installed in City Hall. It featured “Creation Stories from Turtle Island”.
On January 6th, 2022 we lost a founder and Honourary Board Member Sushil Kalia. He came to Edmonton in 1976 and soon became involved not only in the Hindu community but interfaith education and dialogue as well. In the early 1990’s he was instrumental in the work of several groups, one was the Edmonton Interfaith Network which inaugurated an annual observance of the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21st, (still one of our signature events). In the fall of 1995 at the Welcome Chapel at the Royal Alex Hospital he was one of the signatories to our provincial application to register as a society in Alberta. He was a founder and honourary priest of the Hindu Cultural Centre (HCC) and for over 45 years conducted rites of passage there. His skills as a draftsman were also used in the design of the temple and beautiful murti (statues). When we began our joint program with the city called Celebrating Our Faiths in 2006 he helped make the first display featuring Diwali. In 2012 he created a room in the HCC dedicated to Swami Vivekananda who attended the first Parliament of the World Religions in 1893 and is credited with bringing Hinduism to North America.