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 on the board as individuals and not as official representatives of their faith communities.
Netta Phillet has been the Centre’s coordinator since 2006, after spending six years on the board.
Guy Blood – President
Farah Jamil – Vice – President
Kara Murray – Treasurer
Virginia Sharek – Secretary
Pauline Paulson – Past – President
General Board Members
Rev. Audrey Brooks
Dr. Zohra Husaini
Honourary Board Members
Rev. Dr. Rob Hankinson
Rev. Dr. Don Mayne
Office Coordinator – Netta Phillet
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, and is currently chairman of the Parkland County Baha’i Assembly. Hobbies have included: golf, curling, photography, and flying gliders and tow planes. His wife is Joan Blood.
Rev. Audrey Brooks is a retired chaplain with the Unitarian Church of Edmonton She has been a board member of the Edmonton Interfaith Centre for eleven years. Rev. Audrey has facilitated the annual International Harmony Week concert sponsored by the Edmonton Interfaith Centre, as well as the UN International Day of Peace, the UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 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; has 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 one of the Edmonton Raging Grannies. 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.
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.
Karen Gall Karen is Vice President of the Canadian Multicultural Education Foundation (CMEF); for over a decade she served as Chair of the annual CMEF Harmony Brunch which commemorates the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and continues to assist on the organizing committee. Karen is lay leader at Temple Beth Ora, Edmonton’s Reform Jewish Synagogue, a member of the Ritual Committee, a founding member of the Chavurat HaShir choir and also serves as an occasional 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. She is working with a diverse group of people in St. Albert to establish an interfaith presence in that city and this year was awarded a St. Albert International Woman’s Day award for her work advocating for interfaith, multicultural and human rights issues.
Len Gierach is a volunteer cleric with Eckankar and has been involved with interfaith activities in Edmonton for almost thirty years. In 2019 he chaired the committee which had a vision and hired Spoeth Creations to film our “Building Bridges” video documentary. He served as chair for the Edmonton Committee for the Parliament of the World’s Religions from 2010 – 2015 and as a member of the North American Interfaith Network 2018 proposal committee. He is employed with Westlawn Memorial Gardens as a pre-need specialist. He is active as a writer, chorister with the Richard Eaton Singers, and various service work. Len and his wife Heather enjoy their five children and two grandchildren in the Edmonton area.
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) Executive Rob serves as a Past Chair and member of the Program Committee. In August 2019 Rob relocated to Wolfville Nova Scotia where he works with the local Interchurch Council to host NAIN in 2022 or 2023.
Dr. Zohra Husaini is an educator and human rights activist. She was born in India and migrated to Canada in 1971. She received her Masters of Letters degree from Cambridge University, England in Philosophy and her Ph. D from the University of Alberta in Sociology. She has taught Philosophy, Sociology and Education both in India and in Canada. Her academic work has been in the fields of metaphysical epistemology, education, women’s studies and minority and ethnic group’s studies. Her community work is extensive in the areas of community action research, human rights, promotion of interfaith relations and advocacy on women’s issues. She is Vice-President of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, on the board of the Interfaith Council of Canada and Past-President of the Indo-Canadian Women’s Association. At present she is working on a research project on Muslim Women, Human Rights and Law with the Intercultural Action Committee for Advancement of Women. She has received the Alberta Centennial Medal for her contributions to the life of our City as well as the Senior Women’s Award and the Alberta Seniors Minister’s Award (2013) for her work with immigrant women.
Farah Jamil is a health executive, where she 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. While in school and during her career, she recognized the need for bringing down barriers and building bridges in the realm of interfaith dialogue. Therefore, Farah 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 member of EIC 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.
Kara Murray has 25 years of experience in the not for profit industry in various capacities such as program management, funds development, human resources and governance. She enjoys various projects and initiatives and has participated in some eclectic ones such as produced a sold out show of The Vagina Monologues at the Jubilee Auditorium, hosted a 13 episode radio series and ran her own business, Beauty Blends. She has done guest lectures at Grant MacEwan on inclusion and disability services, participated on the board for the Edmonton Sport Council as a director, and ran a million dollar research project for the province. Kara loves collaborating and working together to bring about positive social change and has done so through 25 years of various volunteer work within the community. In partnership with her husband, they own and operate a home construction and renovating company-Alair Homes in St. Albert.
Pauline Paulson is a Metis Elder who 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 divides her time between Native Counseling 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 include but are not limited to 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 includes over 30 years of participating in aboriginal ceremonies and learning from various Elders, locally, nationally and internationally. She says, “I believe Spirit led me so I can fulfill the reason I was born into this world at this time”.
Katherine Reith says that from a young age she was taught the value of being actively involved in the betterment of her community. She works as an educational assistant and as a volunteer extraordinaire has served on many boards and worked with Bread Run, Prospect Place, Youth Justice Steering Committee, Do Likewise Society which began a Neighbourhood Centre serving the homeless, orientation for new international students at the U of A, distress lines, Outdoor Way of the Cross, prison visits and more. Another project is an awareness campaign on the effects of human trafficking and setting up safe houses. And for fun she helps at every festival in the city. Kathie believes in improving the quality of life for all people in the world to help them reach their full potential.
Manish Shah is a laboratory technician and a student of Jain Philosophy, Astrology and Meditation. His spiritual mentors were Jain Monk Muni Shree Tejprabh Vijayji Maharaj and Pandit Ravindra Shah. He is also an experienced public speaker in motivational and educational seminars and the spiritual functions of Jainism and the evaluation of Jain principals with the aid of modern science. One of his goals is to spread the message of non – violence given by the founder Lord Mahavira. He believes all religions are based on humanity and help us understand the importance of being human, showing us a way of living without causing damage to the environment and without breaking the law of universe. He hopes to be given an opportunity to serve humanity using this knowledge and skills.
Virginia Sharek is an Albertan who attended the U of A. She completed a Bachelor of Education (1967), and a Bachelor of Arts (1990). After graduation she spent a year in London, England. Upon her return to Canada Virginia taught in Calgary for one year. This was followed by a move to Edmonton to teach for an additional two years. Virginia 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 of 2013. During those years she held a number of positions in the Edmonton and 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 lifetime member of the EIC. With appreciation and enthusiasm she continues to be a part of the activities, educational opportunities and experiences, projects, workshops provided by the staff and members of the Centre.
Netta Phillet has been the coordinator of the Edmonton Interfaith Centre since 2006 after being on the executive for 6 years. She was born in Edmonton and has a degree in Religious Studies. Much of her working life was spent in independent bookstores going back to Mel Hurtig’s. For five years she co-owned and managed a newspaper distribution business, bringing the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal to Edmonton for the first time. She is a life-member of Hadassah WIZO and has been active in different capacities at Beth Shalom Synagogue and the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism. She is currently secretary-treasurer of Project Ploughshares Edmonton, is a member of the Arab/Jewish Women’s Peace Coalition and was a founding member of the Phoenix Multifaith Society for Harmony. Much of the focus of her volunteer life is inter/intra faith dialogue and conflict resolution, as well as the place of women in religious ritual and observance. And she belongs to two book discussion groups, one that has been meeting since 1977.