The Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan is governed by an elected Board of Directors. The diverse wisdom and devotion the directors bring to their broad work on vision and policy complements the dedication of the staff to achieve and advance multiculturalism and demonstrate the provincial motto: From Many Peoples Strength.
These volunteers serve as cultural ambassadors in all areas of the province. The current directors were elected (or are continuing their term) from 2020-2021.
Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan 2020-21 Board of Directors
President: Meka Okochi
Vice President: Cosanna Preston-Idedia
Treasurer: Muna De Ciman
Secretary: Ayesha Baig
Past President: Neeraj Saroj
Directors at Large:
Meka Okochi, President
Meka holds a Master’s degree with Distinction in Environmentally Sustainable Process Technology, from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden and a PhD degree in Environmental Systems Engineering from the University of Regina. He is a professional engineer with work experience in business development and technology research and innovation in the energy and urban infrastructure sectors.
Previously, Meka was Vice President, Economic Development for the Regina Regional Opportunities Commission, the agency responsible for economic development and tourism for the Regina region. Prior to that, he was Vice President for Innovation & Business Development at Communities of Tomorrow (CT), a private-public economic development partnership focused on creating innovative infrastructure solutions for municipalities. He has also been Leader, Business Development for SaskEnergy, where he worked to implement better and cleaner energy solutions, create new revenue streams for the company, and attract new businesses to Saskatchewan.
In 2012, Meka ran for Mayor of Regina; an experience he describes as his greatest leadership development exercise so far. In 2013, he was named as one of the top 40 under the age of 40 shaping the future of Saskatchewan, and awarded a CBC Saskatchewan Future 40 Certificate of Merit for Distinction in Business.
Having studied and lived around the world in countries spanning Africa, Asia, Europe and North America, as well as in Australia, Meka, together with his wife, Funke, Meka enjoy staying current on global affairs, travelling, meeting new people and learning about new cultures.
Cosanna Preston-Idedia, Vice President
Cosanna believes Canada as a whole is multicultural by default; what we do with that reality – how we create space for perspective, respect and inclusion – is the challenge at hand.
Her journey with promoting multiculturalism and inclusive communities is multifaceted. It spreads across three continents and four countries she had called home: Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom and Nigeria, and is based in dance, academia, organizing and her professional focus on increasing government engagement with the community.
Cosanna has served on the MCoS Board of Directors since 2017 and is focused on fostering and supporting Saskatchewan conversations on multiculturalism to strengthen our province.
Muna De Ciman, Treasurer
Muna is the recipient of the 2012 Betty Szuchewycz Award for outstanding contribution to multiculturalism in Saskatchewan (awarded by MCoS). Muna currently serves on the boards of the Regina Multicultural Council and the Saskatchewan African Canadian Heritage Museum. Muna also serves as the chair of the Human Rights/ Equity Committee of the Saskatchewan Government Employees Union and as a member of the Diversity Committee at Paul Dojack Youth Centre, where she works. Muna has worked tirelessly in the Africa Association of Regina and Daughters of Africa International promoting involvement and participation in multicultural programming and activities by associations’ members, families, and the wider community.
Muna is a member of the Skin and Bone Drum Group, which promotes multiculturalism in the community through music, workshops and dance. As Saskatchewan is becoming more multicultural and multilingual, Muna believes it is very important that she and the entire community embrace, support, and promote multiculturalism. By working and socializing together in harmony to preserve our diverse heritages and traditions, we foster a dynamic multicultural community where the people who have made Saskatchewan their home live in peaceful cooperation.
Currently, in her role with on the Board of the Regina Multicultural Council Board, Muna has mostly been chairing multicultural events and working with schools and the Regina Police Service (RPS) to implement educational initiatives during March 21st events. In 2013, Muna was the key note speaker at the Clued In Include Workshop organized by the RPS on March 21st – International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Day.
Muna lives in Regina with her family and works as Youth Counsellor at the Paul Dojack Youth Centre in Regina. She holds a certificate in nursing (Licensed Practical Nurse), a Bachelor Degree in Social Work and a Master’s Degree in Social Work.
Ayesha Baig, Secretary
Ayesha Baig claims to have had four avatars or incarnations. The first was being born in India to a diplomatic family. Her early years were spent in India, the
Philippines and Iran and her schooling took place in India, Switzerland and England. Avatar two, was marrying a Canadian and moving to rural Saskatchewan. Avatar three, was becoming the single mother of three, moving to Saskatoon and working for non-profit agencies. Avatar four – is happening now as a writer, with the first draft of a book completed and adventuring into the world of poetry.
Ayesha was one of two people who were tasked with setting up the Newcomer Information Centre in Saskatoon in 2009. This involved planning its physical presence, setting it up, hiring staff, developing policy and a strategic plan. As a newcomer herself, it was a project close to her heart. She retired in 2015.
She has had an extensive career with non-profit agencies namely: The Saskatchewan Brain Injury Association (Provincial Coordinator), Big Brothers of Saskatoon (Programs Manager and Acting Executive Director), CNIB (Manager Development) and the Newcomer Information Centre (Development Coordinator and Manager).
She was the founding president of the Saskatchewan Brain Injury Association in 1982 and a founding member of the National Brain Injury Coalition. She received two national awards for making an outstanding contribution to Acquired Brain Injury.
After retiring from full-time work, she has been contracted to coordinate Prairie Prism, three times consecutively (2016, 2018, 2021). It is a multicultural event which involves over 20 Indigenous, ethnocultural and community groups which work together.
She has most recently served on several boards namely: The Saskatchewan Intercultural Association (2015-2019), her condo board (2016-2020) and is a member of the Saskatoon Anti-Racism Network (SARN) 2012 – present.
In addition, she can now indulge her interest as a writer and poet, with the first draft of a novel and many poems completed.
Neeraj Saroj, Past President
Neeraj lives in Regina and is married to his sweetheart from his kindergarten school years in India. Currently he works as Senior Engineer with the City of Regina and is a professional engineer registered with APEGS (Association of Professional Engineers and Geo-Scientists of Saskatchewan). He is currently finishing his executive MBA from Kenneth Levene School of Business at the U of R. Neeraj has widely travelled across the length and breadth of India and North America due to his previous jobs in Sales and Business development.
Neeraj is actively involved in the community. Neeraj served on the board of India Canada Association of Saskatchewan for several years as a Vice president, Director and Volunteer. Neeraj was an ambassador at the India pavilion at Mosaic for three years. As a Hindi language school coordinator at Regina, Neeraj was actively involved in the promotion of the heritage language amongst youth in Regina. He has also worked very closely with Regina Multicultural Council, Multilingual Association of Regina, Saskatchewan Organization for Heritage Languages.
Neeraj has worked as City of Regina’s United Way representative of their biggest division – City Operations (previously Public Works). He volunteered at City of Regina ‘Festival of Lights’ to mark the arrival of Xmas season. He was a volunteer coordinator of famous wagon ride and Santa parade during festival of lights. Neeraj has been actively volunteering at the ‘I love Regina Day’ event for three years. Neeraj has volunteered at the ‘I love Regina’ run and ‘Mayor’s run’ for the last few years. Neeraj was an active member of the diversity group in his previous organization (CNH). He represented diversity during Farm shows, Rodeos, and various City events.
When Neeraj was an engineering student in India, he organized several exhibitions and ‘road shows’ of his cartoons, collage work and drawings to bring awareness about national integration and peace amongst fellow youth. This initiative during the troubled times in the state of Punjab in India was highly appreciated and encouraged by local administration, universities and students.
Relaxation for Neeraj is listening to Indian music while driving in rural Western Canada. Neeraj loves Indian food and misses the ‘old-Delhi’ style delicious street food.
Julio Torres-Recinos, Director
Julio has been involved with several city, provincial and national multicultural organizations for many years and in different capacities. When he moved from Guelph, Ontario to Saskatoon in 1999, he immediately got involved with the Hispanic Circle of Saskatoon (vice-president 1999-00; president 2000-04), The Saskatoon Spanish School (coordinator and principal, 2000-02), and the Saskatchewan Intercultural Association (board member 1999-03; treasurer 2003-06). He also got involved with the Folkfest Hispanic Pavilion (executive member 1999-05) and then he worked with Folkfest Saskatoon Inc., its parent institution, for many years (board member 2005-08; vice-president 2007, 2012; president 2008-10). Julio was a Regional Director of MCoS for several years (2005-08) and vice-president (2008-10). He has worked hard either as a board member or as a leader on behalf on the organizations and their stakeholders. He attends meetings regularly and participates actively. Some highlights of Julio’s involvement as vice-president and president of Folkfest include the reinstatement of our Gala Preview and the creation of the Global Village Pavilion. At MCoS, he participated actively through several critical moments, such as the drafting of new governance principles, a key condition from SaskCulture in order to maintain its funding, among others.
At the national level, Julio was the treasurer of the Canadian Association of Spanish for two years (2005-07) and he has been involved with the organization for many years. He has been involved for many with the Cultural Celebration of the Spanish Language, a literary and scholar festival that takes place in Toronto every year and where he gave poetry readings.
Julio is a poet and short story writer, as well as a cultural promoter of Hispanic literature in Canada. He has published several books of poetry in Canada and Europe, and one of short stories that was published in Spain. He has co-edited three anthologies of Hispanic Canadian literature and has given many poetry recitals since 1990 in many Canadian provinces, including Saskatchewan, as well as other countries such as Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Spain and Germany. Julio was the special guest at the fourth Discovery Festival, organized by the Francophone group of theatre La Troupe du Jour of Saskatoon on March 27, 2015, where he gave a poetry recital accompanied by guitarist Rodolfo Pino.
Julio is a Professor of Spanish and literature at the University of Saskatchewan. He completed a B.A. at York University, and an M.A. and a Ph.D. at the University of Toronto. He currently resides in Saskatoon with his son Manrique.
Ranjan Datta, Director
Dr. Ranjan Datta has made substantial and sustained contributions to cultural diversity and the dangers of racism through his community activities and graduate research, and these contributions have had a major impact on the immigrants, Indigenous, and research communities in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
Dr. Ranjan Datta has been able to connect to a larger community through participation in social well-being and justice movements such as: the Idle No More Movement, First Nations Land Rights, Saskatoon Community Radio (CFCR 90.5), Indigenous language movement, Food Bank, and Friendship Inn. Through all these past and ongoing roles he has learned how it is possible to transform ideas into practices through commitment and collaborative engagement. Dr. Datta has been engaged with MCoS’ anti-racism activities and MCoS’ visions (such as: recognizing of Aboriginal peoples contributions for Saskatchewan province and Canada, decolonizing colonial history, and promoting benefits of cross-cultural diversity) last four years.
Dr. Datta is widely known as an international graduate student expert and leader on immigrant and Indigenous research, and making positive impacts on the communities, and he has received numerous accolades for research excellence. For example, at our university’s inaugural Images of Research competition, two of his photos won People’s Choice and one photo won a Community and Impact award (http://research.usask.ca/images-of-research.php). These photos perhaps document his curiosity as well as his desire to learn and connect with others while he expands his research areas. Dr. Datta has published 10 international peer reviewed journal articles, co-author for 2 books, 5 invited lectures, and presented in 14 international and national peer reviewed conferences. Dr. Datta had a strong breadth of teaching experience in K-12 Indigenous schools and university environments. Working with Indigenous and immigrant colleagues, known nationally and internationally, has given him further exposure to their contributions in: Indigenous education, rights, and practice; anti-racist theory and practice and Indigenous research methodology and methods.
Dr. Datta expects to continue with community service for the rest of his life because he is, by necessity, a vehement critic of injustice. He lives in Saskatoon with his wife, Jebunnessa and two children.
Margot Hurlbert, Director
Canada Research Chair, Tier 1 – Climate Change, Energy, and Sustainability Policy
Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy
After practising law (1986-1998) in Regina, Sk Margot accepted a tenure track job at the University of Regina jointly appointed to Justice Studies and Sociology and Social Studies. In 2015 she accepted an appointment with Jonson-Shoyama and was awarded a Canada Research Chair in 2018.
Margot has a B. Admin. (Great Distinction) from the University of Regina (1985), an LL.B. (Osgoode) (1987), an LL.M. (Osgoode) (2005) in Constitutional Law with a focus on energy, natural resource, Indigenous and environmental issues, and a Ph.D. (University of Amsterdam) in Social and Behaviour Sciences with a thesis “Adaptive Governance of Disaster: Drought and Flood in Rural Areas” published by Springer.
Margot’s first book was co-authored with her father, “School Law and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (2nd Edition)(1992) and her second was an edited volume of “Pursuing Justice (2nd Edition)(2018). In her legal and academic career her passion has been justice, a daunting and elusive endeavour.
Margot has authored and co authored many journal articles, papers and presentations on rights to water, sanitation, and hygiene in a global contest, diverse community energy futures, energy justice, gender and climate change, gendered adaptation of Eritrean dryland farmers, resilience in Bangladish, and Indigenous energy justice.
Her research interests focus on energy, climate change, agriculture, and water and marginalized people. Margot has participated and lead many SSHRC, NSERC and IDRC research projects with South American (Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Bolivia, Brazil) colleagues exploring and supporting rural people and their livelihoods in the context of climate change.
Margot serves on the editorial boards of international journals, is a Senior Research Fellow of the Earth Systems Governance Project, and the Lead of the Science, Technology and Innovation Research Cluster at Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy in Regina. Margot was Coordinating Lead Author of a chapter of the Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on Land and Climate and a Review Editor for AR6.
Margot lives with her family in Regina, Sk. In addition, Margot is a fitness volunteer at the YMCA (30 years) and sits on the board of SCEP Center in Regina, a non-profit organization working with young children with communication and behavioural challenges (15 years).
Susan was born in Trinidad and Tobago, and is a Caribbean girl as she likes to be called. She migrated to Canada in 2012 and has since made Lloydminster her home. Susan is happily married and lives with her husband Dan, her three daughters, and her step daughter. A healthy family lifestyle is important to Susan as she thrives for balance whilst at work, volunteering, making a happy home, networking, and keeping the sparks in her recent marriage of four years.
Prior to arriving in Canada, Susan’s professional experience is extensive: 10 years in the Airline Industry, over 15 years in Broadcasting, 5 years in the Advertising Industry, 14 years as a Certified Event Manager, and 5 years as Manager of her own production company.
In Lloydminster, Susan took the challenge of adjusting and sought employment opportunities at Servus Credit Union, the then Source Newspaper, the Chamber of Commerce, and pursued studies and became a licensed Insurance Broker with Western Financial Group. Susan is the Business/CEO of CAS Events Consultancy Ltd. She currently volunteers at Catholic Services, Learning Resource Council, and the Lloydminster Immigration Partnership. In October 2017, Susan and her children became Canadian Citizens.
Multiculturalism, socializing in cultural events, being creative, and fashion are just a few things that Susan is quite passionate about so it’s no surprise she is now the founder and President of the International Festivals Lloydminster Society. “Lloydfest2019” is her new project and this is an event that seeks to showcase Lloydminster’s rich diverse heritage through art, craft, food, music, traditional wear, performances, and local talent. This is a huge under taking, but together with her team they are reaching out for support from organizations and the business community to ensure that this event is a success and can be held annually.
Hyunjung Shin, Director
Hyunjung Shin, a native of South Korea, teaches Education at the University of Saskatchewan. Her journey into the academia of Second Language Education covered University of Hawaii (MA), University of Toronto (PhD),and University of British Columbia (Postdoctoral Research).She has extended family members living in S. Korea and in the USA as well as diverse friendship and professional network across the globe. In Saskatoon, through her work in teacher education for multicultural communities, Hyunjung has formed a deeper understanding of how social differences in language, culture, race, ethnicity, and religion connect to social inequalities for migrants. Hyunjung has been actively involved in a variety of multicultural activities/organizations. At the UofS campus, she took the lead in the recent launching of Global K-culture Club, a new undergraduate student club in 2019. Moving beyond traditional notion of multiculturalism which tends to celebrate superficial level of cultural tokenism and tends to lead each ethno-cultural community segregated in its own territory (e.g., Chinese student club, Indian student club), this new club is designed to be a platform for UofS students to experience and learn from linguistic and cultural diversity on campus by exploring aspects of Korean culture they enjoy. At the GKCC’s inaugural community engagement event, four Korean-Canadian community organizations were represented. At the regional level, she is currently a member of Local Immigration Partnership (LIP) Saskatoon’s Immigration Advisory Table (IAT), with active participation in two working groups-language and leadership. At the provincial level, she is currently serving asa member-at-large for Saskatchewan Teachers of English as an Additional Language(SKTEAL) Board. As a member of SKTEAL board research/grant committee, she has taken the lead in developing a collaborative research grant proposal designed to help SK schools and teachers to better support immigrant children and parents. At the national level, her research focus is on anti-racism and multiculturalism in language education through Canadian Association of Applied Linguistics. Other areas of Hyunjung’s social and community service include: delivering a TEDx talk on transforming fear of diversity with compassion(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ttl9erFveMQ); contributing to the production of 90-second video “See me as I am” by Saskatoon Immigration Advisory Table; continuing leadership and support for local immigrant/international students and multicultural community organizations; participating in OISE/UT’s care mongering group to support students during the COVID-19 pandemic, OISE/UT mentoring program, and Rotary Club of Saskatoon Nutana. Hyunjung strongly believes that her academic expertise,r esearch and teaching experiences in multicultural education, anti-racism education, and cross-cultural communication will make a valuable contribution to MCoS’ vision and mission. Through her unique professional and personal trajectories connecting the Eastern, Western, and Prairie Canada both as an international student and as a female university faculty member of immigrant origin, she can bring to the MCoS Board first-hand experience providing the interface between the Indigenous communities, the settler communities and multicultural communities in Canada. Creating an inclusive social environment for everyone is her true passion and she looks forward to actively engaging with community-based leadership opportunities that MCoS would provide.