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) on June 13th, 2015 at the MCoS Annual General Meeting to serve a one or two-year term.
Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan 2018-19 Board of Directors
Photo back row L-R: Asit Sarkar, Past-President; Icasiana de Gala, Director; Marie Galophe, Director; Ranjan Datta, Director; Muna De Ciman, Director; Annette McGovern, Director; and Julio Torres-Recinos, Director.
Photo front row L-R: Bob Lesperance, Treasurer; Neeraj Saroj, President, Meka Okochi, Vice-President; and Cosanna Preston-Idedia, Secretary.
Neeraj Saroj, 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.
Asit Sarkar, Past-President
Dr. Asit Sarkar is Professor Emeritus at the N. Murray Edwards School of Business of the University of Saskatchewan, having completed 37 years of active service at the University. From February, 1993 to June, 2002, Dr. Sarkar served as the first Director of University of Saskatchewan International and Special Adviser to the President of University of Saskatchewan. Prior to that, he was Associate Dean of University’s College of Commerce, first Director of the Centre for International Business Studies, and Head of the Department of Management and Marketing. He also held visiting faculty appointments in Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. From 2002 to 2008, he served as the Director of the International Centre for Governance and Development at the University of Saskatchewan. He has led the development of the ICT-based Governance Knowledge Network as a platform for mobilizing and sharing Canadian knowledge on different aspects of governance and international development.
Asit’s professional work involved collaborations with scholars from Canada, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, China, Russia and Ukraine. Asit has an extensive record of international assignments and consultations sponsored by various bilateral and multilateral agencies including service as: adviser to the Asian Development Bank, Thailand’s National Science and Technology Development Agency and Malaysia’s Multimedia Super Corridor. He also served as the Co-Chair of the Canadian Program Operations Committee of the Yeltsin Democracy Fellowship Program, a program of the Canadian International Development Agency from 1993 to 2003 and as a specialist on capacity building and institutional development in a variety of international projects in such countries as Bulgaria, China, Indonesia, Kyrgyz Republic, Philippines, Russia, Ukraine and Vietnam.
In October, 2002, Asit was awarded an Honorary Doctorate degree by the Chernivtsi National University in Ukraine in recognition of his contribution towards Canada-Ukraine academic cooperation, curriculum reform and enterprise development systems in Ukraine. From 2010 to 2012, he served as Special Adviser on Immigration to Hon. Rob Norris, Saskatchewan’s Minister of Advanced Education, Employment and Immigration.
Asit’s service to community organizations include:
- Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan (Board member)
- Folkfest Saskatoon – Honorary Ambassador, 2012
- Saskatoon Open Door Society (past Board member and Co-Chair of the Board)
- Saskatchewan Capacity for Internationally-trained Professionals (Past Chair, Vice Chair)
- Canada-Ukraine Centre Inc. (Board member and Treasurer)
- City of Saskatoon – Centennial Celebration Committee (Co-Chair, Fundraising), Board of Revision (member) and Development Appeals Board (member)
- Rotary Club of Saskatoon -Nutana (Past President; Chair of Rotary Foundation Committee)
- Saskatoon and District Chamber of Commerce (Past Board member, Committee Chair and Executive Committee)
- Chair of Volunteer Management, Bangladesh Pavilion, Folkfest Saskatoon 2011
- Chair, 150th Birth Anniversary Celebration of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, University of Saskatchewan
- Canada-Bangladesh Institute for Higher Education and Development (Board Chair)
- Member, Advisory Board, Saskatoon Bangla Heritage Language School
- Currently serving as a member of the consultative group to establish an intercultural institute in Saskatchewan.
- Bangladesh Community Association of Saskatchewan
- India-Canada Cultural Association
- Hindu Society of Saskatchewan
Meka Okochi, Vice-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.
Bob Lesperance, Treasurer
Bob self-declares as an Aboriginal person. He was raised on the Metis farm in Lebret, Saskatchewan where his family was part of the management team running the community. When he lived there, the Métis culture was strong and vibrant and he experienced Métis culture as part of his everyday life. Today, Bob follows traditional teachings and has connections with many Aboriginal communities throughout Saskatchewan.
He has been in sales and servicing businesses, schools, clubs and organizations for over 20 years and has been in practically every small town and reserve in Saskatchewan at one time or another. Bob currently serves as Mayor of his local community of Findlater. He has also spent many years volunteering with Big Brothers, Kinsmen and on the organizing committee for Telemiracle which is one of the largest fundraisers in Saskatchewan.
Bob and his family live on a small acreage between Regina and Saskatoon where they enjoy the wide open skies, visiting with neighbours, playing with their dogs and tending their gardens.
Cosanna Preston-Idedia, Secretary
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, Director
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.
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.
Icasiana de Gala, Director
Icasiana arrived in Canada with her six children in November 2009 to join her husband who had been working in Canada for two years. She left behind her legal practice in the Philippines in order for her family to be together. Icasiana became a lawyer in 1994, and she immediately began working for a Legal Resource NGO joining the Labor Unit. She handled cases that involved labor disputes, safety issues, domestic violence and other crimes against women, and other cases that involved the protection of the rights of the marginalized sectors. Her position also involved providing paralegal education and advocacy work.
Several years before coming to Canada, she started her own law practice specializing in Corporate Social Responsibility particularly in the garment industry. This work entailed working with employers and international brands in order to advocate for better working conditions for garment workers. Her work took her not only to the different factories in the Philippines, but also in Cambodia and Vietnam.
When she arrived in Canada, Icasiana wanted to wait for the right opportunity, a job that would complement her experience as an advocate for others. She believed that her first job in Canada had the power to define her. First, she accepted the position of Community Connection Program Coordinator for the city of Swift Current. After that, she embraced the role of interim Executive Director (ED) of the Southwest Newcomer Welcome Centre in February 2011, and eventually became the permanent ED.
Icasiana believes that her work at the Welcome Centre is a continuation of her advocacy work as a lawyer, and her legal background often comes in handy when dealing with certain issues. Her work in the field of Human Rights has more than prepared her for her present work as Executive Director of the Welcome Centre, dealing with issues of immigrants, and working with people from different cultures. She believes that to be able to work well with a diverse population, one must start with respecting their basic Human Rights.
While working at the City, she pioneered two special projects. Let’s Play our Game is an opportunity for newcomer children to learn and play popular Canadian games such as soccer, curling, skating, hockey, and gain new friends. Groovin’ in the Park, was inspired by women gathering in parks to exercise together in Cambodia and Vietnam. The City hires professional instructors for this program that targets women who are not able to afford the cost of attending a gym. Before joining the Welcome Centre, she coordinated the multicultural event in September 2010. It was a huge success with participation from different cultures and very good attendance.
Under Icasiana’s leadership, the Welcome Centre helped organize several successful community-based events: a multicultural event with the Lyric Theatre in 2011; the Diversity Works event in 2011 attended by over 300 participants where the entire newcomer community was welcomed by the city and other organizations; Arrêt/Stop Racism youth leadership workshop facilitated by MCoS in Swift Current in 2014 and annually since; numerous activities during Culture Days; socials and thanksgiving events where newcomers and established community members get the chance to meet and know each other’s culture; the Southwest CultureFest event over the summer of 2017 for Canada 150; special projects during special events such as International Women’s Day and March 21: International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination; cultural performances together with the Southwest Multicultural association; and a variety of programs that promote diversity and help newcomers settle in their community.
In her eighth year as ED of the Welcome Centre, Icasiana has regularly presented before the different organizations within the southwest region on the topic of diversity, cultural awareness, and settlement. She is always looking for programs that promote not just the Welcome Centre’s mission and vision, but also that of MCoS.
Marie Galophe, Director
Marie was born in the south of France. She holds a Master’s Degree in Literature from La Sorbonne, Paris. She immigrated to Canada to study at McGill University, Montreal. Attracted by Ontario’s cultural diversity, she has moved to Ottawa the year later to complete a Ph.D. in French Creative Writing at the University of Ottawa. After teaching for one year as a part-time faculty at the University of Ottawa, she taught in India at Miri Piri Academy, an international boarding school run by an American NGO. The school welcomes students from 19 nationalities from all walks of life and offers a unique multicultural experience. These three years in India, 15 kilometers away from Pakistan, gave her a keen sense that positive cross-cultural relations emanate through intercultural communication.
In Saskatchewan since 2016, she is coordinator of the Francophone Immigration Network. Marie made sure to develop partnerships with the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan (MCoS) and other anglophone organizations to ensure contact and understanding of Saskatchewan linguistic diversity. From July 2017 to March 2018, seven partnerships were established, including with Global Gathering Place, Heritage Festival of Saskatoon, Immigrant Women of Saskatoon (IWS), MCoS, Regina Region Local Immigration Partnership (RRLIP), Saskatchewan Association of Immigrant Settlement and Integration Agencies (SAISIA), and Saskatoon Open Door Society (SODS). Through those partnerships, Marie aims to capitalize on the anglophone majority work and expertise and contribute to the betterment of Francophone immigration in Canada.
Marie helped to coordinate the translation of MCoS’ Welcoming and Inclusive Communities toolkit. Marie shared the toolkit with an explanatory notice of the project and on the RIF-SK web site, to all 13 RIF coordinators across Canada and the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne (FCFA), as well as on RadioCanada. Marie conceived, proposed and coordinated the bilingual Espace Immigration area at the 2018 Heritage Festival of Saskatoon. She sits on SAISIA Francophone Engagement Committee and helped organize the update of the four Settlement Services Maps to include a Francophone lens.
Marie is a feminist, a Western Sikh, an international traveler and advocate of social diversity. Locally, she was a board member of Regina Food for Learning (2016-17), a volunteer tutor for French and English at the Regina Public Library (RPL) (2016-17) and a volunteer at Mosaic Francophone Pavilion (June 2017). Marie also sits on the RRLIP Partnership Council and SAISIA Professional Development Advisory Committee as well as participated in the Saskatoon LIP ethnocultural Forum (2018) and Regina Multicultural Council educational training of “Building Resilient Community, Working with Muslim Clients.” Her professional and personal path is a living example of Saskatchewan motto.
Having a keen interest in communication and human interactions, she has been promoting Saskatchewan Francophone community through various settings: conferences, newspapers articles, blog entries, activities. She is a writer, an associate translator for the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Saskatchewan (ATIS), a public library user, a reader, and an overall happy person.
Annette McGovern, Director
Annette’s family came to Canada from Slovenia in the 60’s. The family eventually fell apart due to difficulties in attaining employment and language barriers. Two of the three children, including Annette, were taken away and adopted out to Canadian families. Annette was placed with a wonderful French family and was given all the opportunity in the world to become whatever she chose.
When Annette was 30 years old she found all the other siblings. Although Annette had a wonderful upbringing, she did lose that part of her culture which she had been born into. This is something Annette has tried to work at, but finds it very difficult and believes that the culture can never totally be regained. She does, however, consider herself to be of a French background now.
Annette graduated from SIAST with Certified Dental Assisting in the 80’s and later attained Business Management and Rehab Nursing. Annette worked in the health field most of her professional life until approximately three years ago. As a health professional she saw many people experience difficulty in their lives due to language barriers and misunderstanding. Annette became an advocate for those people and soon found herself heading in another direction in life. It was at this time Annette chose to accept the position of Executive Director for Battlefords Immigration Resource Center (BIRC). Through this position, she had direct contact with immigrants and felt she was in a much better place to assist when needed.
Annette has been involved in many community issues, the largest issue being to connect the First Nations people with the newcomers. With the knowledge gained through attending MCoS training, the Immigration Centre has been able to hold information sessions, anti-racism events, multicultural facilitating and educate the community on this most important issue.