The Centre is governed by a Board of Directors, elected at our annual AGM. The Board meets monthly and is composed of individuals who are committed to the values reflected in the Centre’s objectives and who want to help create a society which respects the richness of human diversity. Although the Board members come from a variety of faiths, they serve as individuals and not as official representatives of their faith communities.
Gail Allan – President
Nasim Kherani – Treasurer
Farah Jamil – Past-President
Guy W. Blood
Rev. Audrey Brooks
Dr. Michael Frishkopf
Surinder Singh Hoonjan
Honorary Board Members
Rev. Dr. Rob Hankinson
Rev. Dr. Don Mayne
Gail Allan is a member of the United Church of Canada who has worked for many years on issues of global and social justice; she lived in Edmonton until 1996, and has recently returned for “semi-retirement.” From 2004-2020 she was Coordinator for Ecumenical, Interchurch and Interfaith Relations in The United Church of Canada, representing the church in national and international ecumenical and interfaith groups, and supporting people engaged in dialogue and action in their local communities. She is an active participant in the North American Interfaith Network and Canadian Interfaith Conversation. From 2014-2020 she was co-chair of the National Muslim Christian Liaison Committee. She has a doctorate in Ethics from Emmanuel College of the Toronto School of Theology, with a focus on feminist theological and social ethics. At present she is an associate faculty member at St. Stephen’s College, Edmonton and a member of Garneau United Church. She is also involved in the gender justice work of the World Council of Churches.
Jagjeet Bhardwaj is a retired scientist who now devotes her life to full-time volunteer work. For the past thirty-five years she has volunteered for many organizations including the Girl Guides of Canada, Red Cross Society, the Marian Centre and the Millwoods Welcome Centre for Newcomers. Mrs. Bhardwaj is also a member of the Provincial Court Nominating Committee of Alberta. She is a recipient of the Centennial Medal from the Province of Alberta in recognition of her multifaceted volunteer work. She has also been honoured by the Indo-Canadian Women’s Association, with whom she has served as president and is currently treasurer for a third term. She also edited several publications for them. She has been nominated for the YWCA Tribute to Women of Distinction Award.
Guy W. Blood, M.Sc., P.Eng., has been a member of the Baha’i Faith since 1979, after an extensive search of all possibilities of committing to a spiritual path within a religious community. He has been interested in interfaith harmony for many years and demonstrated that interest early on by producing a weekly community television show in the early 80’s, titled Unity in Religion. People from all faith traditions were interviewed using questions that focused on the similarities amongst religious traditions, rather than on the differences. That show ran for 3 years on local cable channel 10. Guy has functioned as a structural engineer since graduating from the University of Calgary with a Master of Science degree in Civil Engineering. Work included designing bridges and buildings, providing educational seminars on cement and concrete, teaching at NAIT, and most recently, structural engineering consulting, before retiring in 2018. He has held leadership positions with the United Nations Association in Canada, several condominium boards, the Edmonton Soaring Club, and the Baha’i Faith. Hobbies have included: golf, curling, photography and flying gliders and tow planes. His wife is Joan Blood.
Rev. Audrey Brooks, (M. ED.; M. Div.) is a retired chaplain with the Unitarian Church of Edmonton. For many years she facilitated the Interfaith Centre’s annual concert as well as our UN International Day of Peace celebrations, the UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination commemorations and the Genocide Memorial Services. She also serves on the Board of the Central Region Interfaith Housing Initiative which works to end homelessness in Edmonton. Audrey is involved with the Missing and Murdered Women and Girls marches; served on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as part of the University of Alberta Interfaith Chaplain’s Association; is a founding member of the U of Alberta Pride Alumni Association; and is a Raging Granny. She is the mother of 5, grandmother of 13, great grandmother of 13, and great great grandmother of Lincoln, who was born in October of 2020.
Jeremiah Ellis is a Master of Theological Studies student at St. Stephen’s College. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Alberta. During his undergraduate degree, he co-created and lead an initiative called the World Mosaic Project to take a stand against xenophobia, Islamophobia, and online hate. A social media campaign, The World Mosaic Project was supported by youth and leaders all around Canada and the world—including participation from Amarjeet Sohi, Don Iveson, Rachel Notley, Naheed Nenshi, and Justin Trudeau. Jeremiah also served two terms with the Canadian Commission for UNESCO’s Youth Advisory Group. During this time he was selected as a delegate for the UNESCO Youth Forum in Paris, France. He currently serves on the advisory committee for the Canadian Commission for UNESCO’s Coalition of Inclusive Municipalities. Jeremiah also has a wide background in public speaking and has spoken at events such as WE Day, TEDx, the Canadian Human Rights Commission’s Beyond Labels Symposium, and various panels and events within the UNESCO network. At the local level in Edmonton, Jeremiah has been engaged in community work with organizations and initiatives such as Apathy is Boring, Amplify Youth Voices, Boyle Street Community Services, and Campus Community & Recreation. He has also been featured in two documentaries: The New Voice of Change: Jeremiah Ellis and Louder: Amplifying Youth Voices in Activism. In his life and career, Jeremiah hopes to continue to promote diversity and inclusion in his communities while also working to bridge cultural and political divisions in Canada.
Avau Fast was born in Baluchistan, a beautiful region north west of India, during the British colonial period. She grew up in an area replete with different ethnicities. Later in India no matter where she lived there were churches, temples, synagogues and mosques around the railway colony where she lived. Before attending boarding school she lived with her aunt, and every morning as they walked to pick up fresh vegetables from the market, at each place of worship on the way, they would stop to pray. She recalls that she really did not mind as this gave her a few seconds to rest her weary feet. Avau looks upon India as an old multicultural country and Canada as a new one. As a born Zoroastrian she is proud to be a part of the Canadian mosaic; studying and working among different faiths and cultures has always been her interest in life.
Michael Frishkopf, PhD is Professor of Music at the University of Alberta, and Director of the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology. His research centers on Africa (Egypt, Ghana, Liberia, Ethiopia), and includes Music and Islam, Music and Immigration, Music and Development, Music and Global Health, Music and Architecture, Sound and Wellbeing, Digital
Repositories, Virtual Reality, AI & Machine Learning, and Social Network Analysis. Recent journal articles include Music for Global Human Development: Participatory Action Research for Health and Wellbeing, MUSICultures 49:71-109; Textual Dimensions of the Public Ḥaḍra in Egyptian Sufism, Musicological Annual (2022) 58 (1): 61–99; and The sonic performance of Islamic congregational prayer: Ṣalāh in mainstream Egyptian practice, Performing Islam, Volume 9, Numbers 1-2, December 2021, pp. 5-114. He is the author of al-Sufiyya wa al-Tuqus wa al-Hadatha fi Misr [Sufism, Ritual, and Modernity in Egypt], translated by Sayed Gad, National Center for Translation, Cairo (2022), and editor, with Federico Spinetti, of Music, Sound, and Architecture in Islam (University of Texas Press, 2018). He is also a performer and composer.
Karen Gall has served on the Centre board since 2009; she is Vice President/Secretary of the Canadian Multicultural Education Foundation (CMEF) where, for over a decade, she served as Chair of the annual CMEF Harmony Brunch commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. At her synagogue, Temple Beth Ora, Karen has served as a lay leader for Shabbat and festival services, a member of the Ritual Committee, a founding member of the Chavurat HaShir choir and as a cantorial soloist. She has worked with the LGBTQ community to support and help organize both the annual Interfaith Pride Service as well as the Pride Shabbat service at her synagogue. Karen focuses her time on successfully building bridges, using her appreciation and awareness of the value of multiculturalism and interfaith connections while welcoming opportunities to share her Jewish values and traditions with students of all ages and members of the broader community. Karen is also working with a diverse group of people in St. Albert to establish St. Albert Interfaith Connections. She has received recognition for her dedication and work advocating for interfaith, multicultural and human rights issues including a St. Albert International Women’s Day Award and a Daughter of the Year Award.
Rev. Dr. Rob Hankinson has been associated with the EIC since witnessing the signatures of the Centre’s founding board members to the Alberta Societies Act application, December 1995. Since then he has held a number of positions on the Centre’s board and is now happy to be an honourary member. In December 2012 Rob retired from 40 years ministry with the United Church of Canada. On the North American Interfaith Network (NAIN) he serves as a member of the newly formed NAIN Council. In August 2019 Rob relocated to Nova Scotia and is a member of the executive of the Wolfville Area Interchurch Council which is working towards hosting NAIN in 2024 or 2025.
Farah Jamil is an Ivy League-educated Health Executive and a certified Leadership / Executive Coach as well as an Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Coach. This has combined her love of science and business to work in several sectors including: government, health region, non-profit and academia in Canada and the United States. Her work has ranged from briefing Canadian Ministers, US Senators and Ambassadors on strategic health policy issues to guest lecturing and coaching clients globally on how to be less passive and more proactive in their career / leadership goals. As a woman of colour and a visible religious minority, Farah recognized the need to bring down barriers and build bridges within the realm of interfaith dialogue. She has volunteered for several interfaith boards, committees and organizations, including the American Muslim Health Professionals (AMHP), A Common Word Alberta – Christian Muslim Interfaith Dialogue, and more. As a proud member of the EICEA, Farah is committed to “help create a society which respects the richness of human diversity”.
Shiraz Kanji recently retired having worked in three different careers – professional engineer, Information Technology and recently as financial planning consultant. He has worked in three different countries and speaks five languages. Shiraz is passionate about public speaking and has spoken to a wide variety and sizes of audiences on different subjects including religion and Islam. He has been an active Toastmaster for over 30 years and has conducted many training seminars locally and overseas. He enjoys learning about different faith communities and participating in interfaith dialogue. Shiraz is an active volunteer, having served his Toastmasters District, his professional organizations, church and community organizations. He has also volunteered for the Provincial Government sponsored Board Development Program. His other interests include music, cinema and reading.
Nasim Kherani is a long-time volunteer having served extensively both within and outside the Muslim Ummah over the past 40 years. While serving as treasurer of the Edmonton Chapter of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW), Nasim helped restore and find a new home for Edmonton’s first mosque at Fort Edmonton Park, Al Rashid Mosque. Following her service as president of the Edmonton chapter of CCMW and treasurer of the Western Canada Group of Soroptomist International, she returned to serve the Ummah by becoming director of the Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities chairing the Interfaith Portfolio. As the resource development coordinator for the Aga Khan University, she has coordinated more than five major fundraising drives aiding in the creation of an international-standard medical school, nursing school and sports centre in Karachi, Pakistan, and Nairobi, Kenya. Most recently, Nasim served as president of CCMW, Edmonton Chapter and also has been elected to be part of the CCMW National Board. In her professional life, Nasim completed accounting designations (FCCA, CGA, CPA) in both England and Canada. After working in a public practice in London, England, and then for more than a decade as Senior Financial and Management Auditor with the Alberta Social Services, Nasim switched focus to the health sector, managing and performing the accounting for a large dental office for over three decades. Using this experience, Nasim has spent the last seven years consulting for the Aga Khan University Nairobi on dental practice management and expansion as part of a larger public–private partnership. Nasim has completed further training to become a certified financial planner (CFP) and now operates a group of companies focused on investment and real estate development.
Rev. Dr. Don Mayne was born in Edmonton but took his schooling, university, and theological training in Saskatchewan and his master’s degree at Boston University School of Theology. His doctorate is an honorary degree from St. Stephen’s College. He was the founding President of the EIC, serving for five years, then continued on the Board until he was appointed an honourary member in 2011. He served on the Board of the North American Interfaith Network and was President from 2000 to 2004. He also was a founding member of the No Room in the Inn Committee of the Edmonton and District Council of Churches. They have encouraged the congregations of the Council of Churches to donate to a different community agency each year to assist with poverty and housing issues, and in 20 years they have raised over $1 million for various service agencies.
Kathie Reith says that at a young age she was taught the value of being actively involved in the betterment of her community. She has served on many committees and boards, including the Regional Heritage Fair which encourages students from Grades 4 to 9 to get excited about history and the Soroptimist International Group which empowers women to make an impact on others’ lives by financing their dreams. Other projects are an awareness campaign on the effect of human trafficking and “Welcome Home” which befriends newly housed participants who were previously homeless.
Suzanne Sauvé was raised in Ottawa in a practicing French Canadian Catholic family. At university she found the Bahá’í Faith and learned about its prophet founder Bahá’u’lláh, gaining a greater love and appreciation of the status of all of God’s Great Educators, these Manifestations of God, that include Jesus and his teachings she had grown up with. Suzanne has always been passionate about equality and was grateful to work for the Federal government working with community groups, individuals and institutions helping remove barriers to equality and unity in diversity in our society. The federal department eventually became Canadian Heritage and the Women’s Program, and at a certain point, Suzanne felt it was time for her to change career. She returned to school for graduate studies and became a speech language pathologist. To this day, she continues to work in this fascinating field helping individuals overcome communication barriers, from aphasia to stuttering, find their voice, and even become proficient readers, despite dyslexia. Suzanne has been married to Jim Hoover for 36 years. Together, they enjoy walking around Edmonton’s beautiful river valley, going to our great coffee shops, and visiting their two sons in Vancouver.
Manish Shah was born and brought up in India; he has a Bachelor of Science & Medical Laboratory Technology degree as part of his academic carrier and studied Fundamentals & Science of Jainism as part of his spiritual journey. This work explains the basic and complex principals of Jainism with the scientific point of view and translates it in a way that can be easily understood. He also studied Vedic Hindu philosophy and Buddhism and the major technical differences between these three major religions practiced in South East Asia, mainly in India, Burma, Myanmar, Cambodia, Sri Lanka. Jain philosophy connects with nature and the environment and its effects on all life including human, animal, plants and nonliving matter. Volunteer activities include fund raising for earthquake relief, blood donation camps and organizing annual republic day functions in India; he captained the intercollege cricket team of Gujarat University for many years. He teaches mental health improvement and food habits and does public and motivational speaking, promotes and practices naturopathy, nonviolence and Jain lifestyle and vegetarian food ideology for healthy human society and keeping the environment safe for generations to come. He is passionate about motorcycle riding and exploring the natural beauty of Alberta in all directions as well as in learning about religious diversity and different cultures. He is working towards achieving a Vedic concept of “Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam”: that we are part of a universal undivided family.
Virginia Sharek is an Albertan who attended the U of A, completing a Bachelor of Education in 1967 and a Bachelor of Arts in 1990. After her first degree she spent a year in London, England Upon her return to Canada she taught in Calgary for a year then two more years in Edmonton. She was married in 1973 and chose to stay home to raise her two sons. In 1993 Virginia took the opportunity to serve as the ecumenical and interfaith officer for the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton until her retirement in June 2013. During those years she held a number of positions in the Edmonton & District Council of Churches as well as in the Western Diocesan Eparchial Coordinators of Ecumenism. She was the representative for the Ukrainian Catholic Church of Canada on the Canadian Council of Churches for six years. Being a member of the “No Room in the Inn” committee since 2001 has provided the opportunity to get to know so many dedicated individuals in many organizations that are engaged in providing safe and affordable housing for people experiencing difficulties and hard times. In 2014, Virginia became a Life Member of the Interfaith Centre and joined the executive in 2019 as secretary. With appreciation and enthusiasm she continues to be part of the activities, educational opportunities, experiences, projects and workshops provided by the staff and members of the Centre.
Gary Simpson is a semi-retired teacher-counsellor. He has a seminary degree in Religious Education and recently completed an M.Div. at a multi-faith seminary. Gary, an ordained Universalist Christian clergy, attends McDougall United Church, where he is a Co-Chair of the Affirm Ministry. For a few years, Gary was on the executive of the Spirituality in Counselling Chapter of the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association. He has presented at conferences on topics related to spirituality and counseling, the counseling needs of sexual and gender minority youth, and how to respond to Biblical bullying. Gary has a passion for interpreting Scriptures in ways that do not wound, marginalize, and other people. He volunteers with a group that aims to reduce prejudice, discrimination, and hate.
Rebecca Wright has been involved in interfaith work since 2012 and has been to multiple NAIN “Connects” including helping to plan the one held in Edmonton in 2018 and designing its logo.
Netta Phillet was born in Edmonton and has a degree in Religious Studies from the U of A. She has been the Executive Director of the Edmonton Interfaith Centre since 2006 after being on the executive for 6, is active in different capacities at Beth Shalom Synagogue and the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism, locally and internationally, is a life-member of Hadassah and was a founding member of the Phoenix Multifaith Society for Harmony. She is on the boards of the Jewish Archives & Historical Society of Edmonton & Northern Alberta and the local chapter of the M. Gandhi Foundation for World Peace. She is also serving for one year on the Edmonton City Manager’s Anti-Racism Advisory Board. For 30 years she has been a sister in the Arab/Jewish Women’s Peace Coalition. Much of the focus of her volunteer life is inter/intra faith dialogue and the place of women in religious ritual and observance.
|Elder Pauline Paulson
|Rev. Dr. David Fekete
|Rabbi David Kunin
|Dr. Bikkar Singh Randhawa
|Rev. Dr. Don Mayne